Green Spring Clean

Warning!  Your home is a laboratory with curtains; a bubbling test tube of horrible chemicals.

There’s formaldehyde in your air freshener, sodium bisulphate in your toilet cleaner, perchloroethylene in your carpet stain remover and ammonia in your all-purpose cleaners.

You sort-of knew that already; knew to keep the stuff away from pets and your kids, just as you keep them away from sharp knives and a red-hot hob.

But unlike knives and hobs, which are pretty essential, you don’t actually need many of those skin-burning, liver-damaging chemicals.

With a bit of thought, and a minimum of effort, there are cheaper, greener, safer alternatives that you can make yourself.

So maybe this spring is the time to reduce the chemical clutter in your home, and introduce some greening to your cleaning.  


The Green Cleaner’s Cupboard

If you're starting a DIY green cleaner’s cupboard, these 10 ingredients will cover most of your house cleaning requirements.

• Baking Soda
• White Vinegar
• Borax (order online)
• Essential oils (for their smell), like tea tree oil, orange oil, or lemongrass oil
• Hydrogen Peroxide (from the chemists – still need to keep that away from the pets and kids)
• Soap; unscented in a liquid or powder form.
• Isopropryl or Rubbing Alcohol (70 per cent concentration) – order from chemists.
• Salt
• Ammonia (from larger Boots and Wilkinsons – keep this one away from the loved ones too)
• Lemon and lime (the fruit!)


So now you’ve got your 10 ingredients, here are 10 common household jobs you can do with them, ranging from carpet stain removal to getting a smear-free mirror.

Useful info: 1 cup = 240ml

All-Purpose Cleaner: In a jar or second-hand spray bottle, combine 1⅔ cups of baking soda with ½ a cup of liquid vegetable soap, like olive oil soap (many soaps use animal fats). 

Add ½ a cup of water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Shake before using. Apply with a cloth or sponge and rinse well.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Borax is the key to this heavier-duty cleaner. Borax is a natural mineral with the chemical formula Na2B4O.

Last time we looked, it wasn’t widely available in shops, but you can order it online. Mix 2-parts borax to 1-part of vinegar or lemon juice in the toilet. Let it sit for 15 minutes (or longer, if necessary), before scrubbing and flushing.

Mirrors and Glass Cleaner: This all-purpose glass cleaner consists of 2 cups of water, ½ a cup of white vinegar, ¼ of a cup of rubbing alcohol (70% concentration; chemists stock it) and an optional 1 to 2 drops of orange essential oil, which makes it all smell nice.

Actually, the essential oils apply to any of these products, if you’re going for smell. You’ll soon find your own favourite...

Bathroom Mould Remover: You know, when the grout between the tiles goes black: that stuff. Mix 1-part hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration) with 2-parts water in a spray bottle. Spray on mouldy areas, and leave for at least 1 hour before rinsing off again.

Air Freshener:Commercial air fresheners actually coat your nasal passages to diminish the sense of smell.  

Baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in small dishes absorb smells around the house. Having houseplants/flowers/herbs in a room also helps.

Disinfectant: Mix 2 teaspoons of borax, 4 tablespoons of vinegar, 3 cups of hot water and ¼ teaspoon of liquid soap.  

This is not an anti-bacterial formula though, so you may want to alternate. Oh and to disinfect kitchen sponges, pop them in the dishwasher with the dirty dishes.

Carpet Stains: For a heavy duty carpet cleaner, mix ¼ cup each of salt, borax and vinegar. Rub paste into the carpet stain and leave for a few hours. Vacuum off.

Grease Cleaner: This one’s great for things like oven hoods and grills – and anywhere in your kitchen that gets sticky, like the top of kitchen cabinets.

Mix ½ a cup of sudsy ammonia mixed with enough water to fill a 1-gallon container. Dip sponge in or mop on solution and wipe over surface. Rinse with clear water.

Oven Cleaner: Put a heatproof dish filled with water in the oven. Turn on the heat to let the steam soften any baked-on grease.

Once the oven is cool, apply a paste of equal parts baking soda, salt and vinegar and scrub.

Rust Remover: Sprinkle a little salt on the rust, squeeze a lime over the salt until it is well soaked. Leave the mixture on for 2 to 3 hours. Use leftover rind to scrub residue.