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Friday, August 17, 2007

Going Green and Clean!! - Making your own cleaners

Most of us like to think that the widespread contamination of our groundwater, soil and air is entirely due to the irresponsibility of large industry. We refuse to accept the notion that in our own everyday lives we are contributing to the slow poisoning of the planet. But commonly used substances such as paint thinners, household pesticides, cleaners and solvents, and some aerosols produce hazardous waste. Our responsibility for them does not end at our curbside. Leaching out of municipal landfills into the groundwater, released into the air from garbage incinerators, or discharged from sewer systems into public waters, toxic waste comes back to haunt us.

Many of those same household products present a direct health hazard to you and your family. Most commercial polishes, for example, contain poisonous solvents that emit vapors. These products are often composed of the same toxic chemicals that industrial dumpers have used to pollute our land, air and water. The simple household pesticide you use to eliminate bugs in your garden is the same deadly poison which has given farm workers high rates of cancer. These persistent organic compounds are among the most deadly substances known.

Household toxics management programs in which citizens separate hazardous from non-hazardous wastes do not work. There is no safe way to dispose of toxic waste. The only long-term solution to keeping our water and air clean -- and our homes safe -- is reduction. Householders, like industry, must learn to live without many of the "wonder" products invented in the last 50 years. But when we remember that these products are identical to the substances which poison our water and air, we can readily commit ourselves to making responsible choices.

This factsheet brings good news. There are alternatives to "household toxics". Some of these products are more time-consuming to prepare, but they're cheaper than commercial products, and more importantly, they represent an investment in the future health of the planet.

Household Cleaners and Polishes
When cleaning your home, keep in mind that you don't have to replace grease and dirt with dozens of chemicals dangerous to your family and the overall environment. Most of your household cleaning needs can be met with six simple ingredients: vinegar, soap, baking soda, washing soda, borax, and ammonia. Various combinations of these simple substances can accomplish most household cleaning jobs cheaply and safely.
Use caution with all cleaners. Even some non-toxic cleaners are unsafe for consumption.

All-Purpose Cleaner
Mild Mixture:
1 gallon (4 L) hot water
1/4 C (50 ml) sudsy ammonia
1/4 C (50 ml) vinegar
1 T (5ml) baking soda

This solution is safe for all surfaces, can be rinsed with water, and is very effective for most jobs. For a stronger cleaner or wax stripper, double the amounts of all ingredients except water. Use gloves, and do not mix with other compounds, especially chlorine bleach. (Never mix ammonia and bleach: an extremely toxic gas is produced.)

In the 1960s concern about phosphates in detergents led to legislated reduction in some areas to protect our lakes and streams. But detergent related problems persist because of the sheer volume of cleansers used by North Americans.
The best alternative for cleaning your clothes is, naturally enough, soap. Despite the advantages of detergents, (the dictionary defines soap as "a biodegradable cleansing and emulsifying agent made by action of alkali on fat or fatty acids and consisting essentially of sodium or potassium salts of such acids" and detergent as "any of numerous nonbiodegradable synthetic water-soluble or liquid organic preparations that are chemically different from soaps, but are able to emulsify oils, hold dirt in suspension, and act as wetting agents"). Soap has accomplished the task of getting garments white and bright for generations.
Try this recipe:
Add 1/3 C (80 ml) washing soda (sodium carbonate) to water as machine is filling.
Add clothes.
Add 1 1/2 C (375 ml) of soap.
If the water is hard, add 1/4 C (50 ml) soda or 1/4 C (50 ml) vinegar during the first rinse.

Detergents leave a residue on fabrics that must be removed with softeners. If you have been using detergents in your laundry, it is advisable to get rid of the detergent film. To prevent yellowing, run your laundry through the washer with 1/3 C (80 ml) washing soda before you convert to soap.

There are alternatives to enzyme presoaks and bleach for tough stains, too. Test each of the following remedies on your fabric first. If it starts to discolor, neutralize the cleaning agent immediately. Acids (lemon juice and vinegar) neutralize alkalies (baking soda and ammonia), and alkalies neutralize acids. Wash after application.

