CHP rental communities are designed to provide greener, healthier, more durable homes for our residents. To help keep them that way, our maintenance staff is trained to maintain the properties using green practices and products inside and out.
Fortunately for our planet, green maintenance is something residents can do, too! Whether you live in a CHP community or not, there are many inexpensive, easy-to-use natural alternatives that can safely be used in place of commercial household products. Following is a list of common, environmentally-safe products that can be used alone or in combination for a wealth of household applications, as well as ideas for maintaining any home with healthier alternatives.
- Baking Soda - cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.
- Soap - unscented soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Avoid using soaps which contain petroleum distillates.
- Lemon - one of the strongest food-acids, effective against most household bacteria.
- Borax - (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
- White Vinegar - cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.
- Washing Soda - or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a mineral. Washing soda cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Use care, as washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
- Isopropyl Alcohol - is an excellent disinfectant. (It has been suggested to replace this with ethanol or 100-proof alcohol in solution with water. There is some indication that isopropyl alcohol buildup contributes to illness in the body. See http://drclark.ch/g)
- Cornstarch - can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
- Citrus Solvent - cleans paint brushes, oil and grease, some stains. (Citrus solvent may cause skin, lung or eye irritations for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.)
- Trisodium phosphate (TSP) - a mixture of soda ash and phosphoric acid. TSP is toxic if swallowed but it can be used on many jobs--such as cleaning drains or removing old paint--that would normally require much more caustic and poisonous chemicals, and it does not create any fumes.
Combinations of the above basic products can provide less harmful substitutions for many commercial home products. In most cases, they’re also less expensive. Following are some formulas for safe, alternative home care products:
Note: These formulas and substitutions are offered to help minimize the use of toxic substances in your home, and reduce the environmental harm caused by the manufacture, use and disposal of toxics. Results may vary and cannot be guaranteed to be 100% safe and effective. Before applying any cleaning formulations, test in small hidden areas if possible. Always use caution with any new product in your home. Make sure to keep all home-made formulas well-labeled, and out of the reach of children.
- All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc. Another alternative is microfiber cloths which lift off dirt, grease and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands. A good quality cloth can last for several years.
- Air Freshener: Commercial air fresheners mask smells and coat nasal passages to diminish the sense of smell. • Baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in small dishes absorbs odors around the house. • Having houseplants helps reduce odors in the home. • Prevent cooking odors by simmering vinegar (1 tablespoon in 1 cup water) on the stove while cooking. To get such smells as fish and onion off utensils and cutting boards, wipe them with vinegar and wash in soapy water. • Keep fresh coffee grounds on the counter. • Grind up a slice of lemon in the garbage disposal. • Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove. • Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room.
- Bathroom Mold: Mold in bathroom tile grout is a common problem and can be a health concern. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower.
- Coffee and Tea Stains: Stains in cups can be removed by applying vinegar to a sponge and wiping. To clean a teakettle or coffee maker, add 2 cups water and 1/4 cup vinegar; bring to a boil. Let cool, wipe with a clean cloth and rinse thoroughly with water.
- Deodorize: • Plastic food storage containers - soak overnight in warm water and baking soda • In-sink garbage disposal units - grind up lemon or orange peel in the unit • Carpets - sprinkle baking soda several hours before vacuuming • Garage, basements - set a sliced onion on a plate in center of room for 12 - 24 hours
- Dishwasher Soap: Mix equal parts of borax and washing soda, but increase the washing soda if your water is hard. If you want to use a commercial dishwashing soap, try Ecover Ecological or Trader Joe’s powders, which contain no bleach or phosphates.
- Dishwashing Soap: Commercial low-phosphate detergents are not themselves harmful, but phosphates nourish algae which use up oxygen in waterways. A detergent substitution is to use liquid soap. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of vinegar to the warm, soapy water for tough jobs.
- Disinfectant: Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar and 3 cups hot water. For stronger cleaning power add 1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use non-aerosol spray bottle. (This is not an antibacterial formula; the average kitchen or bathroom does not require antibacterial cleaners.) To disinfect kitchen sponges, put them in the dishwasher when running a load.
- Drain Cleaner: For light drain cleaning, mix 1/2 cup salt in 4 liters water, heat (but not to a boil) and pour down the drain. For stronger cleaning, pour about 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, then 1/2 cup vinegar. The resulting chemical reaction can break fatty acids down into soap and glycerine, allowing the clog to wash down the drain. After 15 minutes, pour in boiling water to clear residue. Caution: only use this method with metal plumbing. Plastic pipes can melt if excess boiling water is used. Also, do not use this method after trying a commercial drain opener -- the vinegar can react with the drain opener to create dangerous fumes.
- Fabric Softener: To reduce static cling, dampen your hands, then shake out your clothes as you remove them from the drier. Line-drying clothing is another alternative.
- Floor Cleaner and Polish: Brick and stone tiles -- mix 1 cup white vinegar in 1 gallon water; rinse with clear water. Most floor surfaces can be easily cleaned using a solution of vinegar and water. For damp-mopping wood floors: mix equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and water. Add 15 drops of pure peppermint oil; shake to mix.
