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How Safe Are Your Household Cleaners?

With greater awareness that chemicals in commercial home cleaning products can have negative effects on our personal health, not to mention our environment, more and more homeowners are turning back the clock when it comes to cleaning, and rediscovering old-time cleaning recipes - many of them used before the advent of the synthetic formulas widely available after World War II.

Believe it or not, you can handle all of your day-to-day cleaning with just seven easily available, inexpensive, environmentally benign ingredients. Baking soda, washing soda, soap flakes, oil soap, vinegar, borax and ammonia can handle just about any mess. Of those, only ammonia is potentially hazardous in its concentrated form. Just store it well out of the reach of children and pets, and use it carefully, and your environmental conscience can be clear.

Sinks, Faucets and Drains
Instead of commercial scouring products, give baking soda a try. Apply it the same way you do with scouring products, dampened with water. Unlike bleach and phosphates, common in commercial scouring products, baking soda isn't toxic to the environment and won't kill the bacteria that sewage and septic systems need to work properly. It does a great job cleaning sinks and tubs. And when you combine baking soda with vinegar, it produces an impressive foaming reacting that gives off harmless carbon dioxide gas.
Pour a cup or more of vinegar into the toilet bowl. Then toss in a handful of baking soda. The frothing actually scrubs the porcelain! The vinegar, with its mild acidity, will strip off hard-water lime deposits if you leave it for a while. Vinegar and baking soda are also effective for cleaning drains. Dump a handful of baking soda into the drain and then pour a big shot of vinegar down and put the plug in to drive the carbon dioxide down the pipe. Keep the plug in until the fizzing stops and then run hot water down the drain. Not only will it clean and clear pipes, it eliminates the need for corrosive cleaners.

Vinegar by itself is terrific for cleaning faucets and can become your secret weapon if you occasionally have to deal with pet stains on carpeting! Mix vinegar and warm water (about half and half) and wipe pet stains. Not only does the vinegar remove the odor completely, it also removes the stain and leaves no tell-tale circle like so many commercial pet stain products do. It also works wonderfully on linoleum that isn't heavily soiled.

A mixture of one part borax to one part washing soda and one part soap flakes (about three-fourths of a cup of the mix per normal load) will work as well as any detergent, and it smells better. It is especially effective and kind to natural fabrics. Just be sure to run all your clothes through a cycle with washing soda only first, to remove the detergent residue or your whites could look yellowed. White clothes containing synthetic materials can yellow slightly over time with this formula but you can counteract this by line-drying your whites in the sun now and then. Sunshine is the perhaps oldest and best bleach and disinfectant of them all. Mother, grandmother and great granny really did know best!

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