Tag Archives: cleaning

Take Small Steps To Go Green

Take Small Steps To Go Green

Trying to make the switch to a more eco friendly lifestyle can feel overwhelming. Once you realize how much you can do, you realize how much there is to do. It’s a lot. But if you take small steps to go green, it’s a lot easier to reach your goals and change your lifestyle.

One of the big reasons to take small steps to go green is that you probably have a lot of things to use up that aren’t as eco friendly as you might like. At the same time, it’s a waste to just throw these things out. You also need some time to learn about the options you have, and which are the most important to you.

Do Some Research

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making when they want to go green is fall for scare talk. There are a lot of things you can be concerned about. There are a lot of things you shouldn’t be concerned about.

Make sure you know what the popular terms really mean. Some are so abused as to be meaningless.

USDA Organic has a specific meaning. Toxin-free does not, at least not from the FDA. In fact, there is a saying about “the dose makes the poison,” which is true. Even water is toxic at high enough doses. Don’t assume that the presence of a particular substance is a problem.

Chemical free is even worse. Everything is made of chemicals. Water is a chemical. Air is made of chemicals. Vegetables are made of chemicals. You aren’t going to escape them.

What they mean, of course, is harmful chemicals, which is an entirely different matter. Remember that the dose makes the poison, and learn exactly what it is you’re avoiding before you worry about it.

Then there’s natural. Natural sounds good, but it’s meaningless. Many poisons are natural. It’s a feel-good buzzword that doesn’t really tell you what you need to know.

Pick good sources. A blog like this one can give you some ideas, but unless it backs up statements with solid information from reputable sources, you have no idea if they’re accurate. So many websites do little more than fear mongering, with little science to back up their claims.

Pick Your First Small Steps To Go Green

There are many first steps you can take as you try to live a more eco friendly lifestyle. You can look at cutting waste, for example. Take a look at the things in your life that get used up and thrown out relatively quickly. Things that wear out fairly quickly.

These are the easiest places to make changes. You need to buy replacements often enough anyhow. What better place to go green than by making better choices in purchases you need to make anyhow? Here are some ideas for your first small steps to go green.

Food Storage

One simple place to do this is in food storage, school lunches and so forth. Many choose to do this by doing away with plastic. You will certainly save a lot of money and cut a lot of useless waste by no longer using plastic baggies or other single use containers for food storage of any sort. You will still need containers of some sort.

Many choose glass containers over plastic, due to their concerns over what is in the plastic. When concerns were expressed over whether BPA in plastic alters hormones, many companies replaced it. The problem is that the replacements may have the same issues, and so many found it simplest to switch to glass.

The big disadvantage to glass is that it breaks, but it’s otherwise a wonderful material. It’s recyclable, although some places do not like to accept broken glass.  Not all glass is safe in the microwave, so if you use one, make sure any glass you put in there is safe for it.

Cooking Tools

Cooking tools can be another great place to start. I was so happy when I was able to switch away from the nonstick pots and pans we had been given as wedding gifts. Now I use stainless steel and cast iron as much as possible.

Those nonstick pots and pans wore out fairly quickly, as the coating scratched off over time. My cast iron skillets, on the other hand, are handmedowns from my grandmother. If I take good care of them, I might get to hand them down to someone else many years from now. That’s much more eco friendly than replacing them every several years.

Personal Care

Personal care items can be another good choice, once you are sure what you actually need to be careful about. You should view popular resources such as the Environmental Working Group with caution, because many aren’t as honest about their claims as one might hope.  Use their information if you want, but remember they tend to overstate the problems of many ingredients. The science behind the claims can be iffy.

I have a fondness for a lot of homemade personal care products. Coconut oil has a number of uses, for example. If you don’t like the smell, it can be combined with your favorite essential oils.

Aloe vera has long been another favorite. It’s wonderful for sunburns. It’s easy to grow. If things go well, you won’t have to buy it very often at all, as long as it grows well in your yard. It has a variety of skin care uses. Not every claim is proven, but you can try aloe vera for the uses that interest you. Read up on the safety of taking aloe by mouth before doing so, as it is not always safe to do so.

Cleaning Supplies

It’s amazing how much you can clean around your home with baking soda and vinegar. These two ingredients can replace a number of household cleaning supplies. You can use essential oils to improve the smell of the vinegar, if you like. Use one or both, depending on the job you need to do.

