Glossary

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Cleaning Products

All-Purpose Cleaner

Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc. Another alternative is microfiber cloths which lift off dirt, grease and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals, because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands. A good quality cloth can last for several years.

Air Freshener

Commercial air fresheners mask smells and coat nasal passages to diminish the sense of smell. Instead try out the following suggestions.

  • Baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in small dishes absorbs odors around the house.
  • Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of garbage bags to help eliminate unpleasant odors.
  • Having houseplants helps reduce odors in the home.
  • Prevent cooking odors by simmering vinegar (1 tbsp in 1 cup water) on the stove while cooking. To get such smells as fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water.
  • For a pleasant smelling kitchen, simmer water and cinnamon and cloves or other spices on the stove. For a heightened effect, try adding orange peel. Also, to save energy, place the spiced water in a cast iron pot on a warm radiator to generate the same effects.
  • Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in rooms.

Bathroom mold

Mold in bathroom tile grout is a common problem and can be a health concern. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower.

Carpet stains

Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on stain, let sit for several minutes, and clean with a brush or sponge using warm soapy water. For a heavy-duty carpet cleaner, mix 1/4 cup each of salt, borax, and vinegar. Rub paste into carpet and leave for a few hours. Vacuum.

Dishwasher Soap

Mix equal parts of borax and washing soda, but increase the washing soda if your water is hard. To find out definitively if your water is hard, contact the water department or your local city municipality. However, know that your water likely is hard if it's difficult to work up a good lather when washing your hands and if you see scale accumulating in your kettles or pipes. bizlux.com

Dishwashing Soap (washing by hand)

Commercial low-phosphate detergents are not themselves harmful, but phosphates nourish algae, which use up oxygen in waterways. A detergent substitution is to use liquid soap. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of vinegar to the warm, soapy water for extra stain-lifting power.

Disinfectant

Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar and 3 cups hot water. For stronger cleaning power add 1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use non-aerosol spray bottle.

Drain Cleaner

Pour about 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, then 1/2 cup vinegar. The resulting chemical reaction can break fatty acids down into soap and glycerine, allowing the clog to wash down the drain. After 15 minutes, pour in boiling water to clear residue. Caution: only use this method with metal plumbing. Plastic pipes can melt if excess boiling water is used. Also, do not use this method after trying a commercial drain opener - the vinegar can react with the drain opener to create dangerous fumes.

Fabric softener

To reduce static cling, dampen your hands, then shake out your clothes as you remove them from the drier. Line-drying clothing is another alternative.

Floor Cleaner and Polish

  • Most floor surfaces can be easily cleaned using a solution of 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 gal warm water (ecocycle). For damp-mopping wood floors: mix equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and water. Add 15 drops of pure peppermint oil; shake to mix.
  • For Polish: vinyl and linoleum: add a capful of baby oil to the cleaning water to preserve and polish. wood: apply a thin coat of 1:1 oil and vinegar and rub in well. painted wood: mix 1 teaspoon washing soda into 1 gallon (4L) hot water. brick and stone tiles: mix 1 cup white vinegar in 1 gallon (4L) water; rinse with clear water.

Furniture Polish

  • For varnished wood, add a few drops of lemon oil into a 1/2 cup warm water. Mix well and spray onto a soft cotton cloth. Cloth should only be slightly damp. Wipe furniture with the cloth, and finish by wiping once more using a dry soft cotton cloth.
  • For unvarnished wood, mix two tsps each of olive oil and lemon juice and apply a small amount to a soft cotton cloth. Wring the cloth to spread the mixture further into the material and apply to the furniture using wide strokes. This helps distribute the oil evenly.

Garbage Disposal Freshener

Grind ice and lemon or orange juice in the disposal. ecocycle.org

Laundry

As a general rule, do not use chlorine bleach for household cleaning or laundry. Hydrogen peroxide is a safe alternative; it breaks down to water and oxygen. Bleaches made from hydrogen peroxide are sold in health food stores. breastcanceroptions.org

The other option is to use washing soda and soap laundry cleaner solutions.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When first switching from a detergent to a soap laundry cleaner, wash all items once with washing soda alone. This will eliminate the detergent residues that might otherwise react with soap and cause the yellowing of fabrics.

