Another Ode to Vinegar (Bonnie Hoffmann - Moscow, Idaho)
I also use vinegar to clean many surfaces, but in addition, I use vinegar to unclog my drains in the bathroom. This method is also slightly entertaining as well. I pour one half cup of baking soda directly into the drain. (I remove any covers or plugs.) For this next part you have to be quick. I then pour about a cup and a half of vinegar onto the baking soda and cap it with the palm of my hand. The volcanic action of the two ingredients works every time! If you do not have instant success, try it again.
Clean Without the Mess (Ann LaGoy - Fishkill, New York)
I was delighed to receive a copy of your “Shoulder to the Wheel” MaryJanesFarm magazine from my Aunt Terry (Theresa Santmann). I enjoyed reading her memories, and a bit of my family’s history, as well as the other articles and information offered in this issue. She pointed out the “Home Safe Home, when it comes to housecleaning” article, and thought it a logical connection.
I moved from Washington, D.C., to the beautiful Hudson Valley in New York about eight years ago to be closer to my family. To pay the rent, I began cleaning houses. This occupation grew into a business that spanned seven years, two counties and many employees. I used commercial cleaners five to six days a week for five of those years, until I had a very serious mishap at a client’s house. I jumped in the shower stall to spray it down as I normally did (the product I used contained bleach to fight mold and mildew), but upon spraying, I was immediately chased out of the room by the toxic fumes released. My only guess is the client had used ammonia in the shower prior to my visit. This caused my lungs to burn for about four days. Suffice it to say, my curiosity for natural cleaners began.
Shortly after that incident, my sister gave me a book called “The Naturally Clean Home” by Karyn Siegel-Maier that gave very simple recipes for alternatives to chemical cleaners. I worked with and modified some of those recipes, as well as others I discovered and developed. My employees were very happy and willing to help develop these products on their assignments, and my clients were eager to use less toxic cleaners in their homes (although there were a few die-hard chemical fans!). I had the perfect test market. Over the next two years, I developed an entire line of natural cleaning products. These products are made from natural ingredients and scented with essential oils.
I have since sold the cleaning service, and am concentrating on building and promoting Clearly Natural, LLC. I am enclosing samples for you in hopes you try them yourself, and let your readers know about me. These products are not your typical cleaning products. Simply put, they are much better, safer and more fun to clean with than chemical cleaners!
Contact Clearly Natural, LLC by phone, 845-489-2378, or find them on the Web at www.clearly-natural.com.
Doin' the Dishes and Washin' the Clothes (Janeen Solberg - Boonsboro, Maryland)
Though I long to be more enviromentally sensitive, I admit that at times the cost is a deterrent. For example, the price of organic shampoos and conditioners compared to Suave. Sometimes we splurge, but as a single-income family with a couple of kids at home it's easy to allow frugal habits to win.
Thanks to a few key ingredients, I've been able to stay true to my ideals when it comes to cleaning products. Vinegar, of course, is essential for cleaning drains, surfaces, coffee makers, tea pots and kettles, and freshening the dishwasher on occasion.
My other favorite ingredients are borax, washing soda and baking soda. With these items I can make two products that can be rather expensive and toxic--dishwasher detergent and laundry detergent.
For the dishwasher: Mix borax and washing soda half and half. That's it. Just keep it in a bucket under the sink with a little scoop and fill only one side of the soap compartment.
For the laundry: Mix washing soda and baking soda half and half. Again fill a bucket near your washer and use about the same amount as you normally would. Cold water is fine.
Both of these recipes are mild but effective. You can find borax and washing soda in the laundry aisle of your grocery store. If you're looking for larger quantities of baking soda, try a warehouse store to stock up.
Essential Oils (Randi Poland - Elkins Park, Pa)
A wonderful and safe way to clean is with essential oils. I use a combination of oregano and lemon in place of commercial cleaners. It sanitizes and polishes glass. Just dilute 10 drops of each in quart spray bottle of water. A few drops of lavender is a nice addition. The most affordable and high quality e.o.'s are made by the Now.
An important P.S. Essential oils are very strong and can be irritating to the skin,eyes ect.So be careful when handling them undiluted. Oregano is one to take special care with.
Fabulous Foil (Miriam Walters )
It is interesting to watch what people are spending their money on at the grocery store. I’ll see them one minute carefully selecting their vegetables from the organic section of the produce aisle, and the next I’ll see them loading their cart with paper products and other household necessities like aluminum foil and detergent without one look back.
