There's more you can do in the kitchen than just make food. You can make cleaning products as well, which saves money, helps the environment and is much healthier than buying the chemicals sold in the cleaning aisle.
I've been a "green" cleaner for years, so I was thrilled to see host a seminar on green spring cleaning. I figured I might learn something new, and indeed I did.
The seminar was given by Pine resident Annette Zvirman, who has been interested in green cleaning and green living her entire life. She says her mom was her example. She made many of her own cleaning products long after it became popular to buy commercial stuff, and long before it started becoming popular to go back to natural.
We all realize that our environment is increasingly becoming chemicalized and that it's not good for our health, but many people don't realize how simple the alternatives are.
People also don’t realize that buying "green" products isn't necessarily healthier. Because of lax regulation and the loose advertising and labeling laws in America, companies often engage in what is called "green washing" by claiming a product is safe for the environment when it actually is not much better than the non-green product.
The best way to make sure your cleaning products are safe is to make them yourself, and it's amazing how easy that is to do.
When I talk to people about green cleaning, I often encounter two misconceptions:
- Making your own products is difficult and they're messy to use.
- Homemade products don't do a good job with cleaning.
In fact, making your own products is very simple and they're no more messy than chemical-based cleaning products.
As for not doing a good job with cleaning, the problem with that is there are so many misconceptions about what is clean. Many of these misconceptions come from advertisements for killing germs and making your home smell "fresh."
Cleaning products do not kill germs in the way they claim at all. Read the fine print -- most say you have to leave the product on for an extended period. When they are used intensively enough to kill germs, the germs grow back almost immediately. Not to mention the fact that anyone living in a germ-free bubble will have serious problems when exposed to our germy world.
As for your home smelling lemony fresh, piney fresh or clean and fresh, Zvirman said it best:
"If you can smell it, you are ingesting it. Clean has no smell."
Before I get to the recipes Zvirman provided us, here is a general overview of some common green cleaning products and what they do:
- Baking soda is a natural odor neutralizer. Keep a box in the fridge, sprinkle it at the bottom of your kitchen trash before putting in a bag, or sprinkle it in your kitty litter. It's also a very gentle scrub. Sprinkle it in the sink and rub all around. Rinse well. For brighter, softer laundry, add a half cup or so to each load. Sprinkle in the toilet bowl, let sit for a few minutes, then use your toilet brush to scrub the toilet.
- Vinegar - also absorbs odors. Leave a dish of vinegar on top of the counter or fridge to absorb cooking odors. It works very quickly, and, unlike candles (which also put pollutants into the air), it does not mask odors, it actually absorbs them. Vinegar mixed with a small amount of a natural liquid soap, hot water and tea tree oil will clean and disinfect anything.
- Tea Tree Oil is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent. Used as an ingredient in cleaning products, it's a powerful germ fighter.
Many of these ingredients are already on your shelves. The others can be found locally at ,, , and other stores. One tip: Use microfiber cloths for dusting. For cleaning, buy plain, white, lint-free towels in the automotive section of or Target. They're super cheap, the rough nap makes scrubbing a breeze, and you can just toss them in the washer and use them over and over.
All recipes were provided by Annette Zvirman from "Clean House, Clean Planet" by Karen Logan.
Merlin's Magic -- Antiseptic Soap Spray
- 3 tablespoons liquid soap, such as Dr. Bronner's
- 20 - 30 drops of Tea Tree Oil
- Water, plain, distilled or purified
Fill a 16-ounce squirt bottle almost full with water and THEN add 3 tablespoons of liquid soap (to prevent the bottle from sudsing up as you fill). If you have hard water, consider using purified water (minerals inhibit the cleaning action of soap). Add tea tree oil for antiseptic power.
Uses: Floors, laundry, toys, doorknobs, bathtubs, toilet seats, toilet bowel, vomit and more germy substances.
Earth Scrub -- Tub and Tile Cleaner
- 1 - 16 oz. squeeze container
- 1 and 2/3 cups Baking Soda
- ½ cup of liquid soap
- ½ cup of distilled water
- 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
Mix baking soda and liquid soap in a bowl. Add the water and stir until lumps are gone. Add the vinegar last. If you can pour the mixture into the container easily, it is the right consistency. If it is too thick, add more water. Keep the cap on, this mixture will dry out. Shake well before use. (I actually mix mine up and keep it in a covered plastic container and just scoop it up with a cloth to use. I find that easier to handle.)
- 1/8 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup water
Mix, spray on glass and wipe off.