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From 409 to 4: A Natural Cleaning Formula to Live By


It's the Achilles heel of the eco movement. You buy organic, drive a hybrid, changed all of your light bulbs and switched to recycled toilet paper, so, what is that Clorox bleach still doing in your kitchen?

There's a myth long propelled by marketing agencies to make you think your house is not clean—not safe—unless it smells like Pine Sol, Spic 'n Span or incredibly toxic bleach. But the truth is, this simply isn't true. You do not need to slather every inch of your home with harmful chemicals in order for it to be clean, or safe. Vinegar kills as many germs as bleach without being toxic. Clothes washed with a natural liquid laundry detergent won't smell like those washed in Tide, but they're just as clean.

In fact, they're cleaner because they're not leaving a residue of toxins that can irritate the skin, cause allergies or lead to more serious health risks like infertility and cancer. Common household cleaner ingredients include phosphates, chlorine bleach, sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide, which are all extremely damaging to the environment as well as being toxic to humans, and the animals most companies test their products on.

The Formula for clean is not 409, it's just 4: You can achieve virtually all of your cleaning needs with salt, baking soda, vinegar and oil. Vinegar has hundreds of uses, literally. Salt is abrasive and great for scrubbing. Baking soda will clean, whiten, brighten and polish. And oil does wonders for wood, removing sticky stuff, and all without the toxins found in Pledge.

There are some cleaning tasks where pre-made products such as laundry and dish soap may be necessary (but you can make your own). We're big fans of Seventh Generation's non-toxic products, especially their new 4X liquid laundry detergent. But try these easy DIY natural cleaning recipes to save money and reduce toxins in your home.

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From the Organic Authority Files

*Toilet: Mix ¼ cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into toilet, let set for 5 minutes, then scrub with brush.

* All-purpose cleaner: 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart water. Shake well.

* Laundry Soap: 2 gallons hot water, 1 bar grated soap, 2 cups baking soda

  • Heat soap in saucepan with enough hot water to cover over medium-low, stirring frequently until soap is melted.
  • In a large pail, pour 2 gallons hot water. Add melted soap, stir.
  • Add the baking soda, stir again.
  • Use ½ -1 cup per full load.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Photo: Robert Rosenthal

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