- Furniture Polish: For varnished wood, add a few drops of lemon oil into 1/2 cup warm water. Mix well and spray onto a soft cotton cloth. Cloth should only be slightly damp. Wipe furniture with the cloth, and finish by wiping once more using a dry soft cotton cloth. For unvarnished wood, mix two teaspoons each of olive oil and lemon juice and apply a small amount to a soft cotton cloth. Wring the cloth to spread the mixture further into the material and apply to the furniture using wide strokes. This helps distribute the oil evenly.
- Laundry Detergent: Mix 1 cup Ivory or Fels Naptha soap, 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup borax. Use 1 tablespoon for light loads and 2 tablespoons for heavy loads.
- Lime Deposits: You can reduce lime deposits in your teakettle by putting in 1/2 cup (125ml) white vinegar and 2 cups water, and gently boiling for a few minutes. Rinse well with fresh water while kettle is still warm.
- Marks on Walls and Painted Surfaces: Many ink, pencil, crayon or marker spots can be cleaned from painted surfaces using baking soda applied to a damp sponge. Rub gently, then wipe and rinse. Mold and mildew: Use white vinegar or lemon juice full strength. Apply with a sponge or scrubby.
- Oven Cleaner: Moisten oven surfaces with sponge and water. Use 3/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup salt and 1/4 cup water to make a thick paste, and spread throughout oven interior (avoid bare metal and any openings). Let sit overnight. Remove with spatula and wipe clean. Rub gently with fine steel wool for tough spots or use Arm & Hammer Oven Cleaner, declared nontoxic by Consumers Union.
- Paint Brush Cleaner: Non-toxic, citrus oil based solvents are now available commercially under several brand names. Citra-Solve is one brand. This works well for cleaning brushes of oil-based paints. Paint brushes and rollers used for an on-going project can be saved overnight, or even up to a week, without cleaning at all. Simply wrap the brush or roller snugly in a plastic bag, such as a used bread or produce bag. Squeeze out air pockets and store away from light. The paint won’t dry because air can’t get to it. Simply unwrap the brush or roller the next day and continue with the job. Fresh paint odors can be reduced by placing a small dish of white vinegar in the room.
- Rust Remover: Sprinkle a little salt on the rust, squeeze a lime over the salt until it is well soaked. Leave the mixture on for 2 - 3 hours. Use leftover rind to scrub residue.
- Scouring Powder: For top of stove, refrigerator and other such surfaces that should not be scratched, use baking soda. Apply baking soda directly with a damp sponge.
- Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Mix 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse. A mixture of borax (2 parts) and lemon juice (one part) will also work.
- Tub and Tile Cleaner: For simple cleaning, rub in baking soda with a damp sponge and rinse with fresh water. For tougher jobs, wipe surfaces with vinegar first and follow with baking soda as a scouring powder. Note that vinegar can break down tile grout, so use sparingly.
- Wallpaper Remover: Mix equal parts of white vinegar and hot water, apply with sponge over the old wallpaper to soften the adhesive. Open room windows or use a fan to dissipate the pungent vinegar smell.
- Water Rings on Wood: Water rings on a wooden table or counter are the result of moisture that is trapped under the topcoat, but not the finish. Try applying toothpaste or mayonnaise to a damp cloth and rub into the ring. Once the ring is removed, buff the entire wood surface.
- Window Cleaner: Mix 2 teaspoons of white vinegar with 1 quart warm water. Use crumpled newspaper or cotton cloth to clean. Don’t clean windows if the sun is on them, or if they are warm, or streaks will show on drying. The All-Purpose Cleaner (above) also works well on windows. Be sure to follow the recipe, because using too strong a solution of vinegar will etch the glass and eventually cloud it.
Healthy Homes Cleaning Habits
Exchange Indoor Air: If your home or apartment has operable windows, open them from time to time or run any installed exhaust fans. In cold weather, the most efficient way to exchange room air is to open the windows and doors to let fresh air in quickly for about five minutes. The walls and furnishings in the room act as ‘heat sinks’, and by exchanging air quickly, this heat is retained.
Minimize Dust: Remove clutter which collects dust, such as old newspapers and magazines. Initiate a ‘no-shoes-indoors’ policy. If you’re building or remodeling a home, consider a central vacuum system; this eliminates the fine dust which portable vacuum cleaners recirculate.
Keep Bedrooms Clean: Most time is spent in the bedrooms. Keep pets out of these rooms, especially if they spend time outdoors.
Use Gentle Cleaning Products: Of the various commercial home cleaning products, drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and oven cleaners are the most toxic. Use the formulas described above or purchase ‘green’ commercial alternatives. Avoid products containing ammonia or chlorine, or petroleum-based chemicals as they contribute to respiratory irritation, headaches and other complaints.
Clean from the Top Down: When house cleaning, save the floor or carpet for last. Allow time for the dust to settle before vacuuming.