Cleaning Without the Chemicals

green living guide

mopWhat makes wood floors shine, lets windows sparkle and keeps allergies at bay for just pennies a day? It's an amazing, all-natural cleaning product that's been used for centuries: good, old vinegar!

According to the Vinegar Institute, white distilled vinegar has dozens of uses around the house, from pickling foods to getting a bumper sticker off your car. Because of its high acid content, white vinegar can last on your pantry shelf indefinitely. And the acidity inhibits the growth of bacteria and mold, so it's an effective cleaner, even in the kitchen and bath.

Top Ten List for uses of full-strength vinegar:

1. Clean and disinfect wood cutting boards
2. Deodorize the kitchen drain (let sit for 30 minutes before flushing with water)
3. Remove perspiration and deodorant stains from clothing before laundering
4. Avoid ant invasions (wipe down your counters, cabinets and floors)
5. Rinse and soften clothes in the wash (add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle)
6. Make your glasses and dishes spot-free (add a cup of vinegar to the bottom of your dishwasher)
7. Wipe an old DVD or CD clean (pour vinegar on a lint-free cloth)
8. Soften an old paintbrush (soak it in hot vinegar, then wash with warm, sudsy water)
9. Kill grass in sidewalks or driveways
10. Clean shower doors and toilet bowls

Vinegar can be mixed with water, oil, salt, flour and other household products to clean everything from leather to brass. Check versatilevinegar.org for lots of ideas.

Baking Soda – A Kinder, Gentler Cleaner

Budding scientists have mixed vinegar with baking soda for volcanic results, but these two household items are also effective in breaking up clogged drains. Baking soda by itself is ideal for eliminating odors. Sprinkle dry baking soda on carpets and upholstered furniture; let it sit for at least 15 minutes, then vacuum. You can even sprinkle the dog with baking soda, rub vigorously, then brush it out. Your dog will love the attention and you'll love the fresher smell!

A half-cup of baking soda added to each load of laundry helps get clothes cleaner and brighter, especially if they have a stale, mildew smell. Sprinkle baking soda in anything that can smell musty, from sleeping bags and sneakers to the recycling bin.

Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and that's all you need to clean countertops, sinks and other food preparation spaces without harsh chemicals. It's even safe enough to wash waxes and pesticides off fruits and vegetables. And it's perfect for cleaning everything for the baby, from the high chair and crib railings to changing table and well-loved toys.

Natural cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda are less likely to irritate your skin or respiratory allergies, and safer for children and pets who might ingest a small amount. The residue from these products that gets flushed down drains or ends up in landfills is less toxic to the environment. But the added bonus is that these products cost a fraction of what commercial cleaning products cost. Now that's guilt-free, common sense cleaning!

What natural cleaning products do you like to use? 

Read More