Posts Tagged ‘Vinegar’

Greener, Cleaner Spring Cleaning

Spring is here! Whether it feels like it or not, there is a psychological lift to just spotting a crocus or a daffodil and knowing that winter is officially over.  It may be too early to start gardening, but it’s not too early to start a thorough spring-cleaning!

Non-Toxic Cleaners

If you don’t already use non-toxic cleaners, now is the time to switch!  Indoor air pollution, partially caused by the use of chemical based cleaners, is a much more serious problem than people realize and one of the reasons for increased cases of asthma and allergies, among other diseases. Fortunately you can find several brands of greener, ‘‘cleaner” cleaning supplies at your local grocery store; many of the conventional brands are now making a less toxic product as well.  Be sure to read the ingredients though; some products claim to be “natural” when they really aren’t. Visit Environmental Working Group’s Cleaners  database to check the toxicity of your brand and for the lowest toxicity cleaners.  Seventh Generation, Mrs. Myers, Ecover, are a few good ones.  Remember, you really don’t need a different product for each surface in your home.  That’s just marketing.

Make Your Own Cleaners

Making your own cleaning supplies using baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice is a fun and easy option too!  Baking soda cleans nearly everything from stained kitchen sinks to mildewed showers to tea stained coffee mugs to flatware to fruit or even teeth, and it’s cheap!  White vinegar works great on hardwood floors.  Easy, long-lasting microfiber cloths lift off dirt, dust and grime with no need for additional products.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that if there is no “clean” smell, then it’s not effective – fragrances are part of the chemical danger. (Organic cleaners with safe, natural essential oils are an exception.)

Recipe for All-Purpose Cleaner

All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, countertops etc.  Keep out of reach of children.

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

Eco-Friendly Easter Eggs

 

 

 

Dyeing Easter eggs with children or grandchildren is a special tradition.  Rather than expose you and your children to the artificial colors and chemical dyes of the traditional Paas egg dyeing kits, however, this year try an eco-friendly approach.

Vegetables like beets, cabbage, red onion, carrot tops, or fruits like blueberries, and spices like turmeric are perfect for making homemade dyes. Even coffee works. Beets and turmeric are especially good. Think what they do to your hands and cutting boards when cooking with them.

Listed below are some simple recipes for making red, yellow and blue dye, which you can then combine to make other colors.

For red dye: Roughly chop 1 to 2 beets (about 3/4 pound). Combine with 1 quart water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid for dyeing.

For yellow dye: Heat 1 quart water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt in a saucepan. Add 6 tablespoons ground turmeric and stir well. Simmer for just a few minutes until the turmeric dissolves.

For blue dye: Shred 1 large red cabbage (about 1 pound). Combine in a saucepan with 1 quart water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid for dyeing.

Many countries use vegetables to dye their eggs. The Greeks for example, use red onionskins to make their traditional red Easter eggs. The Easter tradition in some countries involves wrapping the eggs in onionskins and sometimes adding bits of dill, rice, grass or leaves for a tie-dyed, mottled look. Experiment – the possibilities are endless.

If you find yourself short on time, Eco-eggs makes an egg dyeing kit using natural ingredients from 100% pure plant, fruit and vegetable extracts.

Have fun and Happy Easter!!!

 

Information compiled from: http://www.seriouseats.com/

For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.

 

Swiffer vs An Old-Fashioned Dust Mop

Below is a question from a reader about Swiffer.

Dear Betsy:

I just got the latest issue of Vermont Country Store catalog and inside is an old-fashioned wool dust mop, which up to 10 years ago I used and used to shake outside like my Mom used to do! 

This made me think about all the Swiffer products I use.  Hmmm – I’m wondering if anyone has compared cleaning efficiency of an old-fashioned dust mop vs Swiffer – certainly one is more economical.  The Swiffer products are expensive!  Thanks –

Jennifer M.

Winchester, MA

Hi Jennifer:

Great question!  I don’t know of any actual studies about the cleaning efficiency of an old-fashioned dust mop vs. Swiffer, but I know I prefer an old fashioned dust mop.  Swiffer disposable dry cloths are made of polyester and polypropylene and work well to pick up dust and grime from most surfaces, but so does an old-fashioned wool dust mop.  The natural lanolin in wool attracts and holds dust. Wool won’t scratch floors and gets better every time you wash it. I try to avoid single use products that go directly into the landfill, as well as petroleum-based products like polypropylene.