These two together are especially amazing at clearing clogged drains. Pour in the baking soda first, then slowly add vinegar. Let them work together for about five minutes, then pour boiling water down the drain. The best part is that if it doesn’t work and you need a plumber, you haven’t put anything dangerous to the plumber down the drain. They have to take extra precautions to deal with other drain cleaners.

Skip The Drive

Consider things you can do in your life without driving there. What things are a reasonable walking distance? Can you do some errands while riding a bicycle? How good is the public transportation in your area?

Find What Works For You

Not everything you try will work out for you. Some things will just not be for you or your family. Give it time and don’t be afraid to make the occasional mistake.

8 Ways to Make Cleaning Your Kitchen Less Toxic

The kitchen is a great place to work on being more eco friendly and less toxic, and it goes beyond buy local and/or organic produce for your family. How you clean your kitchen matters too.  These cleaning products are easy to make and use, and of course you can use them beyond the kitchen when appropriate as well.

1. Vinegar

My favorite! I use diluted vinegar for all kinds of cleaning. There’s a reason why I buy it at Costco and not the grocery store. Besides, Costco’s price is better by about $1.50 for the gallon and a half size than what my grocery store charges.

Mix water and vinegar about 2:1 in a spray bottle and use for general cleaning purposes. You can add a few drops of tea tree oil or lavender essential oil to get rid of the vinegar smell. Another alternative is to place orange peels in a jar, then fill with vinegar and wait two weeks. Filter it into your spray bottle and dilute with water, and you have a great smelling cleaning spray. Lemon works as well.

2. Baking soda

Baking soda does some cleaning on its own, but it’s also vinegar’s loyal companion. Baking soda gives that little bit of grit to help with scrubbing. Sprinkle it where you need it, then spray with vinegar to get the fizzing going. The reaction really helps with cleaning.

3. Castile soap

For those times you need soap, castile soap should be less toxic than the usual sorts of dish soap. You can use it as is, or water it down just a touch.

For dishes, combine a cup of castile soap, a quarter cup of water. Use as you would other dish soaps when hand washing dishes. If you’re having trouble with a film left behind on your dishes, have vinegar mixed into your rinse water. According to the Dr. Bronner’s website, mixing lemon juice or vinegar directly into the soap just doesn’t work that well.

4. Cleaning rags

Old towels or burp cloths which aren’t good for anything else are great for cleaning anywhere in the house, not just the kitchen. I have a bin full of old burp cloths, most of which have been in use since my 10 year old was an infant, first as burp cloths, but now for general cleaning. They work great.

You can cut up larger towels for use as rags when they get too old too. Think about what sizes you need, and trim by your preferences.

5. Steam mop

I hate mopping floors, but using a steam mop makes it more pleasant and doesn’t require anything other than plain water. I like that. Haan and Enviro Steamer are both considered good brands and are reasonably priced in my opinion.

6. Credit card scraper

When you have tough foods to get off, an old credit card is pretty effective as a scraper, as are similar cards. Obviously you have to be more careful about leaving it out, especially if it’s expired but otherwise a current card number. If you have a card of the same sort of material as a credit card but without such risk to your personal information, it will be a far better choice. Some store loyalty cards may be appropriate, especially if you use your phone number rather than your card when you’re at the store anyhow.

7. Recycled dish scrubbers

Full Circle makes a variety of cleaning supplies made from recycled plastic, plant based plastics and other generally eco friendly materials. A few other companies also make scrubbers. Natural fiber scrubbers

8. Skip antibacterial products

Antibacterial products have great marketing, but the way most people use them, they aren’t as effective at killing bacteria as many think.  In fact, antibacterial soaps may kill only about as many bacteria as regular soaps. With the environmental hazards of triclosan, it’s better to skip the antibacterial soaps.

How to Quit Using Paper Towels

Paper towels are almost ubiquitous these days in the United States. Most families use them because they’re just so convenient! No extra laundry, just use that quicker picker upper and throw it in the trash.

Only trouble is that it’s a bit wasteful. How wasteful depends on the source of your paper towels, whether they’re made of post consumer recycled materials and so forth, but overall, they’re probably on the wasteful side of things. At the very least you have to keep buying them.