Yes, the organic food is a good start — but what about the bleached coffee filters they use each morning, or the toxins released into our air each time a new truckload of paper towels or aluminum foil is produced at the factory? Eating organic food is only half the battle — our health also depends on buying recycled and recyclable products that aren’t over packaged. I mean, do people really care if the box a product comes in is bleached white or left a natural brown? In the grocery store, choosing which of these products you will take home may seem like the most insignificant decision you will make that day — but it may be the most important.
Here are some products that I buy when confronted with the same choices: If You Care® 100% recycled foil and 100% unbleached baking cups. I also like Green Forest paper towels and toilet paper. The one thing I hear people say when it comes to environmentally “safe” products like these, is that the quality is not the same or that the price is not as low as conventional products. But I believe that with consumer support, those problems will disappear — but not until consumers demand it — and we make our demands through our everyday consumer choices. In other words, the choice is ours — we can pay a little extra for our household products now and save money and health in the future, or we can buy it cheap now and pay for it the rest of our lives.
glass top stove cleaner (Terra - Birch Bay, WA)
We recently moved into a home with a glass top stove. The only way to remove cooked on stains was with a very potent cleaner specifically for glass top stoves. After reading about vinegar''s cleaning power I thought I''d give it a try. Vinegar alone did not remove the stains but when I added baking soda to the vinegar it came clean immediately.
Hardware is Home Care Too (Gina Gormley - Moscow, ID)
Home Care Products usually refers to cleaning agents and polishing compounds, I suppose, but I actually would like to offer my suggestions about making your home safer by adding sturdy railings, grab bars, and other hardware.
I was made aware of the importance of those safety items by my husband's broken leg (he fell off a wobbly piece of furniture while changing a light bulb) and my mother-in-law's visit (we worried about an 85 year old moving around safely in our home).
After learning the obvious lessons (don't stand on wobbly furniture), we took a good look at our house and realized it just was not safe. As the federal agencies in charge of such things note, most accidents occur in the home. We had not done much to prevent accidents in our home.
The first thing was to strengthen or install railings at stairways. On the outside stairway, we replaced a barely functional piece of wood with a solid steel bar specifically welded to fit the site. If anyone would have tripped while climbing those stairs and relied on the railing, the old wooden railing would have broken--but the new one will support any of our daughter's biggest boyfriends.
We bought a roll of non-skid tape, and cut a bunch of strips for the bathtub and shower. We added a light that fully illuminated the outdoor stairway. At the garage entrance to the house, we replaced a funky carpeted step with a plywood ramp (and again added non-skid tape to make the ramp safe). We took away some useless throw rugs that could easily trip visitors.
Then we rearranged our furniture to keep sharp edges away from walkways, and to open up the walkways for easier movement between rooms.
For ease of getting out of bed, we cut blocks of wood and placed them under the corners of the bed frame. The blocks were about 12 inches long and were cut from a 6 inch by 6 inch timber left in the garage by earlier owners. In the center of each block, we drilled a shallow hole for the bed frame to rest in.
We replaced the regular towel rack in the bathroom with an approved grab bar that was securely mounted on the wall. While the bar still serves as a towel rack, we can safely rest against it while drying off, or hold onto it if we stumble. We also added a grab bar in the shower.
All these changes in our home did cost some money. The steel railing was expensive (about $300) since it was custom made, and the grab bars, non-skid tape and other items cost us another $100. But the peace of mind when my mother-in-law (and any of our other relations and friends) came visiting was well worth it. Really, none of us are getting any younger, and with age, we can fall or hurt ourselves so easily. It just makes sense to protect ourselves--and this is an easy way to do that.
Home Care Chart (Nikki - port huron, mi)
A laminated cleaning chart! (Unless laminated isn't appropriate)
Maybe MaryJanes Farm could sell one.
It could have ingredients for what would clean the tub, the windows, Natural Laundry soap, what could make your brights brighter, etc.... All on a handy chart. This would be good especially for acclimating husbands to natural cleaning products how to's.
Just a thought!
In Love with Lemons (Cindy H. - Lancaster, California)
I grew up on a lemon grove. This was in the Los Angeles Basin, before the groves were replaced with houses.
We made lemon meringue pies and lemonade and had lemon throwing battles. We ate lots of lemons. I still love lemons, especially lemon peels in baked goods (Mary Jane must agree, considering her lemon puff cake--which is a delicious quick treat for the family you can make on a barbeque or campfire or at home).
Anyway, I wanted to write about another use for lemons. To freshen the garbage disposal. When our disposal and sink start to smell, I just toss in a lemon and run the cold water and turn on the disposal.
The room fills with the wonderful scent of lemons and lemon peel. Try it. I hope you like it as much as I do, even if you did not grow up on a lemon grove.
