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Using Basic Science to Clean

by Leslie Reichert

Greening your cleaning is twofold. It’s getting back to basics as well as using science to clean. Once you know what the basic ingredients do – you are able to become a “scientist” and mix up your own cleaners. I have a background in chemistry, yet I don’t really need that information to show you how to green your cleaning. Instead all you need to know is what each ingredient in my “basic four” will do for you.

The “Basic Four” for Green Cleaning

Baking Soda is a natural lifter - If you want to lift the dirt off a surface think of using baking soda. Baking soda in a recipe reacts with the moisture and heat and makes a cake RISE. It will work the same way for cleaning. If you have a pan with burnt-on food, just add a tablespoon of baking soda to water and put it back on the burner on low heat. The burnt-on food will lift right off!

Salt is a natural scrub – If you are trying to remove something that’s being stubborn - think of salt. It’s aggressive and a great scrubbing agent. You can use table salt when you want to scrub of grime off the inside your sink or if you have bigger dirt,  use kosher or sea salt. And salt actually softens water to make it work better as a perfect solvent.

White Vinegar is a natural acid – Vinegar is wonderful for cutting through grease and build-up. AND it kills 98% of the bacteria! Not bad for something you can eat. Use vinegar to cut through dirt on windows, counters and even greasy stove tops. But remember it is a natural acid, so be careful not to use it on shiny floors or sealed counter tops.

Borax is a natural booster – I love Borax and it’s great for boosting the power of all these other ingredients. If you are having trouble removing something with just one of these ingredients, try adding a little borax! It boosts the power and makes it work even better. If you want to avoid using borax, you can also use oxygen bleach. It’s also a great booster and actually turns to water once it’s done its job.

Other natural cleaners

Lemon Juice is a wonderful bleach – Lemon juice is a natural bleach that you can use in your laundry to really whiten your whites. Just add some lemon juice to your rinse cycle and it will leave your towels smelling lemony fresh and bright white. To really whiten your whites, use the lemon juice in the rinse and then put them in the sun to dry.

Hydrogen peroxide is a safe disinfectant – Even hospitals use hydrogen peroxide to kill bacteria. And the best part is that after it’s been exposed to air and light it turns into water. You don’t have to worry about exposing your food to nasty chemicals if you use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect your countertops.

Oxygen Bleach takes the place of Chlorine – If you are looking for a safe substitute for your chlorine based bleach – look for oxygen bleach. Not only is it safe on colors but also whitens and brightens without harsh chemicals. It’s perfect for our water system too.

Hailed as the “Martha Steward of Green Cleaning,” Leslie Reichert is a cleaning expert who owns The Back Door – Vacuum and Homekeeping Store in Uxbridge. She is the author of The Joy of Green Cleaning and has been published in national periodicals such as Better Homes and Gardens and USA Today.