You don't have to sacrifice health for a clean home. Natural, DIY cleaners can be just as effective as commercial ones. Here's how to use them throughout your home.
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It's tempting to reach for a product with ingredients like bleach and ammonia when it comes to cleaning your home. Many of us are conditioned to believe a house is not clean unless it smells of chemicals. Sure, they get the job done, but not without also doing a number on your eyes, airways, and, with enough exposure, they could even impact your nervous system.
Ironically, these cleaners also pollute: Disinfectants and other chemicals washing down drains can contaminate groundwater, and largely because of these same products, our indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside. But you don't have to sacrifice health for a clean home. Nontoxic DIY cleansers deliver considerable power at minimal cost. What's more, making these cleaning products is easy, and generally requires no more than six common household ingredients: Distilled white vinegar and lemon juice, which are both excellent for cleaning, deodorizing, and mild bleaching; baking soda, the naturally-forming mineral deposit and powerhouse cleaning agent that has proven to keep trash cans fresh, deep clean ovens, and more; a plant-based liquid soap, such as Ivory; and, of course, water. Keeping an essential oil like tea tree oil in your cleaning arsenal can add a nice touch of fragrance and an antibacterial element when needed.
While an annual deep clean is necessary (and admittedly satisfying), daily maintenance is another way to minimize the need for harsh scrubbing. To reduce the build-up of mildew, for example, pull your shower curtain closed when not in use so water can't sit in the folds. Then, wipe your shower walls with a squeegee after every use.
Read on for more natural ways to clean your home and lessen your impact on the environment in the process.
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From the kitchen to the bathroom and many places in between, the uses for baking soda are almost endless. One way to get even more mileage out of this universal cleaning agent? Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into a bowl and add just enough liquid soap to make a creamy paste. Spread the mixture on the flat side of 1/2 of a lemon and scrub. The lemon acts as a sponge and leaves a natural citrus scent. Use a damp rag or sponge to wipe away any residue. You'll find the paste will stay moist for a few hours.
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For basic nontoxic stain removal, mix up a little of your grandmother's knowledge and apply it liberally. The principles behind creating stain removers—or nearly all household cleaners—are relatively simple. Some kinds of stains respond to alkaline minerals such as borax and soap, others to acids like vinegar. Red wine may need a combination of both, depending on how set the stain is when you tackle it.
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The old standby chlorine bleach, commonly used to kill mold, isn't the best way to conquer the fungi—it's harmful to people and to the environment. Instead, soap and water will get rid of most mold or a solution of 2 teaspoons tea tree oil—a natural fungicide—and 2 cups water. But when it comes to mold and mildew, prevention is really your best bet.
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Sometime's it's easier to buy than DIY. Newer eco-friendly brands of natural cleaners prove you don't need high-octane chemicals to render a home spic-and-span. Look for biodegradable formulas and plant-based ingredients that don't compromising on cleaning power.
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If you're looking for a multitasking product that you can use for everything from whitening your laundry to driving out pests, it's time to stock up on distilled white vinegar. In the bathroom, vinegar works well on soap scum and mineral deposits, but rinse thoroughly, as it can corrode some fixtures and stone (like marble), and etch glaze on tiles. You can also try tea tree oil—2 drops tea tree oil with 1 cup water—in a spray bottle. Tea tree oil costs more than vinegar but will kill most types of mold and help prevent growth. As with all concentrated oils, it should be used with caution, as it can trigger allergic reactions if it comes into contact with skin.
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Think your carpet is ruined? A dollop of homemade carpet stain remover can make unsightly blotches fade like magic. Pour a small amount of soda water onto a fresh carpet spill, and blot with a towel. Don't rub, as you may mat the fibers. If the stain is set, try hydrogen peroxide: Pour some onto a clean, white cloth, then press cloth to the carpet. Wait about 15 minutes, blot with a clean cloth. There should be no need to rinse.