HEAVY SOILS: Rub with solution of 2 T (30 ml) washing soda in 1 C (250 ml) warm water.
SOILED DIAPERS: Presoak in 3 T (45 ml) baking soda dissolved in warm water in either tub or washing machine.
FRUIT AND WINE: Immediately pour salt or hot water on the stain and soak in milk before washing.
GREASE: Pour boiling water on stains and follow with dry baking soda. Or try ammonia and water.
INK: Soak in milk or remove with hydrogen peroxide.
BLOOD: Soak in cold water or remove with hydrogen peroxide. For a more stubborn stain, mix cornstarch, talcum powder, or cornmeal with water and apply the mixture. Allow to dry and brush away.
COFFEE: Mix egg yolk with luke-warm water and rub on stain.
CHEWING GUM: Rub with ice. Gum will flake off.
LIPSTICK: Rub with cold cream or shortening and wash with washing soda.
RUST: Saturate with sour milk (or lemon juice) and rub with salt. Place in direct sunlight until dry, then wash.
MILDEW: Pour strong soap and salt on the spots and place in sunlight. Keep the spots moist, and repeat as often as necessary.
SCORCHES: Boil scorched article in 1 C (250 ml) soap and 2 quarts (liters) milk.
To fully clean and deodorize carpets, mix 2 parts cornmeal with 1 part borax. Sprinkle liberally, leave one hour, then vacuum. For tougher stains, repeatedly blot with vinegar in soapy, water. For red wine spills, blot with white wine and warm, soapy, water. Quick deodorizing is easy if you sprinkle the carpet with baking soda, then vacuum.

Polishing Metals
COPPER: Lemon juice and salt, or hot vinegar and salt.
CHROME: Rubbing alcohol, or a small amount of ammonia with hot water. Also try white flour in a dry rag.
BRASS: Equal parts salt and flour, with a little vinegar.
SILVER: Bring to boil in a large pan: 1 quart (1 litre) water; 1 T (15 ml) salt; 1 T (15 ml) baking soda. Drop in silver, boil for 3 minutes, and polish with a soft cloth. Or, polish with a paste of wood ash and water.

Combine strong version of all-purpose cleaner with baking soda: wear gloves when scrubbing. An easier oven cleaner is ammonia: Place about 1/4 C (50 ml) in a shallow pan (not aluminum), and add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat oven for 20 minutes, turn off, and place pan in oven overnight. Baked-on foods will be loosened, and the oven can be cleaned with baking soda and scrubbing.

Your drains can be kept open, clean, and odor-free without the use of corrosive drain cleaners. Two simple rules: Never pour liquid grease down a drain, and always use the drain sieve. In addition, use this preventive measure for drains once a week: Mix 1 C (250 ml) baking soda, 1 C (250 ml) salt, and 1/4 C (50 ml) cream of tartar. Pour 1/4 C of this mixture into drain. Follow with a pot of boiling water, and flush with cold water. Done once a week, your drain should remain open and odor-free.
In the event a drain becomes clogged, pour in 1/4 C (50 ml) baking soda followed by 1/2 C (125 ml) vinegar, close the drain until the fizzing stops, and flush with boiling water. As a last resource, use a plumber's snake, available at most hardware stores, but be aware it can damage pipes.

Tub and Tile
Most commercial tile cleaners do more harm than good because many contain chlorine, a serious irritant to eyes, nose and skin, and one of the most dangerous chemicals found in municipal sewers. For bathroom cleaning, use a firm-bristled brush with either baking soda and hot water or the mild all-purpose cleaner.

Set aside your dish detergent, and dissolve soap flakes in hot water. Add some vinegar to the water for tough grease.

Most store-bought polishes contain solvents that are released into the air. Aerosol sprays are wasteful, and many contain gases harmful to the environment.
FURNITURE POLISH: Dissolve 1 t (5 ml) lemon oil in 1 pint (4/5 ml) mineral oil. Apply with a rag.
POLISHING CLOTH: Melt 1/4 C (50 ml) paraffin (wax) and 1/4 C (50 ml) vinegar together in a double boiler. Soak a dusting rag in the mixture for 1/2 hour, then squeeze and hang to dry.
FLOOR POLISH: Melt 1/8 C (25 ml) paraffin in a double boiler. Add 1 quart (I L) mineral oil and a few drops of lemon essence. Apply with a rag, allow to dry, and polish.

Mirrors, Glass and Windows
Wash with simple soap and water; rinse with a solution of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. Or use a spray bottle and a mixture of 1/2 C (120 ml) ammonia, 1/8 c (25 ml) vinegar, and a quart (1 L) of very warm water (the warmer the water, the faster the evaporation). Use washable, reusable cheese cloth rather than paper towels or dry with loosely crumpled sheets of newspaper.

Air fresheners
Commercial air fresheners work by masking smells, coating nasal passages and deadening nerves to chemically alter odors and diminish the sense of smell. Avoid these products. Grow house plants, which are an excellent source for air purification. Baking soda in your refrigerator or garbage can help reduce odors at their source. A small bowl of vineger in a room will help soak up odors as well.

