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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Go Green in your Cleaning Routine, Safe, Non-Toxic Clean

 

Having already done a post on homemade ways to clean our laundry, this time we'll focus on the rest of the household.

Whether you're new to the movement towards "going green" or just always on the look-out for new recipes, it is good to know the word is spreading about what is happening to not only our natural environment, but the very health of our families and pets who depend on us to make wise choices for their care.  Due to the onslaught of toxins everywhere we turn, we are exposed to pesticides and carcinogens in the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and even the building materials that make up our homes and furniture.

We keep our homes clean in an effort to protect our loved ones from germs and illness. Look a little closer at those cleaning supplies and realize we just may be contributing to potential health risks through long term exposure to these chemical cocktails. We've long associated the meaning of clean with the smell of ammonia, bleach, moth balls, even the beloved scent of pine in Pine-Sol. We may have gagged as we scrubbed and polished; we may have had to wear rubber gloves to prevent skin irritation, but by darn, the place was grease and dust free. There hasn't been sufficient testing to point fingers should a health concern pop up, but just knowing this stuff cannot be good for us, if there are alternatives out there, why not be safe than sorry.
Here is a good article titled "8 Things to never bring into your Home."

Next time you wash your kitchen floor, think about your child or pet crawling around down there, where everything they touch usually ends up in their mouths. A good example is chlorine bleach, which is sodium hypochlorite, NaClO, the salt of hypochlorus acid. Chlorine is one of the main smells that we've come to associate with "clean". Yes, it is very effective as a disinfectant, a whitening agent for clothes and paper products, the care of swimming pools, bathroom cleaners, etc. It also is a toxic respiratory irritant, can burn the skin, worsen already existing heart or respiratory conditions and is in general, a poison. But because it works in its intended purpose and is dirt cheap, companies use it extensively. For cleaning and whitening, such as with laundry, bleach oxidizes many chemicals causing them to lose their color, and dissolve more easily into solution.

Back to our clean floor. Because chlorine is heavier than air, it tends to collect in low-lying areas. Children and pets are low to the ground, therefore are exposed at higher concentrations than those of us who stand 4 to 5 feet taller. Every time you open the dishwasher, those vapors drift right out into the room. I don't know about your kitchen, but when my kids were small they, and the dogs, were always right there too.

We have the same concerns with the use of ammonia, NH4OH. As a base, it does make a great glass cleaner, and a very effective method to cut grease, but like bleach it can be very irritating to the respiratory system. To make the mistake of mixing bleach and ammonia can be devastating. When these two combine, the result is a chemical reaction.  Chlorine gas, chloramine and other toxic chemicals are released in the air, which can result in poisoning, skin burns, even an explosion.



So what can we use to get the results we still expect in cleaning?
The good old basics we hear so much about but never really knew how to use them:
Baking soda, vinegar, lemons, hydrogen peroxide,and salt. All inexpensive and probably in your cabinets already. You don't even need all those. You could clean your home your entire home using just baking soda and vinegar.

I like to know the "why" for everything so in case you are interested, here is a little lesson on what is baking soda, what is difference between white vinegar and other vinegars , and why they clean so well.

Baking soda is NaHCO3. It is the weakest alkali of sodium compounds and being an alkaline substance as are many soaps, it neutralizes acids. When mixed with water, it splits into H+ and HCO3-, and that latter ion is absorbed onto any dirt to help break it up--and thus make it easier to remove.It is a mild abrasive, so it scrapes away dirt without scratching or doing harm to harder surfaces. Last, because it neutralizes acids, it works as a great way to deodorize.

Then again, vinegar is an acid, usually 5%, though white vinegar is stronger which is why it is used for cleaning. However, if you don't have white vinegar on hand, apple cider vinegar is fine too. Think of what happens when you soak something rusty in vinegar. The acidity breaks things down and dissolves mineral deposits, so good-bye rust.

