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Ask a Clean Person: Green Cleaning Alternatives

You screamed, I cried, I asked, you answered! So! Without further ado, here are some of the best tips for green alternatives to commercial cleaning products, random foodstuffs that will get your things clean, and landfill-saving tricks that will cut down on your shopping bill. Know of items I missed? Leave ‘em in the comments!

What for: Polishing copper.

What for: Cut in half, sprinkle with kosher salt and use it to clean the tub (or sink! Or toilet!).

What for: Getting the smell out of cookware, hands.

White Vinegar
What for: White vinegar mixed with water can replace Windex and other commercial glass cleaners. Pour some into a bowl to get the stink out of a smoky room. Use it with a low-lint cloth to clean your patent leather shoes.

Baking Soda
What for: EVERYTHING. Seriously, have you not been reading this column?  

OK sorry, what for: Baking soda mixed with white vinegar will create a volcano effect that can be used to get stuck-on guck off of surfaces, open up a stopped drain, and get hard water stains off of glass shower doors.

Baking soda on its own is aces on anything stinky. Use it as a soak for bedding, pillows, clothing, etc. etc.; dump it in your laundry machine to freshen things up; mix it with a little water to make a paste to apply to stenches on carpeting, furniture, stuffed animals (who among us hasn’t barfed on a lambie?); sprinkle it inside shoes and Tupperware to eliminate stank; add a few drops of lavender oil for DIY carpet deodorizer.

Got something stuck on your favorite pot? Sprinkle more baking soda than you think you need over the offending surface and pour boiling water over it. Let it sit for 30 minutes-up to overnight and pour off — the stuck-on substance will come right off.

Have a red wine stain on a counter- or table-top? Wipe down the surface with a vinegar solution, sprinkle a goodly amount of baking soda onto stain, and get after it with a plastic mesh sponge.

Murphy’s Oil Soap
What for: Wooden items, including and especially floors and furniture. Dilute with water and use when mopping or dip a rag in, wring it out well and go over wood surfaces. Also excellent for cleaning crew shells, for those of you who might have that need.

Bon Ami
What for: Use in place of other abrasive cleaners such as Comet, Soft Scrub, etc. to clean stovetops, bathtubs, mildew-y grout, stainless steel, etc.

What for: Killing ants and roaches. (Bug rights activists, I’m sorry. I don’t know how to help you.)

Hydrogen Peroxide
What for: Removes blood stains, mold, and dirt.

Tea Tree Oil
What for: Dilute with water and use to clean bathrooms, marble, and granite — tea tree oil is an anti-fungal agent and won’t wear out marble and granite the way vinegar solution will over time.

DIY Laundry Detergent
Mix together:
1 cup borax (found in the laundry detergent aisle of any large grocery store)
1 cup washing soda (also found in the laundry detergent aisle)
1 bar of castille or Fels Naptha soap, finely grated with a cheese grater (found with the regular hand/body soap or with laundry detergent)
Add 2 tablespoons of the above mixture to a large load of laundry.  It works well in cold water.
Use 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar in the rinse cycle instead of fabric softener.

DIY Antibacterial Countertop Cleaner
Put 10 drops tea tree oil and 10 drops rosemary oil into an old spray bottle, fill with water.

Green Product Lines
BioKleen, CitraSolv, J.R. Watkins, Method, Mrs. Meyer’s (I love Mrs. Meyer’s so much that I’m plotting to steal her away from Mr. Meyer’s so that I can do dirty things to her and then clean her up), and Seventh Generation.

Cleaning Tools
Old towels, t-shirts, socks can be cut up and used in place of paper towels; old toothbrushes for getting into corners, polishing intricate metalwork; microfiber towels to wipe up dust and spills; terrycloth sponges to wipe counters between cleanings.

Previously: Smelly, Scuffy, and Dirty Shoes.

Jolie Kerr is not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned in this column, but she sure would be very happy to accept any free samples the manufacturers care to send her way! Are you looking for a green alternative to the suggestions found here? Because we’ve got some! More importantly: Is anything you own dirty?


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