Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Chemical-Free Cleaning

We know that chemical cleaning products aren't good for the Earth - for starters, all those chemicals eventually wash away into our oceans - but are there actually good alternatives?
I started thinking about this while pressure-washing my lawn furniture last week. The chairs had been left out for an entire rainy winter season and the formerly white metal now blended with the green seat cushions. Here are four suggestions for alternatives to chemical cleaners starting with the one I used on the chairs...

1) The Right Equipment - The pressure washer is my new favorite tool because it was actually fun spraying off all that gunk. I have tried the cleaning product route in the past and it was much more difficult and time-consuming. I'm not suggesting you go buy a pressure washer just to use it once a year, but it may be a good choice for renting or borrowing (mine was a hand-me-down from my in-laws). Other chemical-reducing cleaning tools that come to mind include steamers and high-efficiency appliances (e.g. washing machines) that can minimize the amount of detergent you need to use.

2) Natural Cleaning Products - lemon juice, baking soda, club soda, corn starch, salt - many everyday products are great cleaning products. One of my favorite magazines, Real Simple, has a good article this month on 66 All Natural Cleaning Solutions. They'll give you ideas for everything from vinegar for your windows to baking soda for removing crayon marks from the walls.

3) "Green" Cleaning Products - these new products are everywhere in the stores today. Just make sure you read the labels to see what makes them "green" since those labels aren't always meaningful. I'm not sold on all the cleaning products, but I do like the Seventh Generation laundry and dishwasher detergents.

4) Elbow Grease - Sometimes good old-fashioned elbow grease does the trick with little or no cleaning products. I put this one last because it's my least favorite, but maybe I'll enlist the kids this summer and make them earn those allowances! After all, aren't they the ones tracking in all the dirt??


  1. Elbow grease does help; so does prevention of mold development which few of us practice. Also, one can not be sure if all the claimed "Green" products are better. It seems like it is analagous to the "light" food era; one was never sure if a product was better or just repackaged with a new green label. So common sense prevails. AMLD

  2. Lisa emailed me her favorite cleaner for clogged drains - vinegar and baking soda. According to her, it works and its fun for the kids to watch the bubbles. I haven't tried it yet so I'm not going to suggest the quantities, but google "clogged drain baking soda vinegar" and you'll find lots of options.