15 October 2007

Blog Action Day

Today is the day when bloggers around the world (and the web) unite to focus on just one very important and relevant issue: the environment.

When it comes to the environment I try to do my bit. I recycle, have a compost heap and a worm farm, use companion planting rather than pesticides in the garden, walk or cycle whenever possible, we have switched all our light globes over and I've finally nagged the children enough that they know to turn lights off when they leave a room and to turn all appliances (except the fridge and freezer - go on, ask me how I know this) off at the wall rather than using the remote.

But I am sure that there is a lot more that I and my family could be doing. Nothing groundbreaking, but simple, everyday things that can become habit. I know that the "green" habits I have developed have and will continue to save us money, just the thing for a Cheapskate.

Using environmentally friendly cleaners used to sound expensive and hard work (to me anyway). Guess what? I use environmentally friendly cleaners and the work is no harder than it was with the smelly, dangerous chemical cleaners. You know the ones with the "pine forest fresh" scents and the "no scrub" action.

Commercially made, chemical-based household cleaners can eat up a large chunk of your household budget. There are cleaners for windows, mirrors, bench tops, cupboard doors, walls, sinks, enamel cook tops, ceramic cook tops, ovens, stainless steel appliances, wooden floors, vinyl floors, ceramic tiles, carpet, bathrooms, toilets, kitchens and laundries. You could almost fill a small supermarket with just cleaning items.

These days I use bi-carb, white vinegar, washing soda and pure soap to clean everything in our home, from the kitchen sink to the floors, bathroom and windows. I even use these ingredients to make my own washing powder to clean our clothes. Instead of spending $1,000 a year on cleaners, I spend around $60 and I'm not adding to landfill, or water pollution and I'm saving plenty of money.

Instead of spending your hard-earned dollars on these things, just a few simple, safe and cheap everyday items will clean your whole house.

The environmentally friendly and cheap ingredients I use are:

Bicarbonate soda a gentle, moderately alkaline, non-toxic abrasive which cuts through grease and oil because it reacts with the fatty acids to form a mild detergent. Use it to clean, deodorize and buffer (you can even clean your teeth with it).

Lemon juice is a natural bleach which can be used for stain removal, deodorizing and mould inhibiting. And lemons are free if you have a lemon tree or if you know someone who does!

Salt is a natural and gentle abrasive and disinfectant, that's useful for clearing drains and scouring utensils. It is very cheap and readily available.

White vinegar is a moderately strong acid that can remove bathroom scum and hard water deposits as well as discolouration from metals such as aluminium, brass, bronze and copper. It can also remove rust stains on iron. White vinegar will clean moss off bricks and concrete, just remember they are porous and it is an acid. Rinse well with water after cleaning.

Eucalyptus oil removes stains on carpet. Simply put eucalyptus oil in a spray atomizer, spray generously on the stain, and wipe with a clean absorbent cloth. It is also very useful for getting sticky stuff off almost anything.

I use these ingredients to make up these cleaning products for use in our home:

Window and Mirror Cleaner
1 part vinegar, 3 parts water

Put vinegar in a spray bottle and fill to top with water. Spray on surface. Rub with an old cloth nappy, lint-free rag, or sheets of newspaper. For outdoor windows use a sponge and wash with warm water mixed with a few drops of liquid soap. Rinse well and squeegee dry.

Vinyl Floor Cleaner
½ cup vinegar, bucket of warm water

Mop with a mixture of ½ cup vinegar in a bucket of warm water. The vinegar odour will go away shortly after the floor dries.

Copper Cleaner
1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt, water, vegetable
oil (optional)

Mix vinegar and salt (a tablespoon of each) and apply to surface with a rag. Rinse thoroughly with water to prevent corrosion. Apply a little vegetable oil with a cloth and rub for a shiny appearance. Do not use this cleaner on lacquered finishes.

Drain Cleaner
½ cup bicarbonate soda, ½ cup vinegar, boiling water

This recipe will free minor clogs and help prevent future clogs. Pour bicarbonate soda down the drain first, then the vinegar. Let it fizz for a few minutes. Pour a teakettle full of boiling water down the drain to clear it. Repeat if needed. If the clog is stubborn, use a plunger.

Washing Powder
This has to be the cheapest and best value laundry detergent around.

Ingredients:
1 bar soap, grated
1 cup washing soda (Lectric Soda)
1/2 cup borax

Mix together and store in a sealed container. Use 3 scant teaspoons per load for a top-loader and 1 scant teaspoon per load for a front loader. You can use up the small slivers of toilet soap you collect if you like, ordinary bath soap or laundry soap. This recipe is ideal for using up all the leftovers you collect in the family bathroom. This detergent won’t produce masses of suds, but it will get your clothes clean.

Optional:
Give the washing powder an extra boost if you wash really dirty or greasy clothes by adding one small box of bi-carb soda to the mix.

All Purpose Cleaner

Combine in a clean spray bottle:
Two teaspoons of borax,
Two teaspoons baking soda,
1 quart water

Spray on, wait a few seconds and then wipe off with a damp cloth.

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