It's often hard to realize just how many chemicals we use to clean ourselves and our homes. Many of these chemicals are potentially hazardous and several are suspected carcinogens; after doing their work and probably having an effect on us humans they leach out into the environment and contaminate water and soil. But so many things can be cleaned with just a little extra effort and good old elbow grease, at minimal cost to you and to the environment.
Chemical 'air freshener' sprays do anything but freshen the air, as most contain polluting chemicals, some of which (such as limonene) are suspected carcinogens. Aerosol varieties may also contain ozone-damaging propellants. Try some of these alternatives.
Try having some pot plants around; plants act as natural filters which absorb many pollutants and help to regulate humidity levels. Try a spider plant (Chlorophytum elatum), or a scented herb. Ferns are good in the bathroom as they like moist conditions. Herbs are also good in the bathroom, especially the mints and scented geranium; the do need a lot of natural light but they enjoy the moist warmth, and you can break off sprigs to scent your bath water!
If possible, have open windows whenever possible to let in natural light and fresh air.
Get an essential oil pot, diffuser or burner and use an aromatherapy blend of pure essential oils to lift your mood as well as make your environment smell sweet.
A few slices of lemon in a shallow dish of water will help absorb cigarette odors and remove them from the room.
Make your own air-freshener spray; dissolve 2 ml of your favorite essential oil in 5 ml of mentholated spirits and blend with 500 ml distilled water. Store in a spray-pump bottle, shake well before use, and use on a mist setting.
Melt candle drippings or ends in a double boiler, and add essential oil until the scent is strong. Pour into small molds, pierce the shapes with a knitting needle when cool, and hang up in front of windows or heating outlets where air will pass over them.
Hang sachets or bunches of drying herbs about the house, or use potpourri.
Half a cup of brown vinegar in a room where people are smoking will absorb odors.
Put 1-3 drops essential oil on a tiny scrap of cloth or piece of cotton wool and leave somewhere inconspicuous (but in the open) for a small room air freshener. I use peppermint oil to deodorize my laundry (which is also my bathroom and my cats' dining room!) The scent is a great morning pick-up, too.
Mix 2 cups sugar, I cup hot water, 2 tablespoons borax, 2 tablespoons boric acid. Boil for 3 minutes, leave to cool, and bottle. Place this mixture in old saucers or shallow dishes near ant trails; the ants will eat it, return to their nests and die there. Replenish the dishes until no more ant return to them.
CAUTION: Keep this mixture away from children and animals.
Place pennyroyal, rue, dried paprika, crushed whole cloves or tansy around shelves and cupboards to keep ants away.
If you can find the nest, pour boiling water down it.
Sprinkle talcum powder on ant trails outside the nest. This is safer for use when children or pets are about.
Ants don't like crossing white chalk lines!
For ants in the garden, here's an old country recipe. Mix 250 grams of salt with half a liter of water. Add 5 kilos of sawdust or bran and about 10 cups molasses. This makes a crumbly mixture which can be spread around plants and shrubs in the garden where there's an ant problem, yet isn't dangerous to children or pets.
Also for garden ants, plant mint. But be warned, it will take over your garden!
Wipe over the bath with bicarbonate of soda sprinkled onto a damp cloth. Polish by wiping over with white vinegar.
Clean mirrors and glass with a solution of vinegar and water, which can also be used to disinfect the toilet.
To repel bees from a swimming pool or other outdoor area, grow hawthorn.
Don't be fooled into buying one of those expensive 'blind vacuums' to clean your venetian blinds. Put on an old pair of fabric gloves. Dip them in soapy water, then draw the slats between your fingers.
Add a tablespoon of baking soda to 600 ml water and bring slowly to the boil.
Sprinkle a layer of cooking salt over the bottom of the saucepan and cover with vinegar. Leave overnight, pour off the liquid, and scour the pan.
Cover burnt area with salt, moisten and leave in the sun for a few days. Repeat till pan is clean.
Gently heat a little olive oil in the pan. Allow to stand an hour, pour off the oil and clean in the usual way.
To prevent candles dripping, chill in the fridge for a few hours before use.
The car can be washed with soft soap in warm water. Wash by hand so as not to waste water, and polish with a chamois cloth to remove any soap film.
Remove grease stains on upholstery by rubbing bicarbonate of soda into the spot and brushing off.
Remove old registration stickers with a piece of wet cling-film; place over the sticker, leave for 30 seconds and peel off.
Glass and chrome surfaces of the car can be cleaned with a solution of 10 ml vinegar to 500 ml warn water, buffed off with newspaper.
Make your own carpet cleaner by mixing 2 tablespoons common salt with some bran. Sprinkle over carpets and upholstery, leave overnight and vacuum off the next day.
A carpet deodorizer can be made by mixing a few drops of your favorite Essential oil with bicarbonate of soda. Store in an airtight jar for 24 hours before use. To use, just sprinkle on the carpet, leave a few minutes and vacuum up. You can make this an anti-flea powder by using pennyroyal, citronella, lavender or tea-tree oil.
