Homemade cleaners are surfacing more frequently as we are put off by chemicals in our lives.
Often touted as natural, eco-friendly and less expensive, safe cleaning can be serious business and be a health concern as well. Homemade products have not always been tested for safety assurance and are still chemicals that can cause interactions. There is no research or testing done on these products and their adequacy can be questionable.
The American Academy of Nutrition has made some recommendations for the safe use of household cleaners. Lemon juice, vinegars, salt, essential oils and baking soda are certainly environmentally safe and unlikely to cause any reaction if used properly. They can help to remove dirt from surfaces. However, most homemade cleaning recipes do not have adequate disinfectant properties to kill microorganisms (bacteria and viruses) such as E. coli and staph. As we approach winter, the cold virus becomes a significant irritation in many homes and schools.
Regular use of clean water or green cleaners can do an acceptable job of cleaning and dirt removal. Remember, all cleaners, whether formulated or homemade, may be toxic at some level.
Here are some suggestions for safe use: Start with clean containers rather than emptied cleaning or food bottles to avoid potential reactions with residue and be sure you label your container with ingredients as well as directions for use and safety precautions.
White vinegar is acidic (5 percent) and helps to dissolve dirt and grease, clean windows and remove odors, stains, soap scum and calcium deposits. A bowl of vinegar can absorb unpleasant odors such as smoke and cooking odors. A microwave with popcorn odors cleans well with a cloth of vinegar, then set the bowl in the microwave to finish the job. It works well as an all-purpose cleaner by filling a spray bottle with equal parts water and white vinegar. You also can mix in five to 10 drops of essential oils. If needed for mold and mildew removal, full-strength vinegar is recommended.
Baking soda is an all-purpose mildly abrasive cleaner and natural deodorizer. An all-purpose scrub can be made from one-half cup baking soda with liquid soap to paste texture. Spread it on half a lemon or a sponge and scrub. Drain cleaning is effective with baking soda poured into a drain and flushed with white vinegar. The chemical interaction helps to clean the drain.
Lemon is an effective deodorizer, stain remover and grease cutter. It also can de-tarnish copper and acts as a mild bleach when exposed to sunlight.
Essential oils can be mixed with water to serve as an antibacterial spray. They also can be added to home-cleaning solutions for a fresh scent.
Salt can be used as a mildly abrasive cleaner for cast-iron cooking equipment. After heating, apply oil and heat help to keep skillet from rusting.
Borax cleans and deodorizes drains by flushing some down a drain with one to two quarts of boiling water.
Chlorine solution is an anti-bacterial agent that will effectively kill bacteria and viruses in proper concentration. Use a clean spray bottle filled with tepid water and one-eighth teaspoon of regular, unscented chlorine (such as Clorox) per quart of water.
email@example.com or 382-6461. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.