The Swiffer wet cloths are treated with propylene glycol and though categorized by the FDA as “generally regarded as safe”, that’s not assurance enough for me. According to Swiffer, the wet cloths may irritate skin and aggravate known skin conditions.” Considering that concentrations of toxic compounds are higher inside than outside, it’s best to avoid them when you can. Indoor air pollution, partially caused by the use of chemical based cleaners, is a much more serious problem than people realize and one of the reasons for increased cases of asthma and allergies.  Additionally, the chemically treated, single use wet cloths end up in the landfill leaching toxic chemicals into the soil and water table.

There is no question that Swiffer is easier than an old-fashioned mop, but what happened to cleaning with natural and safe ingredients like soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and borax?  All it takes is a little elbow grease and a good sponge mop.

If you insist on the convenience of a Swiffer, there are similar, more eco-friendly options.

  • Method Home floor cleaning mop with non-toxic compostable sweeping cloths.
  • Gaiam’s Spray Mop Kit where you add your own cleaner or nontoxic vinegar and water, spray the fine mist and mop up with a microfiber cleaning cloth (the eco-friendly cleaning rage today).  The set includes five washable MicroTech Cleaning Cloths.

    Gaiam’s Spray Mop

  • Amazon also sells a microfiber mop called E-cloth microfiber mop, as do Bed, Bath and Beyond and Whole Foods.

E-cloth Microfiber Mop

I hope this helps Jennifer– let me know what you decide.  Safe cleaning!

Betsy

Information compiled from www.treehugger.com, inhabitat.com, www.swiffer.com, vermontcountrystore.com, classic.akc.org

 

 

Recipes for Safe Weed Control

Happily spring is here  – trees are flowering, flowers and shrubs are blooming and lawns are turning green.  Oh lawns, we love them and we hate them.  They add beauty to the landscape and are a playground for our kids and pets, but to maintain a “picture-perfect” lawn requires a lot of time, money, energy, and usually toxic chemicals.    A conventional lawn is the largest irrigated “crop” in the country.  With an organic lawn you mow less, water less, thatch less and skip high nitrogen-based fertilizers and herbicides.  Organic lawns are clearly the safer alternative, but you have to be able to tolerate a few weeds as your lawn transitions from a chemical free lawn to an organic one.  

What can you do about those dreaded weeds?  First of all, realize that a monoculture, like a lawn, is not usual in nature.  With the more natural approach, there will be some weeds.   Change your perspective about them.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”  Weeds are a messenger of problems in your soil and will grow where nothing else will. Many are an edible and nutritious food.  If you really can’t stand them, try the simple and safe recipes for weed control I’ve listed below using ingredients right from your kitchen.

VINAIGRETTE “DRESSING” FOR DANDELIONS

A well-placed shot of vinegar right on the plant can thwart dandelions or other broad-leaved weeds.  Be careful not to splash it on the turf or any plants you want to keep, because vinegar will kill grassy plants as well. A section of newspaper or cardboard can act as a shield for desirable plants.

Ingredients

Vinegar (as close to 10% acidity as possible); Dishwashing Liquid (optional); Pump Spray Bottle

Directions

Fill the spray bottle with undiluted vinegar (or mix 3 parts vinegar to 1 part dishwashing liquid).  Spray a narrow stream, dousing the weed’s leaves and crown (the area at the base of the plant).   Rinse the sprayer well with water, especially if it has metal parts because vinegar is corrosive.  This is a spot spray only!

ALCOHOL ATTACK

Rubbing alcohol is a simple way to kill a weed.  Mix it with water and it will dehydrate almost any weed.  This also works against spider mites, aphids, and scale, but may require some experimentation to find the right level of effectiveness.  Test spray on one leaf to check for burning.

Ingredients

1-quart water; 1 (or more) tablespoons rubbing alcohol; Pump spray bottle

Directions

Mix water and alcohol in the spray bottle. (Use 1 tablespoon of alcohol for weed seedlings or thin-leaved weeds and 2 tablespoons or more for tougher weeds.)  Spray weed leaves thoroughly but lightly.  (Avoid surrounding plants.)

SORRY, CHARLIE

Creeping Charlie is a low-growing, yellow-flowered perennial weed that can be a real nuisance in lawns.  If you have noticed it in yours, borax can be a very effective weed-killer, particularly in late spring or early summer when weeds are growing most actively.

Ingredients

5 Teaspoons borax, like 20 mule Team Borax, for every 25 square feet of lawn; 1-quart water; Pump spray bottle

Directions

Mix borax in water.  Measure exactly: Too little and it won’t kill the weeds, too much and you could kill the grass too.  Spray to cover a 25-square foot area.  Water and fertilize your turf after the treatment so that it rapidly fills in the space left by the dead weeds.