To clean the stains of animal 'indiscretions', mix up 2 cups soap flakes, 1/2 cup mentholated spirits and 25 ml eucalyptus oil. Use about 2 tablespoonful to a bowl of warm water and use to sponge the stain. Don't use commercial carpet cleaners as many are ammonia-based and will leave a urine scent which will attract the pet.
Plain Carpet Shampoo: merely dissolve 1/2 a cup of plain soap flakes or grated soap in boiling water, cool and whip until stiff. Apply only to small areas of the carpet at a time, and when dry, remove the residue and wipe with a damp cloth. When the patch is nearly dry, brush the carpet nap tip.
Can be removed from children's hair by dabbing with a cloth soaked in Eucalyptus oil.
To clean and deodorize your plastic or wooden chopping board, make a paste of salt and bicarbonate of soda, rub into the board, then spread on thickly and leave for about an hour. (One of my ex-roommates once saw this and tasted it, thinking it was icing sugar!)
Place pieces of vanilla beans around the area
Get empty margarine containers, or grease the *inside* tops of jars with margarine. Pour about 1/2 an inch of wine or beer, or a slice of banana, in the containers. Leave overnight where the cockroaches appear; they'll be attracted by the wine or beer, climb in the container, and be unable to climb out because of the grease. Tip the trapped roaches into boiling water to kill.
Sprinkle Epsom salts around, replenishing every few weeks for best results.
Mix borax and sugar in equal parts, and place in cupboards where roaches live.
To get rid of the sediment build-up in wine or port decanters, pour 1 tsp salt and 1 cup vinegar into the decanter. Shake well, leave overnight and then wash and rinse.
Half a cup of borax dissolved in 4.5 liters (one gallon) of water makes a good all-purpose disinfectant for floors, walls, sinks and working surfaces.; add a few drops of lavender, pine or thyme essential oil to scent, deodonize and add antiseptic qualities.
Try saving your soap scraps and putting them in an old-fashioned wire 'soap saver' or tying them in a mesh orange/onion bag. Swirl it around under the hot water tap, and wash the dishes.
Alternatively, use plain yellow laundry soap for dishwashing. We used laundry soap to wash dishes all through my childhood.
Pre-soaking the very dirty dishes in cold water will make them much easier to clean. Pour off fat from baking dishes into a cup, leave to solidify, then dump in the trash - you'll need less soap or detergent.
If you have a dog which chews stuff you don't want him/her to chew, try a few drops of oil of cloves on the item. My housemate has just used this to successfully prevent her puppy chewing his dog bed (and this is a puppy who wasn't even deterred by hot chill sauce!)
Grate I cup glycerin soap, place in 625 ml boiling water, stir till dissolved. Cool and add 20-40 drops eucalyptus oil. This mixture should help repel fleas.
Add a tablespoon of salt to the water while rinsing the dog, to add freshness and help kill fleas.
Bicarbonate of soda makes a good dry dog wash; rub well into coat and brush out. This will clean and deodorize the coat and provide a healthy shine.
To clear clogged drains, put a large handful of washing soda crystals over the sink outlet and pour down a kettle of boiling water.
You can also try pouring down a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda and 3 tablespoons of vinegar. Allow it to fizz and then pour in a jugful of boiling water.
Use both these tips regularly to keep drains from getting clogged in the first place.
Clean grease and oil stains from your driveway by covering with kitty litter; leave overnight then brush with a very stiff broom.
To clean an electric jug, cut a fresh lemon into four pieces, place in Jug and bring to boil. Half fill jug with cold water and add 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Bring to the boil, leave for 30 seconds, repeat and rinse.
NOTE: Some people put fabric softener in the dryer, not the washing machine.
This formula is meant for use in the final rinse only - definitely not the dryer!
If you dry your clothes outside, you really shouldn't need to use fabric softener.
If you prefer using one, make your own, Mix one part bicarbonate of soda, one part white vinegar, two parts water, and scent with a few drops of lavender or lemon essential oil. Use this as you would a commercial product.
To clean dirty marks from a porous brick fireplace, dab with neat vinegar.
Wipe over windowsills and door frames with a cloth sprinkled with oil of lavender.
Grow fennel, pyrethrum daisies, mint, basil, rue or tansy around your windows and doors. Hang bunches of these herbs in rooms.
Mix 20 ml eucalyptus oil and 5 ml bergamot oil with 100 ml alcohol and 1400 ml distilled water. Add 10 ml white vinegar and use as fly spray.
Walnut trees will also repel flies.
Mix 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cream, and place in a saucer. This is supposed to kill flies when they eat it.
Mix 120 ml linseed oil and 120 ml malt vinegar in a bottle, seal and shake to mix. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon or lavender oil. This will clean, polish and leave a lovely finish on timber surfaces.