Many of us played around with baking soda and vinegar as kids to make volcanoes spew forth the "lava". Perhaps you still play a bit to unclog that kitchen or bathroom sink by first pouring a half cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a half cup of vinegar. The immediate chemical reaction is usually very effective at dissolving soap scum and hair. Let this mixture die down on its own and sit for a few hours, then pour a pot of very hot water down the drain to flush it all down. A lot safer and more fun than the risks of inhaling Drano or get burned if it should splash back up at you.

Want to use more natural ways to take care of your children's laundry challenges?
Read this post about using lemons, vinegar, baking soda and salt.

Ok, now for the recipes:

For the recipes that call for vinegar, water and castile soap, add the soap last to avoid clumping.

ALL PURPOSE HOUSEHOLD CLEANER
Ideal for kitchen and bathrooms to clean surfaces

16 oz. spray bottle
To the bottle, mix 2 tbsp. white vinegar with 1 tsp. borax
Fill the rest of the bottle with very hot water (this helps dissolve the borax)
Add 1/4 cup liquid soap (castile liquid soap or dish soap)
Drops of preferred essential oil or combination

Essential oils disinfect, deodorize, are antimicrobial, some such as tea tree are also antifungal.
Good by themselves or in combination. These recipes vary in the concentration of the oils. Use more or less to your liking.
Options are:

20 lavender
20 eucalyptus
6 tea tree oil

10 lemon
10 eucalyptus

8 - 10 drops tea tree oil
8 - 10 drops lavender
8 - 10 drops hyssop

ORANGE VINEGAR CLEANER
Ideal for kitchen and bathrooms to clean surfaces

Save your orange peels (can also use grapefruit) and put into a mason jar.
Cover the peels with undiluted white vinegar.
Cover with a plastic lid (don't use a metal lid, the vinegar will corrode it).
Label and include the date.
Let sit for 2 to 4 weeks (there isn't a set rule)
Strain out the peels.
To use:
Use full strength or dilute it with water into a spray bottle.
The strength depends on what you want to use it for.
Half water and half orange vinegar or one part vinegar to three parts water.
For further astringent and antiseptic value add orange essential oil (anywhere between 15 - 30 drops for 16 - 32 ounces vinegar/water mixture).

GLASS CLEANER

Use the above orange vinegar cleaner at the 50/50 dilution or just fill a spray bottle with half water and half vinegar.

NO SCRATCH SOFT SCRUB CLEANSER
Good for counter tops, stove tops, sinks and tubs, grout

1 2/3 cup Baking soda
1/2 cup Castile soap or dish soap
1/2 cup Water
2 tbsp. White vinegar
Essential oils are optional

Stir soap into the baking soda.
Add the water and stir until smooth.
Add the vinegar and essential oils.
Pour into a squeeze bottle.

NO SCRATCH WHITENING SCOURING POWDER
Use as you would a powder cleanser without worry about scratching your sink or stove top.

1 cup Baking soda
2 tsp. Cream of tartar
2 tbsp Borax
1/4 cup finely grated citrus peels
15 - 20 drops citrus essential oils

Pour into a shaker top container.
Pour onto surface and moisten to clean.

TOILET BOWLS

A simple method to clean the toilet bowl is to spray vinegar around the inside of the bowl and then add 1/2 cup of baking soda
OR
Add 1/2 cup of Hydrogen Peroxide into the bowl.

Swish around with the toilet brush, let sit an hour or so and flush.

WOOD FURNITURE POLISH
Vinegar makes an excellent wood cleaner because it won't damage wood finish.
Olive oil polishes

In a 16 oz spray bottle combine:
1 cup Olive oil
1/2 cup White vinegar

20 drops lemon or lemongrass essential oil if desired

Shake before each use.
After polishing, buff with a clean cloth

WOOD FLOORS
Vinegar won't strip the wax off floors like ammonia can do.

Mix one cup of vinegar into a gallon of warm water. Mop your floor as you usually do.

