Cleaning Methods

For quite some time, the only way to ensure that household cleaning solutions were free of harmful chemicals and pollutants were to amake them yourself. And for everything from creamy soft scrubbers to window cleaners, nothing is as effective, safe and cheap as doing it yourself. This great guide from Care2 shows how to effectively and quickly (the whole thing can be accomplished in as little as an hour or two for a few months supply) make your own house cleaning kit for just pennies on the dollar using a handful of readily available ingredients.

However, if youre short on time, or the DIY route just isnt your thing, youre in luck. There has been a rise in eco-friendly cleansers that are easily found on supermarket shelves to help us do everything from washing dishes to washing clothing.

While we will not recommend a specific brand, here are a few things you can look for on a label to ensure your product is safe for you and the environment:

  • phosphate free
  • biodegradable
  • sulfate free
  • chlorine free
  • not tested on animals
  • in recycled and recyclable packaging
  • refillable

Also look at Environmental Working Group's website to see what chemicals to avoid in consumer products.

Carpets: Remove stains promptly by scraping up solids and blotting liquids; follow by dabbing with a solution of water and vinegar. Sponge with clean water and blot dry. For getting rid of odors and greasy soil, mix 2 parts corn meal with 1 part borax, sprinkle liberally, leave one hour, and vacuum. Using doormats or removing shoes at the door will lessen the need for cleaning. As a last resort, a solution of water and ammonia can be used; if used, neutralize spot with weak vinegar solution.

Dishes: Use liquid soap or powdered soap. For tougher jobs, add 2-3 tsp. vinegar. In automatic dishwashers, use equal parts borax and washing soda, increasing the proportion of soda if your water is hard. Standard "dishwashing liquids" are detergents designed to create unnecessary suds.

Ovens: Prevention is top priority. Avoid over-filling pans, put a cookie sheet or a piece of foil on bottom rack when baking. Scrape up drips and spills as soon as food is cool enough to handle. When cleanup is needed, use steel wool and washing soda with a small amount of water. As a last resort for particularly bad grime, use 1/2 c. ammonia dissolved in 1 gallon hot water for scrubbing; provide plenty of ventilation.

Drains: Again, prevention is top priority. Some rules-of-thumb: never pour grease down a drain, always use a drain sieve or hair trap, and clean metal screen or stopper mechanism regularly. If necessary, remove hair with a 1/4-inch bend in the end of a coat hanger. For routine maintenance, once a week: pour 1/4 c. baking soda down drain, follow with 1/2 c. vinegar; be sure to close the drain tightly and plug up any overflow opening until the fizzing stops, then flush with 1 gal. of boiling water. For stopped or slowed drains: dissolve 1 lb. washing soda in 3 gal. boiling water, pour down drain, plug up any overflow openings and use a plunger with petroleum jelly on its rim for a good seal. If clog persists, flush drain with same formula and use a plumber's snake.

Tub, Tile and Toilet: Scrub with sponge or firm-bristled brush, using powdered soap and a scouring powder of baking soda, borax or table salt. Use undiluted vinegar to loosen lime deposits.

Windows and Mirrors: For routine cleaning, use 3 tsp. vinegar with 1 qt. warm water. If glass is particularly dirty, first wash with warm soapy water.

Making a list of how to green your holidays? Here are some of our favorite tips and events to cure the post-holiday blues.

  • Greenmarket

    Our network of farmers markets, Youthmarkets, Fresh Food Box pick-ups, and Greenmarket Co. ensures that all New Yorkers have access to the freshest, healthiest local food.

  • Recycle

    We blanket the five boroughs with resources like textile and food scrap collection, Stop 'N' Swaps, and free training to make waste reduction easy for all.

  • Garden

    We build and rejuvenate community & school gardens in all 5 boroughs, and support even more gardens through volunteer days, technical assistance, school garden grants, & more.

  • Teach

    We foster future environmental stewards by providing 60,000 children each year with programs that provide meaningful interactions with the natural environment.