Controlling Garden Pests
Find out which non-chemical fertilizers aid in controlling bugs, and how to fortify your plants with proper soil care. Pesticides carry the suffix "-cides." which means "killer." Natural pesticides are cheaper and safer for your family, and are usually "pest-specific".
Learn to promote the population of beneficial pests such as lady bird beetles, bees, fly, larvae, lace-wing larvae (aphid lions), praying mantis, dragon flies, predacious mites and thrips, spiders, toads, garter snakes, and birds. Investigate "companion planting, which can provide a natural barrier to bugs.
Outdoor Pests
The following methods will assist in healthy gardening:
HANDPICKING is time-consuming but unbeatable. Use gloves, and remove all visible offending pests.
SPRAYING -- on foliage:
TOBACCO WATER: Place a large handful of tobacco into 4 quarts (4 L) of warm water. Let stand for 24 hours. Dilute and apply with a spray bottle. This tobacco water is poisonous to humans -- use caution when handling.
HOT PEPPERS: Blend 2 or 3 very hot peppers, 1/2 onion and 1 clove garlic in water, boil, steep for two days, and strain. This spray, will not damage indoor or outdoor plants and can be frozen for future use.
GARLIC: Mix 4 Q (4 L) water, 2 T (30 ml) garlic juice (do not use garlic powder, as it will burn the plants), 32 grams of diatomaceous earth (see below), and 1 t (5 ml) rubbling alcohol. Can be frozen for later use.
SOAP: Use only pure soap, as detergents will damage your plants. Liquid soaps: 2 T (30 ml) per quart (litre) of water. Dry soaps: 50 grams per quart (litre) of water.
COLLARS: To stop hatching larvae from burrowing into the soil surrounding your plants, use "collars" made of stiff paper, heavy plastic or tar paper. Cut a piece a foot square and fit snugly around the stem of the plant on top of the soil. Use a paper clip to hold it in place.
NETTING: Fine netting such as cheese cloth, placed over the bed, will protect seedlings from chewing insects, keep cats and birds away, and prevent living insects from having eggs.
Please contact the organizations listed for more information. Greenpeace strongly. recommends that gardeners make full use of modern organic methods.
Formulated, biodegradable pest-control substances are commercially available. For example:
PYRETHRUM DUST: Very effective against soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, with toxicity, to mammals. Avoid inhaling.
DIATOMACEOUS EARTH: made from the skeletons of tiny organisms, this dust controls pests by causing dehydration and death. Can be used indoors and out. Please follow manufacturer's instructions carefully.
INSECTICIDAL SOAP: This soap is available in gardening, hardware, and drug stores.
Controlling Indoor Pests
ANTS: Locate the place of entry, squeeze a lemon onto it and leave the peel. Ants will also retreat from lines of talcum powder, chalk, damp coffee grounds, bone meal, charcoal dust and cayenne pepper.
COCKROACHES: Plug all small cracks along baseboards, wall shelves, and cupboards, and around pipes, sinks, and bathtub fixtures. A light dust of borax around the fridge, stove and ductwork is effective in controlling cockroaches. For a trap, lightly grease the inner neck of a milk bottle and put a little stale beer or a raw potato in it.
FRUIT FLIES: Pour a small amount of beer into a wide-mouth jar. Cut the corner out of a plastic bag and attach the bag to the jar with a rubber band. Flies will enter and be trapped. Change the beer when necessary.
FLIES: Sunny windows are flies' most common entrance into your home, so close windows before the sun hits them. Use regular sticky flypaper to catch unwelcome flying guests. You can make your own with honey and yellow paper.
MOTHS: Keep vulnerable clothes dry and well aired. Camphor can be used, as it is the major, nontoxic ingredient of moth balls. To trap moths, mix 1 part molasses with 2 parts vinegar and place it in a yellow container. Clean regularly.
HOUSE PLANT PESTS: Hot-pepper spray will also help to control pests on the leaves. And don't forget soap and water, but be sure to rinse the plants with fresh water afterwards.
SILVERFISH: Traps can be made with a mixture of 1 part molasses to 2 parts vinegar. Place near cracks and holes where pests live. Silverfish can be repelled by treating baseboards, table legs, and cracks in cupboards with a mixture of borax and sugar (or honey).
SPIDERS: Under ideal conditions, do not destroy spiders because they help control pests.
STORED FOOD PESTS: Keep mites and moths out of your staples by drying the food in a warm oven (70 F, 20 C) for one hour or by freezing for 2-3 days. Always store foods in air tight containers. Weevils' favorite foods are beans and grains; to keep them away, hang small cloth sacks of black pepper in your food bins of around your food storage area. A few soapberries per bushel of stored wheat will also drive out weevils.
TICKS and FLEAS: If your pets are infested, wash them well with soap and warm water, dry them thoroughly, and use this herbal rinse: Add 1/2 C (125 mL) of fresh or dried rosemary to a quart (litre) of boiling water. Steep 20 minutes, strain, and allow to cool. Spray or sponge evenly onto pet and allow to air dry. Do not towel down, as this will remove the residue. Make sure pets are dry before letting them outside.

GREENPEACE has compiled the information contained in this factsheet from a variety of sources and can assume no responsibility for the effectiveness of the suggestions. Caution is urged in the use of the cleaning solutions and pest-control substances. KEEP THEM OUT OF THE REACH OF CHILDREN.

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