Eco-friendly tips for a Squeaky Clean House
Use half of the manufacturer’s suggested quantity of detergent. For hard water, add borax to the wash cycle—it breaks down the minerals that interfere with detergent. For soft and fluffy clothes, add half a cup of distilled white vinegar to the wash or rinse cycle—vinegar breaks up trapped grease and oil and dissolves uric acid, making it perfect for baby clothes.
Make homemade dryer sheets by sprinkling 3 to 5 (never more than 5) drops of your favorite essential oil on a small cloth before tossing it in. You can reuse the cloth again and again—just wash and add more fragrance.
Cold water is just as effective as warm or hot, so save the energy and stick with cold-water washing cycles.
Carpet and Household Fibers
Use steam to clean your carpet. Add a combination of 2 tablespoons of vegetable-based Castile liquid soap and 1 tablespoon of borax in the carpet cleaner’s tank to do the job.
Pretreat and blot carpet with the same formula. For blood and other protein stains, put several drops of eucalyptus oil in a small bottle of club soda (small bottles keep their fizz longer), apply and blot. Sprinkle a fresh, still-damp stain with cornmeal, baking soda or cornstarch, let sit for 30 minutes, then vacuum and blot. Salt and baking soda work equally well on fresh mud. Remember, never rub a stain! It drives the staining agent deeper into the pile. And always do a patch test before cleaning the whole carpet.
Steam is the best. Check for the fabric-care instructions. Look for the letter “S” or “W” or both. “S” indicates that a dry-cleaning method should be used, and “W” means that water can be used. Unless the fabric is silk or a natural fiber that may shrink with heat, it’s still possible to test-patch dry-clean-only fabrics in a hidden spot. As with fabric, too much soap can cause the dirt to cling to upholstery fibers.
For fruit or wine spills on washable upholstery, sprinkle the stain with salt, remove the salt with a warm, wet cloth, soak in milk and launder.
Fabrics with ink stains can be soaked in milk or hydrogen peroxide before laundering. (Hydrogen peroxide should be color-safe for most fabrics, but test first to be sure.)
For a coffee spill, , mix an egg yolk with warm water (not hot, unless you want an omelet), apply, then remove with more warm water.
Many fabrics that recommend dry cleaning can actually be laundered at home. Acetate and rayon can be hand-washed with mild detergent (no vinegar or other acid), cashmere and other wool can be hand-washed with a low-pH detergent (vinegar is great on these fabrics to rinse out residue) and silk can be washed in a Castile baby (mild) liquid soap.
In a spray bottle, mix 1 part distilled white vinegar with 1 part water, then add a few drops of a mild dish soap (like Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear Natural Dish Liquid) and 3 to 5 drops of your favorite antibacterial/antiseptic essential oil (optional). This solution works well on kitchen and bathroom surfaces; hard-surface, non-wood floors; glass; and mirrors.
Scrubbing Paste or Powder
In a small, lidded container, mix together a quarter cup of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of liquid Castile soap. Add 3 to 5 drops of your favorite antibacterial/antiseptic essential oil. Apply with a wet sponge to remove soap scum and stains from your bathtub and sink, and hard-water stains from your glass shower doors.
Toilet Bowl Cleanser
Pour a little distilled vinegar in the toilet bowl and let it soak. Then, using a toilet bowl brush (and some of the all-purpose cleanser if you need to supplement), scrub the inside of the toilet.
Tools of the Trade
For uncoated wood floors, a warm, damp microfiber mop with a removable mop face (toss into the wash for easy cleaning) works best to prevent standing water, which can damage wood.
To cut down on paper towel use, invest in a stack of microfiber cloths. They’re excellent at picking up dust from surfaces, wiping away dirt and grime and polishing. It’s worth the price to buy the ones made especially for cleaning glass—they’re lint-free and make quick work of a window or mirror when used with a simple all-purpose cleanser. The same is true for the cloths made for stainless steel, which help to remove fingerprints and water spots.
Essential oils that contain antibacterial and antiseptic properties
Black peppermint (Eucalyptus radiata)
Black spruce (Picea mariana)
Clary sage (Salvia sclarea)
Distilled Mexican lime (Citrus aurantifolia)
Eucalyptus or blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus)
Geranium (Pelargonium roseum x asperum)
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Green mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
Juniper berry (Juniperus communis)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lemon (Citrus x limon) + all citrus
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum ct linalool)
Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
By Tamara Mayfield & Charlene Price | Illustration by Cathy Matusicky