By Tasha Halpert


I try to do my share to reduce environmental pollution. Though I am only one person, still, every little bit helps. One easy way we homeowners can avoid polluting the atmosphere as well as the water is to use non-toxic cleaners. While these can be purchased in grocery, health food and environmental stores, the ingredients are often found on pantry and laundry room shelves: Vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and borax serve a number of household uses.

No need to buy toilet bowl cleaners and release toxic chemicals into ground water and waterways. Instead, add ½ cup each of white vinegar and baking soda to the toilet bowl, let sizzle and scrub with a brush. For severe stains pour 1 cup borax into the toilet at night, scrub and flush in the morning. In between cleanings, just keep a jug of white vinegar in the bathroom and our it in, swish and let sit for a few minutes.

Vinegar is a potent mildew eliminator. Scrub around the tub and/or shower stall or glass doors as well as walls and ceiling if needed with straight vinegar. Leave it on for fifteen minutes, rinse off and reapply, leaving there. You can also wash the bathroom and kitchen floor with a mixture of vinegar and water, half and half, to eliminate odors. Borax also softens laundry and strengthens cleaning solutions. Vinegar eliminates pet odors and spots on the rug. A half and half solution is probably sufficient.

Be careful with room odor reducers or sprays. They can be toxic. Instead, fill a spray bottle with vinegar and water, half and half, and spray when you want to remove odors. If odors persist, pour some vinegar into a shallow dish and set it out where the odor is strongest. This will be effective even when you have burnt something.

Countertops, stove and other kitchen surfaces come clean and germ free with a solution of vinegar, water and a little of the mild liquid soap available in health food stores. Sprinkle your oven floor thickly with baking soda, spray well with water and leave overnight. In the morning, wipe up with damp paper towels or an old sponge saved for such a purpose. I keep old dirty sponges for single use tasks, throwing them away when I have finished. Rags made form old terry towels can be used and reused, saving precious paper products for when you want to throw what you’ve wiped up away rather than wash it out.

For cleaning slightly dirty floors, use a spray of equal parts of white vinegar and water. For dirtier floors, use ¼ cup liquid soap and up to ½ cup white vinegar or lemon juice. Mix in a bucket and add 2 gallons warm water. Rinse with ½ cup vinegar to 2 gallons warm water to remove soap residue.

If, like me, you’d prefer to buy floor and woodwork cleaner rather than mix it, try Murphy Household Cleaner pure vegetable oil soap. It has a good smell and works well on all kinds of wood as well as on linoleum. You can use baking soda to scrub down pots, clean the sink, the tub, the oven and the countertops. For heavy stains and dirt, you can use Bon Ami, a mild household cleaner that has been around ever since I can remember. Counters and shelves washed down with water and vinegar mixed half and half discourage ants and other insects.

Silver can be polished with a paste of water and baking soda and some elbow grease. Copper pots can be scrubbed bright with a paste of baking soda or salt and a little water. For a “soft scrub,” for appliances and fixtures, mix baking soda and liquid soap. Make only as much as you need as it dries up quickly. Club soda in a spray bottle can be used to wash windows. A tablespoon or two of strained lemon juice or a drip of liquid soap or detergent adds extra grease cutting power. You can also use a combination of alcohol, vinegar and water-about one third of each, in a spray bottle. Tough stuff on the windowpanes can be removed with a single edge razor blade, speeding cleaning. For a great sparkle, wipe washed windows off with old newspapers.

Many children, as well as adults, are allergic to household chemicals. By using natural products you can not only help the environment but also help your family as well.

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