Whether it’s because you’ve got kids or pets, or because you want to go green, finding alternative green cleaners is much easier than you thought. So, say goodbye to unpronounceable chemicals and hello to the only four ingredients you need to clean almost everything in your home:
White vinegar is a low concentration of acetic acid (CH3COOH) in water. The acid gives this powerhouse the ability to dissolve a multitude of cleaning woes including soap scum and hard water deposits. Yet despite its cleaning prowess, this green cleaner is gentle enough to use on clothing and even hard wood floors. It’s also a natural deodorizer, able to absorb odors rather than just mask them. It can even handle skunk spray. (Seriously, the next time a skunk sprays near you, set out a few bowls of white vinegar. The skunk smell will disappear overnight)
Vinegar can also remove rust stains from items. If something is exceptionally rusty, a combination of vinegar and salt will eat away rust really well. However, be wary. If you’re cleaning something rusty that has aluminum with it, the vinegar/salt solution will dissolve aluminum. Strange, huh?
To use vinegar as a cleaner, dilute it at about 1 part vinegar to 1 part water and use in a spray bottle. If you like, you can add lemon juice as well to give it a nice citrusy smell.
Okay, so this green cleaner isn’t such a secret anymore; you can find it in everything from toothpaste to cat litter. But as a naturally safe scrubbing agent, you really can’t go wrong with baking soda. Sprinkle it onto your cleaning rag and it can make short work of a bathtub ring. For extra stubborn grimy spots, make a thick paste of baking soda and water and apply to the area. Let the paste stand for about a half-hour and then wipe it away.
If you have kids with stuffed animals, baking soda can spare them a trip through the washer (the stuffed animals, not the children. We don’t advise putting kids in a washing machine). Put the stuffed bear in a large sealable bag with a cup of baking soda. Shake it really well. Take the bag outside and open it downwind to avoid a face full of baking soda and stuffed animal dirt. Give bear a quick vacuum with a dusting brush, and he’s good to go. Not only will the baking soda draw out dirt, it also deodorizes. No more must smelling bears.
Clear ammonia is a basic solution of nitrogen and hydrogen (NH3) dissolved in water. Use this as a green cleaner and not the sudsing kind. Sudsing ammonia has soap added to it which can be difficult to wipe clean. However, as a cleaner for glass, windows, and chrome, it is unparalleled. Spray it on and wipe it off for a streak-free shine that doesn’t require that blue spray stuff.
This stuff is a base, as opposed to vinegar’s acid, so it will clean some stuff that vinegar won’t. (Just like ammonia doesn’t do water spots) But it will dissolve old floor wax, cut through grease like a hot knife, and remove hairspray residue easily. You can also use it to pretreat carpet before you use a steam cleaner.
To use it as a cleaner, dilute it so it’s about 1 part ammonia to 5 parts water in a spray bottle. Also, NEVER use ammonia based cleaners with chlorine bleach. You will create a very dangerous chemical called a chloramine. Chloramines will cause respiratory issues and can severely aggravate allergy sufferers or a person with asthma.
To make a general household cleaner with ammonia, mix 1 tablespoon of non-sudsing ammonia with 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid. Add 2 cups of water to a spray bottle, and shake well before using.
Rubbing alcohol is quick to evaporate under normal conditions, so it doesn’t leave any streaks or residue. If you can’t stand the smell of ammonia, try using rubbing alcohol on your mirrors and bright work.
To make a great green cleaner for your glass out of rubbing alcohol, put 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and 1 cup of water into a spray bottle. Add one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Shake well before using and go forth and make things sparkle.
For an even tougher glass cleaner, perhaps for those outdoor windows after a long dreary winter, add ammonia instead of the vinegar.
The great thing about using household products as green cleaning alternatives is that it’s not just better for you, your family, and the environment, it’s often much cheaper as well. Consider that a gallon of vinegar averages out to about five dollars. That’s about half of what the average cost for a gallon of blue spray is. So, next time you’re out looking for cleaning supplies, skip the scented aisle with products that have stuff like dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride in them. Get yourself some spray bottles (or repurpose old ones from your cleaning closet) and some vinegar, non-sudsing ammonia, baking soda, and rubbing alcohol. Your home will be just as clean, and the only difference will be in your wallet and in your environmental footprint.