Do not use chlorine bleach for household cleaning or laundry. Hydrogen peroxide is a safe alternative; it breaks down to water and oxygen. Bleaches made from hydrogen peroxide are sold in health food stores. breastcanceroptions.org

Laundry Soap:

Add 1/3 cup washing soda (sodium carbonate) to water while machine is filling. Add clothes. Then add 1 1/2 cups of soap (flakes or powder). If the water is hard (see explanation of 'hard water' under the above section on dishwashing soap), add in another 1/4 cup washing soda or 1/4 cup vinegar during the first rinse. For additional cleaning power, add 1/2 cup borax.

Pre-soak:

Soak heavily soiled items in warm water with 1/2 cup washing soda for half an hour. Rub soiled areas with liquid soap.

Fabric Softener

Add 1 cup vinegar or 1/4 cup baking soda during the final rinse. To reduce static cling in tumble-dried synthetics, dampen hands when folding, or line dry instead.

Spray Starch

Dissolve 2 tbsp. Cornstarch in 1 pint cold water in a spray bottle. Shake before each use. For delicate fabrics, dissolve 1 package unflavored gelatin to 2 cups of hot water. Before use, dip a corner of the fabric into the solution as a test; if the fabric becomes sticky when dry, add more water to the solution.

Dry Cleaning

Try to buy items you can wash or clean on your own. Most dry cleaning solvents (like perchloroethylene) are toxic. If dry cleaning is necessary, make sure to air clothing out thoroughly before bringing indoors. Many garments with labels that specify "dry clean only" can be safely hand-washed with mild soap. ecocycle.org

Lime Deposits

You can reduce lime deposits in your teakettle by putting in 1/2 cup (125ml) white vinegar and 2 cups water, and gently boiling for a few minutes. Rinse well with fresh water while kettle is still warm.

Metal Cleaners and Polishes

  • aluminum: using a soft cloth, clean with a solution of cream of tartar and water.
  • brass or bronze: polish with a soft cloth dipped in lemon and baking-soda solution, or vinegar and salt solution.
  • chrome: polish with baby oil, vinegar, or aluminum foil shiny side out.
  • copper: soak a cotton rag in a pot of boiling water with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 cup white
  • gold: clean with toothpaste, or a paste of salt, vinegar, and flour.
  • silver: line a pan with aluminum foil and fill with water; add a teaspoon each of baking soda and salt. Bring to a boil and immerse silver. Polish with soft cloth. Or, instead, try rubbing toothpaste on silver, letting it dry, and then rinsing it off. ecocycle.org
  • stainless steel: clean with a cloth dampened with undiluted white vinegar.
  • Use vinegar. Apply to copper while hot; let cool, then wipe clean. For tougher jobs, sprinkle baking soda or lemon juice on the cloth before wiping. If you're looking for a simpler approach, you can also just try rubbing fine table salt wetted with vinegar and lemon juice onto the copper. ecocycle.org

Microwave Cleaner

Heat a slice of lemon in water inside the microwave. Then sponge off the inside with baking soda sprinkled on a damp cloth or sponge.

Mildew

Use white vinegar full strength. Alternately, you can try dissolving 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup borax in warm water. Apply using a sponge or a spray bottle, and do not rinse. ecocycle.org

Mothballs

  • The common mothball is made of paradichlorobenzene, which is harmful to liver and kidneys. Cedar chips in a cheesecloth square, or cedar oil in an absorbent cloth will repel moths. The cedar should be 'aromatic cedar', also referred to as juniper in some areas. Cedar chips are available at many craft supply stores, or make your own using a plane and a block of cedar from the lumberyard.
  • Homemade moth-repelling sachets can also be made with lavender, rosemary, vetiver and rose petals.
  • Dried lemon peels are also a natural moth deterrent - simply toss into clothes chest, or tie in cheesecloth and hang in the closet.

