Q: As I try to “think green,” I know that there are recipes for alternatives to harsh and toxic cleaners. Do you know of any?
A: With Earth Day on April 22, this is a perfect time to get motivated to “think green” if you haven’t been doing so already. As you probably already know, there are several commercial products out on the market now that also claim to be environmentally safe and effective if you don’t want to mix your own.
There are several common nontoxic household products that are useful when doing everyday cleaning tasks — and they’re usually inexpensive, too. Generally, “basic cleaners” (high pH) like soap, baking soda or washing soda can be used to clean food stains and general dirt and grime. “Acid cleaners” (low pH) like vinegar, lemon juice and club soda can be used on water spots, soap scum and rust.
When making your own cleaning products, be sure to store mixtures in labeled containers with the recipe attached. Never store cleaners in milk jugs, soda bottles or food jars that might seem harmless to curious children. Also, never reuse a commercial container; even if you clean them out, residues may mix with your added ingredients, causing harmful gases or other reactions.
Environmentally friendly cleaning alternatives
• All-purpose cleaner: Combine 1 teaspoon borax, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon liquid Castile soup; and 2 cups of hot water in a spray bottle. Shake well to mix.
• Bleach alternative: Mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 8 parts water; soak for at least 30 minutes; or use borax on all clothes or 1/2 cup vinegar in rinse water to brighten dark clothing.
• Brass/copper cleaner: Make a paste using equal parts of vinegar, salt and flour. Be sure to rinse completely.
• Carpet cleaner: Use white vinegar on pet stains and non-oily stains. Sprinkle with baking soda, wait 20 minutes and vacuum to remove odor.
• Cookware cleaner: Fill the cookware with hot water, add 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar per quart, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
• Drain cleaner: Use plunger followed by 1/2 cup baking soda with 1/2 cup of vinegar mixed with 2 quarts of boiling water. Repeat if necessary.
• Floor cleaner: Mix 1 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup liquid Castile soap plus 2 gallons of water. To remove wax build-up, scrub in club soda, let soak and wipe clean.
• Furniture polish: Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in 1 pint of mineral oil, and wipe furniture.
• Leather Cleaner: Mix together 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of alcohol, 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and 1/2 teaspoon of liquid Castile soap. Work into shoes or other leather items, then shine with a soft cloth or brush.
• Multi-purpose cleaner: 1 teaspoon Castile soap, 1 teaspoon borax and a squeeze of lemon juice in one quart of water.
• Oil stain removal: Rub white chalk into stain before laundering.
• Oven cleaner: Make a paste of 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup borax and 1/4 cup concentrated powdered laundry detergent. Heat the oven to 400 degrees for 5 minutes and turn off. Spread the paste all over the oven and leave it on for at least one hour.
• Refrigerator deodorizer: Place an open box of baking soda inside the refrigerator.
• Rug deodorizer: Deodorize dry carpets by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and vacuum. Repeat if necessary.
• Rust spot removal: Treat with lemon juice and salt. Place in sunlight.
• Scouring liquid: Mix 1/4 cup baking soda with 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent. Add enough vinegar to make a creamy liquid. Pour into a clean plastic spray bottle.
• Scouring powder: Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with 1/4 cup vinegar to make the consistency of a paste. Apply to surface and let sit for 30 minutes. Wipe clean with sponge and water.
• Toilet bowl cleaner: Pour 1 cup vinegar in the toilet bowl, working some up around the rim. Sprinkle 1 cup Borax over the vinegar. Allow mixture to soak for at least 2 hours or overnight. Use a brush to loosen the grime, then flush.
• Tub and tile cleaner: Use 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of vinegar mixed with warm water.
• Window cleaner: 1/2 cup vinegar in 1 quart of warm water.
• If any readers have good luck with other nontoxic cleaning recipes that I haven’t mentioned, please share them online or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
• The next time you reach for a cleaning product at the supermarket, think twice, and consider trying some of these environmentally friendly cleaning products.
— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.