Clean - ahh! It's such a lovely feeling. And somehow we equate it with the smells of Clorox and Pine-Sol... which are anything but clean and pollute our indoor air with chemicals that are known to be harmful. In your plight for healthier cleaning agents in a highly unregulated and oh-so-not-transparent industry, first avoid any and all products with these words listed on them: "Danger," "Corrosive," "Poison," "Warning" and/or "Caution." Next, get your products from a trusted eco, all-natural company such as Method or Seventh Generation. Or, better yet, open up your fridge and cabinets and use the foods you've got to get that clean feeling. Here are some common foods that'll get you there.
Clean Your Wood with Walnuts
Industrially speaking, walnut shells are often ground up and put into a pressure blasting machine in order to clean surfaces such as gems, cars, boats and planes because they have the miraculous ability to do so without ruining the surfaces themselves. Graffiti anyone? For your home use, you can use the power of the walnut in two ways. One way is as a delicious snack that can keep cholesterol in check. The other is to treat scratches on your wood furniture, and keep your wood looking gorgeously spic 'n span. Simply rub the meat of a walnut onto your scratches and watch them disappear. First, use circular motions, then back and forth along the whole of the scratch. After several minutes of sitting, the oils in the walnut will have seeped into the scratch and worked its magic.
Clean Your Grill with an Onion
While we'd certainly rather eat a grilled onion - yum! - we're willing to spare a portion to clean the grill and forego chemical cleaners and the elbow grease behind a brillo pad. Hopefully, your grill has been getting some prime use these last couple of months... caked on who-knows-what? Use this natural method; your grill will look great and your foods will taste even better. First, heat up the grill super hot so it will be easy for the clumps to be scraped off. Then, cut an onion in half and stab one half of the onion with a fork, flat part facing down. Now, just rub that grill grate down!
Clean Everything Else with Tea, Lemon Juice and Vinegar!
Capitalize on those tannins in your used black tea bags to bring out the rich tones of all your wood surfaces. Steep three to four bags in a quart of boiling water. Remove the bags and allow them to cool. Make sure your floor is clean and then follow up with the tea and allow it to air dry for a nice shine. You can also use cold tea as a straight furniture polish, dampening a rag with it and going around to all of your wooden décor.
The acidity in lemons can provide antibacterial and antiseptic properties, all while smelling delicious all around the home. Lemons also have a natural bleaching agent which makes them great for removing stains, especially on countertops or in sinks, tubs and toilets. Let some lemon juice sit for a few minutes on the stain - but not too long! - and then you can buff it right out.
To remove refrigerator odors with ease, just dab lemon juice on a cotton ball or sponge and leave it in the fridge for several hours.
It's not just Heinz that says so: Numerous studies have shown that a straight 5 percent solution of vinegar can kill 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold and 80 percent of germs (viruses). And with that in mind, vinegar can be used to clean just about anything. Seriously. Create your own all purpose cleaner in a spray bottle and spritz away to full house cleanliness.
If you're worried about the smell, give it a try and you will find that the odor dissipates as the vinegar dries. You can also add some of your favorite essential oil to your mixture for a natural scent of clean... or lemon juice!
A few other interesting cleaning tips that come from the kitchen:
Salt: Grease stains: Formidable. Before you wash your stained clothes, work a generous amount of table salt into the stain and then launder as usual.
Pepper: Ditch the Clorox and the Tide and keep your clothes bright with pepper. Add a teaspoon of pepper to the wash before you add in your clothes and it will keep the colors from fading.
Bananas: Before you throw your banana peel in the compost pile, use it as a buffer. This works with silverware as well as leather shoes and leather furniture. Just rub the peel over the object, followed by a soft cloth (you may want to test a small section of your furniture first).
image: Brad Montgomery