Grate 100 grams beeswax into ajar and cover with 100 ml mineral turpentine. Seal and leave to stand two weeks, shaking the jar occasionally and adding more turpentine as necessary to make a smooth paste-like consistency. When ready, stir in lavender or lemon essential oil drop by drop until the scent is as strong as you like.
Another polish recipe: 500g shredded beeswax in 1 liter turpentine, and add 25g liquid ammonia.
This is a general spray for getting rid of scale, mites and aphids. Mix 3 chopped onions, I chopped garlic clove, 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon pure soap flakes and a liter of water. Mix well, preferably in a blender, then strain and store in a well-labeled bottle.
Saturate stain with glycerin, leave an hour, then wash as usual.
To deodorize surfaces, wipe down with a liter of warm water to which has been added 5 drops lemon, thyme, lavender or eucalyptus oil.
Thoroughly blend 30 drops of rosemary, lavender or thyme oil (or a combination) with a cup of bicarbonate of soda. Apply with a damp cloth to tiles, bench tops, sinks and other surfaces. Wipe off with a clean soft cloth.
To clean leather jackets, use petroleum jelly, which removes dirty marks and leaves the leather supple.
Hardened, clogged mascara can be softened by immersing the container in hot water. Leave to cool a few minutes before using.
For a musty-smelling mattress, freshen with a few drops of tea-tree oil in a liter of water. Sponge this liquid over the mattress and leave in the fresh air to dry.
Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda all over the mattress and base, leave to dry.
Vacuum the powder off the next day.
Sprinkle peppermint or clove oil in front of mouse hole and in cupboards.
If you're not sure where the mouse hole is, sprinkle some bicarbonate of soda, talcum powder or similar powdery substance around suspect cupboards, skirting boards and openings. The mice will leave tracks in the powder and you'll be able to tell where they live.
my favorite solution... get a cat!
To prevent them fogging up, rub the mirror all over with the edge of a completely dry cake of toilet soap (not the transparent kind). Polish off with a dry cloth. The mirrors will sparkle and not steam up.
Another anti-steaming idea; moisten a cloth with glycerin and rub over the mirror.
To revive old mirrors, clean with weak tea (no milk and sugar, the mirror doesn't take it)
Polish mirrors with old nylon pantyhose; they give a good shine and leave no lint.
Put a thick sheet of aluminum foil on the floor of the oven, being careful it doesn't come into contact with the thermostat or heating parts. This will catch drips and grease and can be replaced every so often.
Always wipe the oven out after every use, while still warm. This saves hard work later.
Pantyhose will last longer if treated this way before use: wet thoroughly, wring out gently, place in plastic bag and put into freezer. Once frozen, thaw in bathtub or sink and hang out to dry.
Make a pincushion stuffed with steel wool. Take a spray-can lid, pack tightly to overflowing with steel wool, cover with a circle of fabric and secure with sewing, glue or an elastic band. Store your pins in this cushion and they will stay sharp and not rust.
Clean and deodorize your fridge with a teaspoon of dry mustard in soapy water, or vanilla essence in warm water.
Leave a packet of bicarbonate of soda open in the fridge to absorb odors. Add a drop of lemon or bergamot oil to the rinse water when washing your fridge to deodorize it.
For silver cutlery, lay a sheet of aluminum foil in a pan, cover with a few inches of water, and add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Bring to the boil, drop in the cutlery, simmer for five minutes, then remove and rinse.
For silver jewelry, shred aluminum foil until you have enough to half-fill a jar. Add a teaspoon of salt and fill with water. Drop in Jewelry, cover the jar and leave for five minutes, then remove and rinse the jewelry.
Snails won't damage seedlings or young plants if you sprinkle sawdust around them; the snails don't like the sawdust because it clings to them, and this method is harmless to pets and children.
To soften hardened towels and face-washers, soak overnight in a basinful of cold water in which you've dissolved 2 tablespoons borax. The next day wash them in very hot water with just a small amount of detergent, then rinse in cold water with 2 teaspoons of salt.
Many spots can be removed from wallpaper by rubbing gently with an art gum eraser or a piece of stale bread.
Remove blood stains from wallpaper by mixing cornflower to a paste with cold water. Spread on stain, leave to dry and brush off.
To remove old wallpaper from walls, mix vinegar with warm water and apply generously with a paint roller. Leave to soak in well before removing paper.
Clean with newspaper instead of cloth to avoid lint getting on glass.
Clean with cold black tea with a few drops of glycerin added; spray on and polish with a clean dry cloth.
Grate 500 g pure laundry soap, and combine in a saucepan with 1 liter boiling water and 1 tablespoon borax. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly until well blended. Remove from heat and cool, then add 1/2 tablespoon of eucalyptus oil; store in a wide-mouthed jar and seal well. Wash woolens by hand using 1/2 cup - 1 cup of the mixture.
Rub inside of zipper with a soft lead pencil to keep it running smoothly.
If a zipper is stiff and hard to close, sprinkle with talcum powder.