Oven Cleaner

Moisten oven surfaces with sponge and water. Sprinkle several layers of baking soda and let sit set for an hour. Rub gently with fine steel wool for tough spots. Or use Arm & Hammer Oven Cleaner, declared nontoxic by Consumers Union.

Paint Brush Cleaner

Non-toxic, citrus oil based solvents are now available commercially under several brand names. Citra-Solve is one brand. This works well for cleaning brushes of oil-based paints. Paint brushes and rollers used for an on-going project can be saved overnight, or even up to a week, without cleaning at all. Simply wrap the brush or roller snugly in a plastic bag, such as a used bread or produce bag. Squeeze out air pockets and store away from light. The paint won't dry because air can't get to it. Simply unwrap the brush or roller the next day and continue with the job. Fresh paint odors can be reduced by placing a small dish of white vinegar in the room.

Permanent Ink Markers

These markers contain harmful solvents such as toluene, xylene and ethanol. Use water-based markers as a safe substitute.

Rust Remover

Sprinkle a little salt on the rust, squeeze a lime over the salt until it is well soaked. Leave the mixture on for 2 - 3 hours. Use leftover rind to scrub residue.

Scouring Powder

For top of stove, refrigerator and other such surfaces that should not be scratched, use baking soda. Apply baking soda directly with a damp sponge.

Shoe Polish

Olive oil with a few drops of lemon juice can be applied to shoes with a thick cotton or terry rag. Leave for a few minutes; wipe and buff with a clean, dry rag.

Stain Remover

Note: Test each of the following suggestions on a corner of the fabric before use. Wash fabric after application.

All-Purpose Heavy Soil Remover

Rub with solution of 2 tbsp. washing soda in 1 cup warm water.

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 to stain. Allow to dry and brush away.

Chewing Gum

Rub with ice. Gum will flake off.

Coffee

Mix egg yolk with lukewarm water and rub on stain.

Fruit and Wine

Immediately pour salt or hot water on the stain and soak in milk before washing.

Grease

Pour boiling water on stains. Follow with dry baking soda. Also try ammonia and water.

Ink

Soak in milk or remove with hydrogen peroxide.

Lipstick

Rub with cold cream or shortening and wash in washing soda.

Mildew

Pour strong soap and salt on stains and place in sunlight. Keep the spots moist, and repeat as often as necessary.

Rust

Saturate with sour milk (or lemon juice) and rub with salt.

Scorch Marks

Boil scorched article in 1 cup soap and 2 qts. milk.

Soiled Diapers

Pre-soak in 3 tbsp. baking soda dissolved in warm water in bucket or washing machine.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Mix 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse. A mixture of borax (2 parts) and lemon juice (one part) will also work. For tough jobs, you can use straight bleach (do not mix with any other substance except water).

Tub and Tile Cleaner

For simple cleaning, rub in baking soda with a damp sponge and rinse with fresh water. For tougher jobs, wipe surfaces with vinegar first and follow with baking soda as a scouring powder. (Vinegar can break down tile grout, so use sparingly.)

Wallpaper Remover

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and hot water. Apply with sponge over the old wallpaper to soften the adhesive. Open room windows or use a fan to dissipate the pungent vinegar smell. Water Rings on Wood: Water rings on a wooden table or counter are the result of moisture that is trapped under the topcoat, but not the finish. Try applying toothpaste or mayonnaise to a damp cloth and rub into the ring. Once the ring is removed, buff the entire wood surface.

Window Cleaner

Mix 2 teaspoons of white vinegar with 1 liter (qt) warm water. Use crumpled newspaper or cotton cloth to clean. Don't clean windows if the sun is on them, or if they are warm, or streaks will show on drying. The All-Purpose Cleaner (the first recipe on this list) also works well on windows.