May 20th, 2008
Clean, Green Living in 3 Cheap, Easy Steps
Part 1: The List of Ingredients
Now that it’s late May, it’s time to stock up for the summer – and our many summer visitors – on things like bug repellant (we really do live in the Deep Woods), anti-itch solution, insect sting remedies, poison ivy treatments, cut and scrape treatments, etc. The basic summertime First Aid Kit, all ingredients of which will be used as regularly as the usual household cleaners, deodorizers, detergents, polishes and disinfectants get used all year round.
Might as well get items that do double or triple duty as household cleansers and disinfectants as well as personal skin and hair care products too. I’ll use this post to make the basic list of things to buy, and later posts will give specific recipes and hints on how to use them to best advantage. And the best thing about these products? They’re Green and Eco-Friendly to boot!
Baking Soda: It all starts with good old baking soda. You can purchase generic or the primary name brand we recognize (Arm and Hammer). It’s cheap either way, and the same product though generic will tend to clump and solidify quicker and easier. Compared against the multitude of specialty chemicalized products you could be buying to do many of the same tasks, you could save hundreds of dollars a year with a cleaner, fresher house and a healthier family to show for it!
Baking soda is a good deodorizer for carpets and upholstery (even effective against pet and human urine odors), disinfectant, anti-fungal, a surface-safe scouring powder, cockroach insecticide, drain unclogger, silver and copper polish, laundry aid and pH equalizer for things like pool water. It is used medicinally as an anti-itch wash, insect sting treatment, toothpaste, mouthwash, gargle for sore throats poison ivy neutralizer, soothing treatment for athlete’s foot, an antacid, deodorant and anti-acne scrub. Given that it doesn’t cost much – particularly in 4-5 pound boxes – it can save you a bundle on all these sort of products that cost several dollars apiece.
Borax: Our list of necessary household basics continues with another sodium product, borax. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, while borax is sodium borate decahydrate. It’s a laundry booster (improves detergent action, natural colorsafe bleach), a water softener, multipurpose cleaner, fungicide, preservative, insecticide, herbicide, disinfectant and dessicant.
Plain Salt: The final sodium product on the list of must-haves is salt. You should always keep a one-pound box of plain (Kosher, iodine-free) salt on hand for non-table uses. This can be fine grain or coarse, basic sodium chloride purified from a mine rather than more expensive sea salt (which comes with quite a few extra minerals and chemicals than even iodized table salt). Salt has many general household and medicinal uses, such as water (and skin) softener in bath water, soothing soak for sore muscles and arthritic joints, anti-microbial mouthwash for gum disease, sore throat gargle, nasal decongestant spray (with soda in water) and eyewash.
Vinegar: Next on the list is your basic gallon jug of white vinegar. Vinegar is also a good disinfectant, a strong degreaser, streak-free glass cleaner, no-wax floor cleaner, stain remover from carpets and upholstery, wood furniture polish and ring remover (with olive oil), garbage disposal and drain deodorizer, brass polish, ant deterrent, stainless steel cleaner, bathroom water and soap deposit scrub, faucet and shower head unclogger and in the yard, an effective weed and grass killer (spray directly).
Olive Oil, Light Safflower Oil: These are of course useful for maintaining leather and wood furniture, and in certain recipes can be substituted for liquid soaps (they also provide fats for homemade soaps). But you’ll want these primarily for skin and hair care products and bath oils and such. Buy basic 12-ounce bottles for these purposes and keep them separate from the oils you use normally for cooking and baking.
Lemon Juice, Rubbing Alcohol, Liquid Soap: Lemon juice and rubbing alcohol are household and medicinal necessities to keep on hand for a number of uses, along with liquid soap. If you save the dregs of your soap bars (those annoying left-overs that end up melted all over your sink or tub holder) in a pump jar with a little water (shake occasionally), you’ll be surprised at how much normally gets thrown away. Or, if you’re really enterprising, you can make your own soaps!
All told, I could go to the store today and bring home ample supplies of all these items for about $20, knowing they’ll last through the crowded summer and some will last through the rest of the year. If you were to do an inventory of all the specialized products you buy – furniture polish, drain opener, toilet bowl cleaner, bathtub and sink scrubs, spray-on spot removers, laundry additives, bath, skin care and beauty products, insect repellants, first aid sprays and creams and gargles and washes, etc., etc., etc., you’d find yourself spending hundreds over the next six months. Sometimes the best products are the old-fashioned (still cheap) ones!
Below are links to some basic uses on the web that readers may find useful. I’ll provide more specific recipes in my next post for household cleaning and disinfecting. Then I’ll list specifics on the first aid and medicinal recipes and uses. Later in this series we’ll look at personal care basics and how you can save a whole lot of money not buying fancy facial masks, skin treatments, moisturizers, wrinkle creams, bath treatments and skin soothers. So please stay tuned to put all this together!
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