Cleaning with a Conscience

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Bubbling soap-bucket, mop, and broom

Planning to refinish some furniture? Use water-based or vegetable-based paints, stains, and varnishes. Remember; don't wash paint thinners, household cleaners, oil, or pesticides down the drain. Instead, use them up or give leftovers to friends or a charity. You can take unwanted items to your local recycling center.

Adding new color to your walls? When painting, don't sand or burn off paint that may contain lead. Lead particles in the paint could cause lead poisoning. If your paint is peeling, use a wet sponge or mop to clean up the debris instead of sanding. Never vacuum the dust or chips from lead paint; it will only disperse more lead dust into the air. “Eco friendly” paints are now available that do not emit odors and vapors when used. A quick search of the internet can help you locate several brands.

Getting rid of the junk in your garage or attic? Hold a yard sale. Talk to your neighbors and organize a community yard sale. You can increase neighborhood relationships, earn some extra cash, and help the environment at the same time. If a yard sale seems like too much work, donate your stuff to your local nonprofit thrift store. For a list of possible charities which may accept donations click here.

Does your water bill seem a little high? Wasted water hurts the environment and your checkbook. Always fix any leaky faucets in your house. You can also place a large rock in a toilet's tank to save water when flushing or, better yet, replace your toilet with a low-flow one. Be sure to check hoses and sprinklers periodically and fix any leaks. Limit the time you spend in the shower. Turn off water while brushing teeth or shaving.

We spend hundreds of dollars a year on cleaning supplies. Make your own cleaning agents with these recipes. The recipes are friendly to the environment and your bank account.

· Countertops, cupboards, and walls - Dip a cloth in warm water, then add dish soap and baking soda (the baking soda serves as a soft abrasive to remove tough spots and light scratches).

· Air fresheners - Simmer a small amount of cinnamon, orange peel, and cloves on the stove to give off a pleasant fragrance in your home.

· Glass cleaner -Mix 2 tablespoons borax or washing soda with three cups of water for sparkling windows and mirrors.

· Carpet freshener - Sprinkle dry cornstarch or baking soda on the carpet and vacuum.

· Rug stains - Rub borax into dampened area, let dry, then vacuum or repeatedly blot stain with a mixture of vinegar and soapy water.

· Mildew build-up- Make a paste of vinegar and salt, and apply to built-up area.

· Furniture polish - Combine 1/2 cup lemon juice to 1-cup vegetable oil, olive oil, or mayonnaise. Apply to rag.

More cleaning tips:

· When you buy cleaning products, look for ones that are non-toxic, biodegradable, phosphate-free, and chlorine-free.

· Reduce paper use. Use rags instead of paper towels and cloth napkins instead of paper ones.

Other Chemicals

· Reduce your pesticide use or try these less harmful alternatives.