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Our aim to keep our homes as clean and comfortable makes us vulnerable to highly- advertised chemical solutions such as:
1. Laundry soap which contains chemically- based surfactant;
2. Bleach which contains synthetic chlorine;
3. Household cleaning aids which contain chemicals like phosphate, chlorine, scents, and dye.
Every year 6,000 chemical compounds are developed and many of these are marketed for home use. A British study, according to Eco-Living Handbook, found that frequent use of household chemicals are linked to wheezing and asthma.
I used to experience that sick feeling so, I shifted to back-to-basic solutions such as white vinegar, fresh lemon (or Philippine Kalamansi), sodium carbonate (baking soda), and herbs.
Here are economical green tips and guide in choosing your cleaners:
1. Laundry soap –
a. Most preferable is the laundry soap which is biodegradable, phosphate-free, dye-free, perfume-free, and with vegetable-based surfactant. There are several natural herbal or organic laundry soap available in the supermarkets and organic markets.
Here are more laundry tips:
a. Do not follow the manufacturer’s recommended tablespoon, scoops, or cups for washing. According to Eco-Living Handbook, half of the recommended is enough.
b. Conserve water by adding Sodium Carbonate (baking soda) when rinsing. Baking soda is repacked at bakery supply stores in the Philippines, which are cheaper by the kilo.
c. Powdered soap is better than liquid detergent. Liquid detergent contains 4x more chemical surfactant. Chemical Surfactant is the most toxic ingredient in laundry products, according to the Environmental Detergent Manufacturer’s Association of United Kingdom. Surfactant is called surface-active agent such as detergent which when added to a liquid reduces its surface tension increasing its wetting and spreading properties.
d. Conventional washing powders contain several chemicals such as pigments, fluorescent whitening agent, and silicone de-foamer. According to a Study of Ethical Consumer Magazine of UK, a typical laundry detergent has 12 to 16 ingredients but only few are listed on the package.
e. Anti-bacterial agents and musks, according to World Wildlife Fund( WWF) and Green Peace have been found in tested blood samples from babies and mothers in a ‘Study on the Presence of Man-made Chemicals in the Blood’.
f. Concentrated soap is better than standard powder. Concentrated soap does not contain active filler ingredients to fill up the bulk of ordinary powder.
g. The best drying is by means of sunlight because it disinfects as well. Just make sure your clothesline is clean.
2. Bleach – Using synthetic chlorine creates more toxic substances, which is harmful to the environment. Thus , here are some effective ways of removing stains:
a. Lemon or white vinegar can remove food, fruit, and vegetable stains.
b. I/4 cup of vinegar removes odor and dirt from clothes.
c. Sodium carbonate (baking soda) when dissolved in water can be used to wash clothes to remove stubborn stains.
d. 1 can of cola removes grease from clothes.
e. Oxalic crystals are used as acid rinse for laundry stained by rust or ink. Soak stained clothes, towels etc., in water and place oxalic directly on affected area overnight. Oxalic acid is an organic compound. It is colorless and toxic.
f. Lemon is a disinfectant. It can also be applied on stubborn stained clothes, added with soap and exposed flat under the sun.
g. Sunlight is a good bleaching agent. Simply, soak white or stained laundry in soap and water, spread clothes in a basin and expose under the sun.
3. Floor tiles
a. Use environment-friendly cotton dishcloth for polishing floors. We also have coconut and coco coir husks for polishing.
b. Use environment-friendly string mop instead of foam.
c. Mix Sodium Carbonate in warm water to clean tiles and surfaces.
d. White vinegar cleans floor tiles.
e. For a stronger solution, mix white vinegar with Sodium Carbonate.
f. Use old toothbrush to clean corner edges.
a. Most preferable is concentrated herbal dishwashing liquid which is biodegradable, paraben-free, phosphate-free, dye-free, perfume-free, and with vegetable- based surfactant. There are several organic or natural dishwashing liquid in the market.
Other kitchen green tips are:
a. Sodium carbonate (baking soda) can be used to clean as follows:
(1) Mix with warm water to clean the refrigerator.
(2) Add to water when rinsing dishes for shinier plastic containers, cups and utensils.
This also conserves water since utensils are easily cleaned.
(3) Mix with dishwashing liquid and essential oil as kitchen floor cleaner.
b. Soak white vinegar on lime scale of sink, iron, and kettle to remove the stain.
c. Clean kitchen tiles with warm water and soap.