Mold Mayhem (Eileen Widman - Quilcene, Washington)
I have been talking with my daughter in Wisconsin, who lives in a yurt that they built close to Lake Superior. The weather this year has been atrociously cold and humid all summer. They had a severe outbreak of mold due to the humidity problems in the yurt that they have yet to work out. She had an environmental specialist out to help them get a handle on the mold, and she learned that we should “NEVER” use chlorine bleach to clean up mold. He told her that there is evidence that the mold spore is only killed on the surface with the bleach, and it then turns into a deadly variety of mold that continues to grow in its place. He told her instead to only clean it up with a Borax or vinegar solution.
More Vinegar (Andrea - Arcata, California)
Carolyn wrote about vinegar. I agree it is a wonderful cleaning agent. But what I want to mention is that vinegar can be a fun thing to entertain kids with....
My 10 year old boy loves this "rubber bone" trick. We fill a jar with vinegar (any cheap kind will do) and drop in a clean chicken bone from a chicken dinner. Take off the gristle and stuff. Leave the bone in the jar for a few days. Wash it off when you take it out. The vinegar will have drawn all the strength out of the bone and it becomes a hilarious toy: a bendable bone.
Have fun with this.
Mouse-Free Winter Storage (Terry)
All winter long, our boat sits in the garage. In the spring, we pull it out
and shake out the mouse droppings and wash out the rodent smell. Yuck.
And then I found Fresh Cab Scent Pouches by Crane Creek Gardens. Made by a
woman in North Dakota from corncobs and aromatic oils, these little bags don’t
smell bad to humans, but for some reason, disgust the mice!
So now in the fall, we put away the boat, toss in a few pouches and then in
the spring, there’s nothing to clean up. No horrible moth ball smell. No
dead mice. Nothing but a lingering odor that I still find quite pleasant.
For more information, you can visit their website at www.earth-kind.com
or call them at 800-583-2921.
No More Dishes in the Sink (Tom Lamar - Moscow, Idaho)
Anybody who has had a college roommate knows that dishes in the sink are a problem. The dirty bowl, glass or pot gets filled up with water and left in the sink “so that it can soak.” Problem is it ends up getting forgotten and pretty soon you end up washing it for your roommate. If it had just gotten washed after it was used, there would be no need to “let it soak.” Soaking dishes so they can be washed later ends up wasting water that just gets dumped down the drain. It also attracts silverfish, and needlessly bums everyone out.
These days, my roommates include my teenage daughters and my wife; all of them love to leave dirty dishes on the counter or in the sink.
My solution? Make sure all the dishes are washed before they wake up! When they come into the kitchen with a clean sink and counter, they can’t easily get away with sneakin’ that old cereal bowl into the sink, or leaving it on the counter full of cold funky water. They’re more likely to wash it and put it away. Try this with your own roommates. Pretty soon they will have started a new habit!
Professional house organizers often suggest starting with a clean kitchen sink. Once you keep the sink clean, there’s more reason to keep the whole kitchen tidy, which then inspires a clutter-free home.
(The rest of my family thinks our dish problems would be solved if we only bought a dishwasher, but I see it as one more machine that requires maintenance and uses excessive energy. Besides, our kitchen sink faces our beautiful backyard and garden, a perfect place to stand for 15 minutes while scrubbing a few pots and pans.)
Polishing Silverware w/o Chemicals (Mary Jane Butters - Moscow, Idaho)
For Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law always brings out her box of silverware that was passed down from her mother. This year, some of the silver pieces were tarnished and so were a pair of festive silver earrings I picked out to wear at the dinner. Here's how I safely made them shine like new. I lined a pan with aluminum foil. I added water and brought it to a boil. Then, I added some baking soda and stirred. When the water came to a boil again, I put in my silverware and earrings. I waited a few minutes, and then I removed them. They looked perfectly new!
Simplicity (Gwen - Stratford, Connecticut)
After discovering that I am environmentally sensitive, I decided to begin eliminating all possible chemicals from our home upon advice from physicians and others to avoid these substances. The more I learned about environmental sensitivity, the more I learned about the terrible pollution inflicted on all life and the Earth by the use of unnecessary chemicals. Here are the changes we have made in our home:
I use vinegar for cleaning windows (I've got crystal clear windows), removing mold around windows with full strength, cleaning the entire kitchen and bathroom (I let a few cups of vinegar sit in the toilet for several hours), unclogging drains (I add baking soda, hot water, and stand back!), and removing stains or spills. I have little use for any other cleaner!
