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Shelly Barnes: Make your home healthy, safe with green cleaning

Shelly Barnes • Updated May 17, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Why use green cleaners? Of the hundreds of cleaning products on the market today, most contain ingredients you can’t even pronounce. While it is likely that manufacturers have conducted extensive testing on these consumer products, the risks posed by their chemical content are uncertain, and, in many cases, probably low. 

Nevertheless, human health is always well served by reducing exposure to chemicals. Decreased chemical use is also a pollution prevention measure. In short, green cleaning is good for you and good for the environment.

Some reasons to make and use your own green cleaners include:

• Most of the ingredients you may already have in your home.

• You save money.

• Generally, green cleaners work as well as those with harsher chemicals.

• Green cleaning keeps dangerous toxins out of your home.

• If your home was built before 1978, it’s really important to keep it clean to protect children from lead poisoning.

How clean is clean? Most cleaning jobs only need soap or detergent, water and a little elbow grease. Some surfaces may need extra attention to control germs. 

• Sanitizers reduce, but do not totally eliminate germs but are usually safer to use.

• Disinfectants destroy or inactivate germs but tend to be more toxic and must be used with care.

Always label all cleaners clearly.

All-Purpose Cleaner

2 tablespoons borax

¼ cup vinegar

2 cups hot water

Mix ingredients in a spray bottle or bucket. Apply and wipe clean.

Furniture Polish

1 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon water

This polish should be made fresh for each use.  Cut and squeeze juice from lemon into small container, using a strainer to remove pulp and seeds.  Add oil and water. Mix well. (A container with a lid makes mixing easy.)

Apply a thin coat on wood surface, then buff with a soft cloth to a deep shine.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

1 cup borax

½ cup vinegar

Flush toilet to wet the sides of the bowl.  Sprinkle borax around the toilet bowl. Spray vinegar on top of borax. Leave for several hours or overnight. Scrub with a toilet brush. 

Glass Cleaner

¼ cup white vinegar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 quart warm water 

Mix ingredients. Apply with a sponge or spray bottle. Wipe off with cotton or microfiber cloth. Hint: For lint-free results, wipe dry with crumpled black and white newspaper.

Floor Cleaner

½ cup white vinegar

1 gallon warm water

Mix ingredients. Avoid over wetting the floor by using a spray bottle to apply the cleaner to the floor. Mop as usual. Rinse with clean water.

Laundry Detergent

Always follow manufacturer’s laundry directions, found on all clothing and household textiles.

1 cup ivory soap (powder)

½ cup washing soda

½ cup borax

Mix ingredients and store in sealed container. Use 1 tablespoon for light loads. Use 2 tablespoons for heavy loads.

Please contact me for more green cleaning recipes. 

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state and provides equal opportunities in all programming and employment. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.

For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached at sbarnes@utk.edu or 615-444-9584.

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