Last week's Earth Matters included some recipes for non-toxic household cleaners, but the type was garbled in the early editions. We've had many requests to reprint the information. Here it is.
* For a mild all-purpose cleaner, mix a gallon of hot water, a half cup vinegar and a tablespoon of baking soda. For a stronger mixture, dissolve double the ingredients in the same amount of water.
* Spilled something in the oven? Sprinkle the spots with salt right away. When the oven cools -- or whenever you get around to it -- wet the spill and scrub it with baking soda and a brush.
* Replace your furniture polish with a fragrant mixture of one part lemon juice to two parts olive or vegetable oil. An equal mixture of salt and vinegar makes a fine brass and copper cleaner. Be sure to rinse the objects thoroughly afterward. Use a paste of baking soda and water instead of silver polish. Be careful not to scratch your silver, and rinse when you're done.
* Laundry detergents are a problem for a number of reasons. They often contain ingredients that break down more slowly in the environment than soap does. And they often contain phosphates, which are powerful fertilizers. Small amounts of these cause explosive growth of algae in lakes and streams, clogging the water with more matter than the natural system can handle.
(NOTE: Detergents that contain phosphates are not sold iMaryland.)
* Tub, tile and toilet can be cleaned with baking soda and a sponge or a brush. To wash mirrors and windows, mix vinegar and water in a spray bottle and use with clean rags.
* To open a clogged drain, pour a half cup of baking soda down it, chased by a half cup vinegar. Cover the drain if you can and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then flush it with a kettle full of boiling water. Prevent clogged drains by always using a drain sieve and by giving the sink the above-prescribed treatment whenever you're feeling especially virtuous.
* Borax powder can replace bleach for most jobs, including whitening clothes and cleaning mildew.
* Commercial air fresheners may be the easiest products to replace. These work by masking smells with chemicals, by coating your nasal passages with an oily film, or by deadening nerves to diminish your sense of smell. Not my nasal passages, thank you. Instead, place a dish of baking soda in your fridge and next to the garbage to absorb food odors. Grind half a lemon in the disposal if that starts to smell. An open bowl of lavender or other fragrant flowers and herbs will make the whole house smell sweet.