GENERAL FLOOR CLEANER
Make a batch as needed

1 cup White vinegar
1 gallon very hot Water
1 - 2 tbsp Liquid soap
Essential oils if desired (recipe calls for 100 drops or 1 tsp. but the amount is up to you)
Lavender, Eucalyptus and Rosemary are all nice by themselves or a combination.

CARPET FRESHENER
Great to deodorize
Mix the baking soda and essential oils in a bowl. Using your fingers, crush the essential oils to mix thoroughly with the baking soda. Sprinkle onto the carpet and let sit at least an hour. Then vacuum

1 cup Baking soda
Up to 25 drops any essential oil  or blend.
Options:
15 lavender
10 eucalyptus

15 sweet orange
10 lavender

For a flea problem use Borax instead of Baking soda. Don't let pets walk on the carpet until you have vacuumed up the borax.

FRESHENING AIR SPRAY

16 oz. spray bottle
Fill with water and add about 25 drops of any combination of preferred essential oils.
Spray around the room. Be aware when spray could land onto wood furniture for possible staining.
Good essential oils to use are:
Any in the citrus family such as lemon, grapefruit, tangerine, sweet orange, bergamot or lime.
Around the holidays use frankincense, sweet orange, cinnamon and/or cloves
For disinfecting use tea tree oil,  lavender, rosemary, lemon, eucalyptus, pine or thyme

If you want air sprays ready to go, check out the benefits of aromatherapy! Click on the link below the pictures to get more information of the use of essential oils for help in disinfecting the air and surfaces.

Lemon & Eucalyptus Air & Surface Spray
Evergreen Clean Air & Surface Spray
Germ Fighting Air & Surface Spray



HAPPY CLEANING! ENJOY BEING CLEAN AND GREEN!!


Did you know you can carry the many uses of baking soda, vinegar, and even salt into your beauty routine?
















Monday, October 6, 2014

The Buzz Surrounding Fall Pollinators


Plans for the naturalized garden and landscaping so often focus on what to plant for good food sources for the birds and butterflies. But we cannot overlook the importance of wanting to encourage insects into our gardens as well. We've been conditioned that bugs flying around us are just an annoyance, but actually, most insect species are either pollinators and/or predators, and not harmful to us at all. We have to understand that a diversity of insects is necessary for balance in populations and critical for pollination.

As autumn arrives, take notice which plants in your yard or garden areas are still buzzing with activity.  You'll probably be seeing an assortment of bumble bees, hover flies, parasitic wasps and beetles. Plants that are late season bloomers are wonderful for these insects, because these plant types are well adapted to conditions to provide these pollinators with the pollen and nectar they need. Most fall flowers are actually made up of clusters of hundreds of tiny flowers, each one an individual little cup filled with rich nectar. With such a rich source of pollen and nectar in one place, there is no need to waste energy traveling in the search for enough plant sources. Insects can gorge themselves in one spot. Both pollinator and plant come out a winner. The plants provide the nectar and pollen, and the pollinators in turn carry that pollen from flower to flower, which enables the plant to set seed and continue the life cycle.

Pictured below are good examples of fall flowering plants in the northeastern United States:
Click on the link below each picture for more information on each plant.

Fall Flowering Aster


 The Small White Aster and the purple New England Aster are just two of many species in the Asteraceae family. They are perennial wildflowers which are beautiful but tend to look a bit messy. 

New England Fall Aster

Sedum or Stonecrop is a wonderfully behaved showy perennial whose beauty only gets better with the arrival of cold weather.
Sedum
 

Goldenrod is often seen in fields and roadsides and blends beautifully with the white cloud display of the fall asters. Goldenrod too often gets a bad rap because it is blamed for fall hayfever. This is not true. The pollen of goldenrod is too heavy to float with the wind. Ragweed is the culprit for fall allergies.

Goldenrod

Rethink pretty! 
Native plants are not ugly or "weedy"  
They are colorful, adaptable, suited for local climate, and support the cycle of life.