SPRAY AWAY BROWN PATCH IN LAWNS

Brown or yellow rings that die out in your lawn, caused by rhizoctonia fungi, which comes from poor drainage, too much rain and/or too much nitrogen fertilizer, can be treated with this simple solution.

Ingredients

1 rounded tablespoon baking soda or potassium bicarbonate  (a better choice since it has less salt); 1-tablespoon horticultural oil; 1-gallon water

Directions

Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  Spray lightly on your lawn.  Avoid overuse or drenching the soil.

DELUXE BAKING SODA SPRAY

For a very effective disease and insect fighter, go no further than your kitchen.  This concoction works best as a preventative, so spray susceptible plants before disease  symptoms start and continue at weekly intervals.

Ingredients

1 ½ tablespoons baking soda; 1-tablespoon canola oil; 1 cup plus 1 gallon water; 1-tablespoon vinegar; Backpack or pump sprayer

Directions

Mix the baking soda, soap and oil with 1 cup of water.  Add the vinegar.  Don’t mix the  vinegar in until last or the mixture may bubble over.  Pour the mixture into the sprayer and  add 1 gallon of water.  Shake or stir to combine the ingredients.  Spray plants, covering the bottoms and tops of the leaves.

PLAIN AND SIMPLE GARLIC JUICE

If you are a garlic lover, you may want to use this simple recipe to fight diseases and insects on your plants.

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves; A blender; Pump Spray Bottle; Molasses (optional)

Directions

Liquefy 3 garlic cloves in a blender that is half-filled with water.  Strain out the garlic, then mix the remaining liquid with enough water to make 1 gallon of  spicy concentrate.  Two tablespoons of molasses will help the mixture adhere to the leaves.

CITRUS KILLER FOR APHIDS

Aphids and other leaf-sucking insects can cause considerable damage if you don’t control them.  This mixture neutralizes aphids and can also act as a deterrent to ants!

Ingredients

1-pint water; Rind from 1 lemon, grated  (or orange or grapefruit rind); Cheesecloth; Pump Spray Bottle

Directions

Bring the water to a boil.  Remove from heat and add the grated lemon rind.  Allow the mixture to steep overnight.  Strain the mixture through cheesecloth, and pour into the spray bottle. Apply the mixture to plant leaves that are under attack.  (This mixture must come in contact with the insects’ bodies to be effective.)

WEEDS IN HOT WATER

Use boiling water to eliminate weeds from sidewalk or driveway cracks.  Be careful not to splash it on to neighboring plants or turf.

Ingredients

Teakettle or pan

Directions

Boil a full kettle of water.  Pour slowly and carefully, dousing both the weeds and the soil immediately surrounding them.

For more recipes, email me at greenwithbetsy.com.

Recipes for organic weed, insect pests and disease controls compiled from Great Garden Formulas, 1998 Rodale Press, Inc.

 

Information compiled from: lawncare.about.com/od/lawncarebasics/a/historyoflawn.htm


 

UNCLOG YOUR DRAINS SAFELY

One of my readers contacted me about unclogging her bathroom sink.  As a conscientious environmentalist, she was surprised and frustrated when baking soda and vinegar didn’t unclog her drain.  She was adamant about not using conventional, off the shelf products with lye and other toxic chemicals and wondered if there were other natural products that work.

Baking soda and vinegar really do work, but it‘s important to use the right amount and follow the directions of this tried and true recipe I’ve listed below.  For stubborn clogs, you may even have to repeat it a couple of times.

Cover of "Home Comforts: The Art and Scie...

Unclog Your Drain Safely Recipe 

Important:  Do not use this recipe if there is standing water in the sink.

Pour ½ to 1 cup of baking soda down the drain; slowly pour ½ to 1 cup of vinegar (distilled white vinegar is good) after.  Cover the drain immediately with a cloth or rag so the fizzing interaction cannot escape. (This is the same fizzing action that happened when “erupting volcanoes” with the kids by mixing baking soda and vinegar.)  Let it sit for 5 minutes or up to 30 minutes depending on the severity of the clog.  Follow with a gallon of boiling water.  If necessary, pour more boiling water down the drain or repeat the entire process.

Some recipes add a cup of salt to the boiling water, followed by running warm water for 10 minutes to clear any product from the drain.  If this doesn’t work, try using a sink plunger after pouring down the liquids.  The plunger creates suction and forces open the clog.

English: Plunger icon from SuperTuxKart

Image via Wikipedia

This procedure by the way also cleans your pipes at the same time.  And unlike conventional chemical products, baking soda and vinegar won’t harm your pipes and of course not you or the water table.

I used to tell my kids if you are ever stranded on an island, make sure you have baking soda with you. There are millions of uses – culinary, medicinal and for cleaning.  Click here to read more.