But they’re so convenient, how do you quit?

1. Warn your family

Your spouse and children are the most likely to resist the switch. It can be a bit difficult to get buy-in on getting rid of paper towels, even if you’re the main one doing the laundry.

On the other hand, my oldest was delighted to see that a microfiber cleaning cloth was indeed as good at absorbing water as the one on the commercial. Made paper towels a bit less interesting.

2. Pick other cleaning cloths

You have a few options for other cleaning cloths. The most eco friendly is to use rags made of cloths you’d be throwing out otherwise. Think of bath towels that have gone bad and are ready to be torn into smaller pieces. Think of t-shirts with holes that really shouldn’t be worn anymore.

These are great, eco friendly and really kind to the budget.

But if you’d rather buy something, microfiber cleaning cloths are popular with good reason. They do an amazingly good job, and good quality ones last a long time.

They’re made of synthetic materials, so they aren’t perfectly environmentally friendly, but the good ones last very well and are strong enough to help you get surfaces clean even without conventional cleaners. I use vinegar and/or baking soda for much of my cleaning, and those products get along great with my microfiber cloths.

Microfiber cleaning cloths are soft, but are textured well enough to scrub. They can absorb a nice amount of liquid, so one cloth can go pretty far when you’re cleaning.

3. Finish off, store or give away your remaining paper towels

You have the paper towels, you may as well use them. You have a few options for what exactly you’re going to do with them.

You could just finish off what you have, trying to slow down their use rather than making the family go cold turkey on paper towel use.

If you have an emergency kit, you could put the rolls in there. You will need such convenient supplies if you ever have the sort of emergency where you need to use an emergency kit, so having paper towels in there is really not a bad thing.

You could also give your excess paper towels away. Just tell the people you’re giving them to what you’re up to. They might want to follow along eventually.

Enjoying My Shark Steam Mop – A Review

I got a nice hand-me-down from my mother a couple months ago. She had a Shark steam mop and just didn’t quite like it well enough. She figured I might like to give it a try.

Let’s see… cleaning my floors with steam rather than chemicals or even plain vinegar. Reusing something she doesn’t want. Yes, I’ll try!

The Shark steam mop is really easy to use. You have to push down to get steam, but that happens quite naturally when pushing the mop. I haven’t found that to be a problem. That’s a good thing because I long since gave the chore of cleaning the kitchen floors mostly to my kids. It’s easy enough they can use it, with appropriate supervision, of course. It’s hot steam but so far they show no inclination to test the heat out on themselves or each other.

They love that it picks up the many sticky spills they make on the floor so easily. And believe me, they do leave some messes about, and they had to really scrub in the past with the old mop. It may take several passes with the steam mop, but that’s still easier than the scrubbing they had to do with the other one.

They use washable cloth pads, which is another great feature. They also let me know just how much yeeech was on the floor. They don’t generally come back perfectly white for me after a wash, but hey, they’re just for cleaning the floor.

The water container is kind of small, but so is our kitchen, so that works for us. Just about everything else in our house is carpeted so we don’t have a lot of tile or other hard floor surfaces to worry about.

Reading some of the steam mop reviews on Amazon, it’s clear that many steam mops get hotter than the Shark, and that can be important. If you have a lot of hard surface floors, you’re probably going to want one with a bigger tank. But for our situation the Shark is quite good.

Easy Floor Cleaner

Cleaning floors is not one of my favorite things. Somehow my kids always manage to make it just a little pointless, generally by getting particularly dirty in the back yard later that day or the next, and tracking in tons of dirt, chalk and/or mud. They’re talented that way. And I love it.

They’re some of the big reason why I love making my own floor cleaner rather than buying it. No nasty chemicals, cheap, and I can even make my kids use it if they mess things up too quickly.

Here’s my basic formula for tile. Just as easy as mixing something bought at the store.

Basic Vinegar Floor Cleaner

Add about a half cup of white vinegar per gallon of water. My husband hates the smell of vinegar, so I add a bit of lavender essential oil to cut the vinegar scent until it dries. Mop as usual.

This mix is generally safe for tile and wood floors; just make sure that you don’t get the wood excessively wet. Your mop should be just damp. Some people like to add some vegetable oil to give wood floors a bit more of a shine.