How to go Green with Silv: Greening your Cleaning Routine by Silvia Milanova, October 10 2011, 0 Comments

Want to 'green your cleaning’ routine, but don't have any idea of where to start? Don't stress—if you’re not a ‘green guru’ just yet, these simple steps will bring you a step closer. From cleaning your toilet bowl and sink to freshening the air in your home, here are some helpful tips and products that won't wreck havoc on your health.

To begin the process, first I suggest going through your current cleaning products and familiarizing yourself with what’s in them and how they get their cleaning power. Many of these products contain toxins that may cause immediate side effects, such as watery eyes, red skin/rashes, difficulty breathing if inhaled, etc., and some have longer term effects. Here is a detailed report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) on the most toxic products and how their ingredients can harm the human body.

If something smells putrid or the ingredients list is unavailable, I would dispose of it properly and move on to better and greener things. Secondly, it’s time for some shopping. If you have the means to buy new products, I would suggest updating your cleaning products supply with some healthier options. One of my favorites is Seventh Generation All Purpose Cleaner (Free & Clear)—it cleans and disinfects everything from your kitchen counter to your bathtub, and it doesn't have any unpleasant smells or fumes.

If you don’t want to spend money on anything new (especially after tossing some of your older products), you can always make your own! Here are some tips:

1) Use vinegar (multi-functional) or baking soda. They clean and polish naturally and also eliminate odors. Don’t worry, the ‘vinegary’ smell disperses after a while.

2) If you want a cleaner smell and sour vinegar just isn’t doing it for you, try adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Peppermint and lavender are good options; one smells fresh and clean, the other invites more flowery, summer garden aromas.

3) For a quick air refresher, add one ounce of vodka (you can use the cheap stuff here), to eight ounces (one cup) of water, and again a few drops of your choice of essential oil, and voila! Spray away without the added chemical smells and health hazards. If vodka is not your forte, you can always try opening up your windows to allow for natural ventilation to rid of unpleasant odors, or purchase a sustainable air purifying bag made from bamboo charcoal.

4) Two ingredients you can use for almost anything are lemon juice and baking soda. You can use lemon juice as an air freshener (when mixed with water and sprayed into the air), as a toilet bowl cleaner, as a polisher, or a stain remover for clothes. Baking soda can be used in a similar fashion—even as an odor remover or a whitener for refrigerator cleaning.

Some other home remedies I've learned from my grandmother: in a pot, boil different ingredients and make your own unique concoctions. One option is be to boil basil leaves and use the leftover liquid to clean all kinds of surfaces (good for the kitchen and it smells green and clean!). Another is to boil sweeter smelling ingredients, such as cinnamon sticks and cloves—the aroma disperses throughout the house, much like when you're baking sweets (and it smells like a bakery!). You could also try soaking a cotton ball in pure vanilla extract, placing it on a small plate/in a bowl, and putting it in your refrigerator, your car or your kitchen—the vanilla will absorb and remove the unpleasant odors.

Also remember to use reusable sponges, fiber cloths and gloves when cleaning. Avoid using paper towels made from virgin trees. If you must use paper towels to clean or dry surfaces, make sure they come from an environmentally responsible company such as Seventh Generation or from the Marcal Small Steps products line.

Bottom line: you don't need to inhale fumes which could wreck havoc on your health, or touch liquids which could irritate your skin and eyes. There are much simpler solutions, made from ingredients that you already probably have in your home and know are safe— and they clean just as well! So, green your cleaning routine, and feel better about both the status of your health and the planet.