 

Information compiled from Home Comforts – The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson and thegoodhuman.com.  

Home Comforts is a great book, a true encyclopedia of anything and everything having to do with the home.

 


 

 

GREENER ALTERNATIVES TO CHLORINE BLEACH

 Chlorine Bleach is one of the most effective clothes whiteners and disinfectants, but it can be toxic. Chlorine (Cl2) is among the ten highest volume chemicals manufactured in the United States. It is used in cleaning products and as a bleaching agent and was the first poison gas to be used as a weapon during World War I.

Chlorine bleach releases dioxin, furans and other organochlorines into the air. Low level exposures, mostly through inhalation, can cause wheezing, sore throat, shortness of breath and cough. With higher levels of exposure, you can experience chest tightness and bronchial spasms.  Studies have shown a relationship between long-term dioxin exposure and kidney, bladder, pancreatic, and other cancers. If chlorine bleach gets on the skin or in the eyes, chemical burns can result.  As with most toxins, children are more affected than adults.  And, of course it eventually finds its way to the water table.

So, what is a safer and effective alternative to chlorine bleach?  Several items right in your kitchen cupboard, like vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, borax, washing soda, (not mixed together however!).

Here are two recipes for bleach from Leslie Reichert’s Joy of Green Cleaning.

Laundry Bleach

1⁄4 cup borax 1⁄4 cup vinegar 1⁄4 cup hydrogen peroxide

Heat the vinegar in the microwave for 30 seconds. Dissolve the borax into the vinegar, and then add the peroxide right before adding to the wash. The peroxide will not stay active for very long so you add it to the mixture right before using it.

Old Fashioned Laundry Whitener

Winter – This is an old remedy that will remove spots from your clothing when all else fails. Wet the clothing that has the spots with water and place it outside in the snow on a sunny day.

Summer – Wet the clothing with water and 1⁄2 cup lemon juice. Place outside in the sun and the combination of the lemon juice and sunshine will bleach the clothing a bright white.

If you don’t want to make your own bleach, Seventh Generation, Ecover, Bi-o-kleen, and Earth Friendly Oxo brite have great products.  They can be found at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and some conventional supermarkets.

Information compiled from: http://www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/emergency/chemical_terrorism/chlorine_tech.htm, http://healthychild.org/issues/chemical-pop/chlorine/, http://www.thegoodhuman.com/2007/10/02/consider-these-environmentally-friendly-alternatives-to-bleach/

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipes for Safe Household Cleaners

Source: Green Living – The E Magazine Handbook for Living Lightly on the Earth

There are many non-toxic cleaning products available today, but using basic kitchen staples you can make your own – at a fraction of the cost!

All Purpose Cleaner

Mix 3 tablespoons dish soap in one quart of warm water, or use baking soda and a small amount of water.

Kitchen Countertop Sanitizer and Vegetable and Fruit Spray

Spritz countertops, cutting boards, vegetables or fruit with vinegar (apple cider or white), then spritz with 3 tablespoons ordinary hydrogen peroxide.  Rinse produce with water.  Tests found that the two mists killed virtually all salmonella, shigella, or E coli bacteria making it more effective than chlorine bleach.

Kitchen/Bathroom Surfaces

Use baking soda on a damp ponse to clean and deodorize.  Toss sponge into clothes washer or dishwasher to kill germs.   Baking soda also removes stubborn countertop stains.

Glass Cleaner

Mix 2 tablespoons white vinegar with 1 quart water.  Increasing the vinegar will deepen the cleaning action.  Put into labeled spray bottle.  For stubborn spots and streaks, use undiluted vinegar.

Floor Cleaner

Wash slate, ceramic tile, wood and no-wax floors with 1/2 cup white vinegar mixed with 1/2 gallon of warm water.

Rug and Upholstery Cleaner

Clean spill immediately with soda water and  baking soda paste.  Vacuum.

Laundry

Eliminate soap residue by adding 1 cup of white vinegar to the final rinse.  Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle to make clothes feel soft and smell fresh.  Do not use chlorine bleach and vinegar together – you will produce harmful vapors.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Sprinkle baking soda in bowl, then drizzle with vinegar and scour with toilet brush.

Drain Cleaner/Opener

Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain.  Add 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover drain opening.  Let stand a few minutes, then pour bowling water down the drain to unclog and deodorize drains.

Tub and Tile Cleaner

Use white vinegar full strength on mold and mildew stains.  Add 1/4 cup or more of vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water to clean most dirt.  To remove film buildup on tubs, wipe full strength vinegar on with a sponge, then use baking soda or borax like as scouring powder.  Rub with a damp sponge and rinse with water.