5. Toilet/Bathroom Cleaner
a. Fresh lemon juice or Philippine kalamansi disinfects surface, removes grime at the base of faucet, grout, and edges.
b. White vinegar cleans toilet and lime scale from sink.
c. A can of cola cleans toilet bowl and tiles. Make sure it is warm and has no fizzes before using. (Also good for cleaning of tires)
6. Glass cleaner
a. Glass and mirror – Mix a proportion of ½ white vinegar and ½ water for wiping.
7. Furniture cleaner
a. Mix a proportion of ½ white vinegar and ½ water to remove fingermarks on polished wood.
b. Mix olive oil with white vinegar to remove wood stains
c. Mix 1 tsp olive oil with ½ cup of lemon juice in small pan. Pour mixture into cloth then dust off and polish the furniture. The clean leftover solution can be kept for a week.
d. To minimize pollution from furniture paint and spray paint, you may put a bowl of the following in a room:
1) A bowl of vinegar;
3) Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
e. Chrome cleaner – Cut fresh lemon chrome and apply to the chrome.
8. Floor wax
a. Mix 4 Tablespoons of Paraffin with 8 cups of Mineral Oil in a crystal bottle with a wide opening. Cool before covering the solution. The solution is concentrated and has no waxy odor. I bought the paraffin from a religious store, and the mineral oil from the drugstore.
b. Mix 30% beeswax and 60% coconut, then, add scented oil. This solution comes from Satinka who owns a store at the Sunday Organic Market at Legazpi Village, Makati, Metro Manila.
9. Air Freshener
a. Citronella –
1) Boiling leaves in water spreads the fragrance all over the house.
2) Make a wreath and tie with ribbons. You may hang it anywhere like doors. You may even put it near the electric fan or air conditioning unit to spread fragrance.
3) Make homemade scented oil. Check Citronella at herbalandherbs.com for the procedure. Put drops of oil and water at the top of the candle holder. When the candle is lighted, the Citronella scent will waft in the house.
4) After the homemade citronella oil is safely placed in a bottled container, the leftover leaves are still useful as potpourri for the room or toilet.
5) Dried Citronella leaves can be placed in pillows, under bed sheets, throw pillows, and more.
b. Orange – Boil in water to freshen air. This process also cleans aluminum kettles.
10. Insect/pest repellant
a. Mosquitoes –
(1) Citronella - same procedure as air freshener.
(2) Neem – boil or soak neem leaves overnight. Put in a sprayer to drive away mosquitoes.
b. Citronella and Pandan leaves for Cockroach and Flies. (check www.herbalandherbs.com)ern
(1) Cockroach - Put in garbage can and around the garbage area.
(1) Flies – Put inside flower vase.
c. Garden pests –
(1) Tie citronella leaves around the stem.
(2) Cut leaves of citronella, oregano, lemongrass (Tanglad) and mint leaves into sme all pieces and put on the topsoil of the plant.
(3) Put different herbs pots beside each other so that pests would not dominate a certain type of plant. Pests do not like fragrant and minty herbs.
(4) Soak leaves of either Neem Tree , Serpentina, minty herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, etc. overnight with water. Then, add more water for pouring on plants and pots, or just pour inside a sprayer to spray on the leaves.
d. Rats – Rats do not like the peppermint smell.
The use of old fashioned cleaners like vinegar, lemon, herbs, sunlight, etc. have been a common practice in remote areas while ready-to-use products are used in the metropolis to adopt to its fast-moving lifestyle. Now, environment is suffering because the Wisdom of Mother Nature has been replaced with chemicals created inside laboratories.
There is so much pollution confined in our homes, that in reality, it is a necessity to go back to the basics of green living. Luckily, these environment-friendly cleaners are just within our reach ever ready to help us enjoy cleaning and make our homes a real comfort zone!
* Watch for Part VI: Body Care. Share with your friends!
Callard, Sarah and Millis, Diane, Superbugs p. 98, Detergent pp. 99-102, Cleaners pp. 101-105, The Eco-Living Handbook, London, UK, Carlton Book Ltd. 2009
Jazmines, Tessa, Indoor Air Pollution p. 2, Home Chemicals pp. 19-20, The 3M Handy Book of Health and Personal Care 2005 edition, Pasig City, MM, Philippines, Anvil Publishing, Inc.
Todd, Jude C., Cleaners, Fresheners, Laundry pp.260-263, Polish and Wax p. 264, Herbal Home Remedies 2012 edition, New Delhi, India, B. Jain Publishers(P)Ltd.edition
Encyclopedia Britannica Wikepedia, Definition Oxalic
Wikepedia, Definition of Surfactant