Keeping your living space presentable and sanitary can sometimes feel like a daunting task — it seems as if there are always more cleaning projects than time in the day. ¬But don’t despair! The Fantastic Four cleaners — vinegar, salt, lemon juice, and baking soda — can make your household tasks less complicated and easier on you and the environment. ¬ Here are a few tips to clean your home the all-natural way.
Glass and Mirrors
The windows in your home can be effectively cleaned with 4 tablespoons lemon juice mixed with a half gallon of water. Other effective cleaners for glass and mirrors are rubbing alcohol and witch hazel.
Another tip that old-fashioned household hint books often mention is that you can wipe windows clean with newspapers. While this may sound like a totally green idea — after all, you’d be reusing newspapers and saving on paper towels — the reality is that doing so is a messy and generally a waste of time. Try using a clean, lint-free cloth instead, perhaps an old cotton T-shirt or cloth diaper.
Dipping a cloth in straight lemon juice and rubbing it onto the stained area can remove stains on vinyl items such as recliners or tile flooring.
Furniture polish remains high on our list of the Terrible Ten (including drain cleaners, over cleaners, toilet cleaners, spot removers, silver and other metal polishes, powered cleaners, window cleaners, bleach, liquid cleaners) because polish is usually made of petroleum distillates and solvents, both which are hazardous and poisonous.
Mix 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice and apply it to your furniture using a soft cloth. The combination gives your wood furniture a nice smell and a sparkling shine.
When a hot serving dish or glass of water has marred the surface of a wood table, you can quickly get rid of the mark by making a thin paste of salad oil or lemon oil and salt. Wipe the paste on, then lightly buff the area as you wipe it off with a soft cloth.
Whenever you have an indoor painting project, you can help control the smell of the paint by keeping small dishes of vinegar scattered about in the room. The vinegar will absorb the paint odor while you work. Leave the dishes out for a few days after finishing the project to keep the paint smell at bay. Remember to change the vinegar each day.
Metal polishes, such as those for brass, copper, stainless steel, and chrome, are also on our Terrible Ten list — and for good reason. Most metal polishes contain ammonia and usually at least one type of acid, among other undisclosed ingredients. This is another area where it’s a good idea to try greener methods first before plunging into the use of harsh commercial products.
Do you have tarnished copper or brass antiques? Give them loads of shine without doing any damage by bringing in salt and vinegar and adding one more ingredient from your kitchen cupboard: flour. Make a paste using equal parts of the three ingredients; rub the paste onto the brass or copper item with a soft cloth. Cover the entire surface and let the whole thing dry out (this will take about an hour). Wipe off the dried paste with a clean, soft cloth.
Lemon can also be used for lightly tarnished brass or copper pieces. Slice one lemon and dip it in salt, then rub the item with the salted lemon. Afterward, rinse and dry thoroughly.
Another tip for lightly tarnished copper is to use a spray bottle filled with undiluted vinegar. Just spray the copper piece and sprinkle the tarnished area with salt. Wipe thoroughly with a sponge or cotton cloth; be sure to remove all the salt, or the item will turn green. Repeat if necessary.
Because it is a soft metal and can be easily damaged, pewter must be given special care. To give your pewter items a refreshed glow, try this homemade, all-green cleaner:
Mix 1 teaspoon salt and 1 cup vinegar. Add enough flour to the mixture to make a paste. Apply the paste using a soft cloth and allow it to dry for half an hour. Rinse the piece thoroughly with warm water and polish with another soft cloth. Make sure all the paste is removed from any grooves or hidden areas.
If your wood-burning fireplace has gathered soot and smoke smudges around its exterior, you can spruce it up by applying a paste of cream of tartar and water. Rub the paste into the stains, let it dry, then scrub it off.
If it’s the inside of your fireplace and chimney you’re worried about, you can help loosen soot buildup by tossing an occasional handful of salt into the fire the next time you’re enjoying your fireplace. The burning salt will help loosen the soot a little, buying you some time between major cleanings.
Cleaning Hardwood Floors
Your basic vinegar and water solution is really the perfect choice for cleaning most types of bare floors in your home. Mix 1 cup vinegar with 1 gallon warm water (be sure it’s warm!) and mop it onto a ceramic tile, linoleum, vinyl, or wood floor. There is no need to rinse afterward — saving both time and water. If your vinyl or linoleum floor looks a little dull after cleaning, you can give it a shine by mopping it over again with straight club soda. Try not to saturate wood floors with the vinegar and water solution. Use a light touch; the mixture will make your floor shiny and remove any greasy buildup.
Green Up your HVAC System
The EPA recommends that a professional heating and cooling contractor inspect your home’s air ducts and heating and cooling systems annually. If the contractor sees signs of mold, dust, dirt, and other contaminants, or if he notices a musty odor in the ductwork, having your ducts and systems professionally cleaned will be recommended.