I hand wash laundry with baking soda or Seventh Generation, which is a biodegradable laundry soap (no scents or dyes). We also use baking soda for dishes at times, and otherwise Seventh Generation dish soap. (I am currently looking into non-aluminum baking soda!)
We have begun the process of eliminating soft plastics and most hard plastics from our environment, due to off-gassing of chemicals that I detect that many others (normal people) would not. We attempt to replace these with unfinished maple wood (due to the absence of resins) or wicker products. We use absolutely no vinyl at all, as it is extremely toxic.
We now purchase only certified organic cotton clothing, kitchen & bath towels, and fabric. The pesticides and formaldehyde contained in those gorgeous color and printed cottons are devastating for health and the environment. Certified organic bedding and pillows exist, as well, and many other items if one is persistent in searching. Certified organic cotton feels much healthier to wear and use.
We have changed from chemically processed, scented toilet paper and tissue to 100% recycled, non-chlorine bleached paper products (Seventh Generation). This not only reduces burning, itching, sinus difficulties- but saves trees! And lots of them!
We have changed from using petroleum-based ink, plastic ink pens to the Woody Pen (available from Abundant Earth.com), which is made from completely recycled wood, has no toxic finish, and contains an ethyl alcohol ink which is significantly less toxic.
We are beginning the change from wood-based paper to Kenaf, or fiber based papers that have had minimal chemical processing. This saves trees! Acorn Designs sells beautiful cards and papers printed with less toxic soy inks instead of petroleum-based inks. Soy ink is now something else we look for. When ordering products by mail order, we now routinely request no plastic wrap or styrofoam (for both health and environmental reasons- styrofoam is not biodegradable), brown paper only. Most people are happy to help.
We use certified organic foods. Eden foods has a wonderful variety of beans (certified organic, canned without aluminum or lead- and no GMO ingredients). This is one company I trust. Others are Lundberg Rice and Muir Glen; we buy their products for the same reasons.
We have added water filters to both our shower and kitchen faucet. Our kitchen filter unit was bought from Abundant Earth on the web. We have found them to be stellar with customer service and integrity!
We now use Abundant Earth's completely organic shampoo, soap, and shaving cream. It is herbal, with no chemicals or scents- and it works wonders on my hair. My hair is the healthiest its been since early childhood! We buy this in bulk and re-use one 8 oz container, which saves on plastic containers.
Instead of chemical perfume, I use a few dabs of organic vanilla. Smells delightful!
We finally found a safe cat litter, which is pure corn. 99% dust free, flushable, completely natural, and diggable (the cat loves it as it is so close to natural earth in texture). No chemicals or fumes or scents. Worlds Best Cat Litter (and it is!).
We have found in our reading (but not yet used) Milk Paint which is close to chemically neutral, organic tile flooring, and entirely natural hemp throw rugs. We have also seen glass tile flooring, and read about pure adobe or straw bale building and solar energy options. Our next goal is to begin to implement solar energy.
Lastly (I think!), we added a portable air filter to our car that absorbs chemical fumes (from NEEDS).
The changes that we began to make due to health problems of overexposure have also been wonderful for the environment.
Sliding Doors With Soap (Josephine Multanski - St. Maries, Idaho)
When drawers or patio door screens stop sliding, I reach for a bar of soap. I've found that if I rub the soap (dry, not wet) on the sliding parts, it lubricates the parts enough to make them slide again easily.
The treatment is not long-lasting. I have to repeat it when the sliding slows again. But, it is a cheap and easy way to get that patio screen door moving again.
Vinegar (Carolyn - Moscow, ID)
My favorite cleaning supplies are baking soda, vinegar and now borax. But I've discovered along the trail other interesting uses for these safe ingredients that go beyond cleaning.
I keep a spray bottle of vinegar and water mixed on the counter in the kitchen and use it instead of chemical window or counter cleaners. It cuts grease and leaves a streak-free shine. Here are some vinegar uses that are safe alternatives to chemical treatments:
- Pour vinegar on sidewalks and walkways between cracks to kill unwanted grass.
- Use as an amendment for plants like azaleas, which require acidic soil. Use 2 tablespoons to a quart of water when soil pH becomes too alkaline.
- Use as an alternative to chemicals that remove calcium, lime and other mineral deposits in coffee makers, pour white vinegar into water reservoir and run machine. Rinse two or three times with clean water.
- Legend has it that vinegar mixed with glycerin applied daily will dissolve warts.
- I have also heard that a poultice of crumbled bread and vinegar applied to corns will dissolve them.
I think there are several books written about the magic and miracle of vinegar. There are a million other uses. Let's hear some of yours.