Cleaning products are a big consideration when it comes to making your home healthier and more eco-friendly. I've written a few times about homemade cleaner recipes that use ingredients you likely already have on-hand, like this easy glass-top stove cleaner recipe, or this one-ingredient stainless steel appliance cleaner. Making your own cleaners is something that is simpler than you may think.
When Ulysses Press sent me the new book Homemade Cleaners by Mandy O'Brien and Dionna Ford, I was intrigued when I looked at the table of contents...mostly because I only knew of a few cleaner recipes off the top of my head and most of those cleaner recipes are focused around bathroom or kitchen cleaning.
This book covers it all. It contains over 150 recipes that are all toxin-free, easy, affordable, highly-effective, and kid-friendly. The recipes are some of what you would expect—all-purpose surface cleaners, kitchen cleaners, bathroom cleaners, but the book really goes outside of the box when compared to other books of its kind. You'll also find information on keeping the air inside your home clean, and smart ideas and cleaner recipes you can use to keep the outside of your home spotless—the green way.
Keeping your BBQ, patio, patio furniture, deck, clean are also discussed, and the authors did not forget about the interior and exterior of your car! And speaking of the outdoors, you will also find a chapter filled with recipes designed for keeping bugs away from you and out of your home. The book also contains a really great, helpful section with info about easy ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
The book starts out with this simple message:
"As consumers, we have been led to believe that by the time products make it to the market, they have been thoroughly tested and proven safe. We pick up packaging and read labels before buying, just to know what is in the product. But what does a label really tell us? Even for those of us who are trying to make better purchases, we really can’t define what is safe from a product’s label alone. Labels can be misleading. What we think we know about a product may not be true. How safe are your cleaning supplies, really?"
And it's true; do you know how safe your store-bought cleaning products are? Many do not.
One recipe that caught my eye was the Coconut Oil Counter Rub. If you read my blog regularly, you know that I love coconut oil and use it in cooking, baking and even as body butter.
Here is what the authors had to say about this natural ingredient granite and butcher block counter cleaner:
Coconut Oil Counter Rub
Some porous counters, including granite and butcher block, do best when they are treated on a weekly basis. You don’t need to purchase products laden with harmful products, however. An easy way to treat these surfaces is to rub them with coconut oil. Coconut oil is naturally antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal.
Coconut oil has a low melting point, so depending on the temperature of your home—which often varies depending on the time of year—your oil will be either a liquid or a solid. Whether liquid or solid, you need just a small amount to rub into the counter. After allowing it to soak in, you may notice lines appearing where it has absorbed into the pores. Use a clean, dry cloth to buff it. Your counter will be treated and resistant to all of the microbes invading the surface.
Another recipe that caught my eye is the wall cleaner. I have two children who love to draw, and walk around the house with their drawing objects in-hand, so our walls get their fair share of pencil, pencil crayon, and crayon marks. The book shares a great recipe using three simple ingredients to remove those marks without having to buy any pre-treated sponges to get rid of the marks. I tried it and it worked like a charm. Here is the recipe:
Magic Lemon Wall Mark Paste
Commercial products made for cleaning marks from walls and hard surfaces seem to be magical, and indeed for many families of small children, they are. However, commercial sponges are neither biodegradable nor eco-friendly, despite their lack of toxic cleaning sprays. They also tend to be expensive. Although claims that they contain formaldehyde are false, manufacturers are clear that they should be used with care and that all residue should be rinsed from surfaces. The main ingredient is a formaldehyde- melamine-sodium bisulfite copolymer, which was originally formulated as an insulator and fire retardant, and is not the same as plain formaldehyde. Even though dangers regarding possible chemicals have been exaggerated, manufacturers warn that the sponges and the surfaces where they have been used should not be licked. Additionally, long-term exposure to melamine has been associated with health issues, especially among children.
So what is the magic behind this product, anyway? The sponge acts as an abrasive. It essentially buffs and sands away the marks from surfaces. You can do this at home with products you already have in your kitchen.
3 tablespoons baking soda
5 drops lemon oil
Mix the baking soda and lemon oil together, adding enough water to make a paste. Apply to mark. Using a clean, soft cloth, gently rub the mark to remove. Please note that because baking soda is an abrasive, it can change the finish on some surfaces.
If making your own safe, eco-friendly cleaners is something you are interested in doing, then Homemade Cleaners is an excellent book to pick up. It's like a little reference encyclopedia to refer to every time you come across something that needs to be cleaned inside or outside of your home.
Book excerpts reprinted with permission from Ulysses Press.
Valentine's Day is just around the corner and if you struggle each year to come up with gift ideas that are a little bit different from the ordinary, look no further. These eco-friendly Valentine's Day gift ideas will give you some inspiration when you are ready to shop for your Valentine.
1. ecojot Journals, $10.00 - $17.00, ecojot. Many of us still like to write things down using an old-fashioned pen and an old-fashioned journal. No keeping lists on the iPhone! These journals are made from 100% post consumer recycled material and their unique and whimsical designs are sure to please your pen and paper loving Valentine.
2. Rust Red Infinity Scarf, $32.07, Eco Shag. All of the products in this cool Etsy store are handmade, vegan, and are made using eco-conscious and vintage textiles.
3. Organic Wine, $12.99+, LCBO. The LCBO carries a wide range of organic wines, so you will be sure to find one to suit your tastes. What's the difference between regular and organic wines? The grapes used to make organic wines are non-GMO, and they are not grown with the use of pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers. Organic wines also do not contain sulfites.
4. Spoon Bracelet, $34.36, Olive Spoon Studio. Made from upcycled, vintage spoons, these handmade bracelets are definitely a unique gift idea for your Valentine.
5. Apple Tree To-Be Kit, $25.63, Uncommon Goods. For the little Valentines on your list, this grow-your-own apple tree kit will be the gift that keeps giving. Plus, your kids will love tending to and watching the tree grow and will learn while doing it.
6. Fair Trade, Organic Chocolates, $13.99, Camino. I haven't tried anything from Camino that I did not like, so you can't go wrong with giving these chocolates as a gift. Sure, chocolates are the typical v-day gift, but these chocolates are different since they are high-quality, organic and fair-trade (and even more delicious than the regular stuff!).
7. Recycled Bike Tube Bi-Fold Wallet, $40.77, Uncommon Goods. Made from 99% recycled content, this durable, vegan wallet is handmade in Seattle from used inner tubes collected from local bike shops.
8. GREENCASE Bamboo iPad Case, $67.99, Value Valet. This stylish iPad case is eco-friendly because it is made from sustainable bamboo.
Most of our children have done this experiment in school — the experiment where a seed or a plant is placed in water and they observe the roots growing. Elise, an elementary school student tried to sprout three different types of sweet potatoes in her experiment — a non-organic sweet potato, a store-bought organic sweet potato, and a local organic sweet potato. Take a look at what happened:
The chemical she speaks of — chlorpropham (also known as “bud nip”or "sprout nip") — is a chemical herbicide used to inhibit sprout growth on potatoes while they are being stored, so they have a longer shelf-life.
While Elise's experiment gives us all something to think about when we shop, it's also a great learning opportunity for our children. To do the same easy experiment at home, follow this step-by-step and click to learn a little more about the differences between organic and conventionally grown produce.