Myths and facts about green cleaning.
Do homemade cleaners really work?
Yes! Let’s look at some of the properties of two ingredients found in most of our recipes: vinegar and baking soda.
Vinegar deodorizes; dissolves mineral deposits and grease; removes soap traces, mildew and wax build up; polishes brass, chrome, copper, pewter and stainless steel; cleans brick and stone; removes decals and stickers; and removes water spots on leather.
Baking soda neutralizes acid; scrubs shiny materials without scratching; deodorizes refrigerators, carpets, upholstery, vinyl and drains; extinguishes grease fires; and cleans and polishes aluminum, chrome, jewelry, plastic, porcelain, silver, stainless steel and tin.
I’ve heard you shouldn’t mix cleaners. Can mixing your own green cleaning products be hazardous?
Here at WVE, we have carefully vetted our cleaning product recipes to ensure they include only the safest, most effective ingredients.
Ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, and olive oil are commonly found in kitchens without the need for warning labels. Other ingredients such as washing soda, castile soap and essential oils* may be less familiar to many folks, and so, should be used as directed by our recipes. We can assure you that using our recipes, as directed, will not lead to toxic fumes, skin burns or other particularly dangerous situations in the kitchen. We have, however, included special instructions for ingredients which may affect some people with sensitive skin or allergies. Also a general safety reminder is given for those with small children who might accidentally ingest large quantities of ingredients. Common sense in the kitchen is always the rule, whether you are cooking, baking or mixing your own green cleaners.
Mixing other types of store-bought cleaning agents, however, can certainly be dangerous. We have specifically avoided using ingredients such as ammonia or chlorine bleach in our recipes as they can lead to both skin or eye burns as well as the creation of toxic gasses. It is very important to remember not to mix traditional cleaners with your green cleaners. For example, even vinegar can react badly when mixed with chlorine bleach.
What is oxygen bleach and where can I find it?
Oxygen bleach is most commonly sold in powdered form and is made of sodium percarbonate. When dissolved in water, sodium percarbonate releases hydrogen peroxide which acts as a natural whitener in laundry. Powdered oxygen bleach can be found in the laundry aisle of most grocery stores with brand names usually including the term “Oxy-“ or “Oxi-“.
Where can I find soap flakes?
While soap flakes were once easy to find, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to locate them these days. You may be able to buy a box of soap flakes at a natural food store (we recommend calling first) or online, but the easiest solution is to make your own! Use any non-liquid castile soap that does not contain sodium lauryl (laureth) sulfate (SLS) or Diethanolamine (DEA), and simply grate it with a cheese grater.
What is washing soda? Where can I buy it?
Washing soda (sodium carbonate) is in the same family as baking soda but it is much more caustic (it has a pH of 11), so you should wear gloves when mixing it to avoid irritating your skin. Washing soda cuts grease, removes wax or lipstick and neutralizes odors in the same way that baking soda does. Don’t use washing soda on delicate items like silks, woolens or vinyls. It is found in the laundry section of most supermarkets. You can also call Arm and Hammer’s toll-free number 1-800-524-1328 and a representative can tell you where it’s sold near you.
Is vegetable glycerin necessary?
Vegetable glycerin is used as a preservative and is a by-product of palm and coconut oil production. You can buy vegetable glycerin online or find it in soap-making supply stores, health food and/or herbal supplement stores. Essential oils may be substituted as an alternative preservative, but if you plan to make a large batch of cleaner and save some for later use, vegetable glycerin will significantly increase the shelf life of your product.
How do I dispose of my leftover conventional cleaners?
The best thing to do is to use up what you have left of your conventional cleaners. If you suspect you have sensitivities to these products, you may want to stop using them. But, don’t flush them down the drain or put them in the trash. If you’d prefer to remove them from your house, contact your local health department or waste disposal service and ask how you can safely dispose of them in your area. Some cleaners are considered “household hazardous waste” and must be disposed of properly.
What are essential oils? Do I have to use them in these recipes?
Essential oils are liquids formed from the distillation of the leaves, stems or flowers of a plant. They are very concentrated liquids, so a little (even just a few drops) goes a long way. Essential oils are purely optional in our recipes. Some people use them to add an attractive scent to the product; in addition they have anti-bacterial properties and can be used as a preservative. They are commonly available in health food stores, and are sold online. You may want to look for ecologically harvested essential oils.
*WARNING: It should be noted that some people can be highly sensitive to essential oils, leading to symptoms such as headaches, asthma exacerbation or other health effects. If you, your family members, or other guests to your home may be affected by essential oils, simply leave them out of the recipes. This will not impact your cleaner’s effectiveness.
Can I use the scrub and the all-purpose cleanser on all surfaces such as tile, marble, masonite, wood, etc?
You can use this product safely on tile, glass, stone, wood, linoleum, stainless steel and most floor and counter top surfaces. It is not recommended for marble surfaces, however, as the acidic nature of the vinegar could eat away at the surface. If you are unsure of how it will affect the surface you want to clean, simply test the product on a small area first, let it dry and observe the results before cleaning the rest of the surface.
My spray bottle doesn’t work right. What should I do?
In our research testing these recipes, we found some spray bottles that just were not up to snuff, or stopped working well over time, Your best bet is to try spray bottles from a janitorial supply store, which are made for cleaning products. You can also reuse a spray bottle from an old product you have used up – but make sure it completely clean! Accidentally mixing in chemicals from old products can be dangerous.
Do you have any tips for holding larger green cleaning parties?
Yes, we do! Check out our tips page.