Those in attendance at the Green Cleaning program held at the Sulphur Regional Library Friday received a history lesson along with tips on mixing and using non-toxic, cost effective cleaning solutions.
Kay Dering, who works as the children’s facilitator at the Westlake Library, regaled her audience with tales of the origins of baking soda and the link between borax and a 20-mule team.
Dering said green cleaning became a hobby for her because she “likes to fiddle around the house.
“It’s fun, it saves money, and you never run out of anything,” she said.
She opened the program with a quote from the late comedian Phyllis Diller, “Housekeeping can’t kill you, but why take a chance?” Dering also shared advice she’s picked up from others when an excuse is needed for a messy home.
1. Keep your house messy. That way, if a serial killer is after you, he’ll trip on something, and, hopefully, die first.”
2. Always keep get well cards on the mantel or other prominent location in your home. If you have visitors and your home is a mess, you can pretend to be convalescing.
Dering introduced the stars of her cleaning show. Beyond their cost-effectiveness, green cleaners are ideal for people with asthma, allergies and other respiratory issues.
Top billing went to baking soda. According to Dering, baking soda was used by ancient Egyptians, who harvested it as a salt mixture from dry river beds and used it to keep mummies dry and bacteria-free. They also used it as a home and body cleanser, meat and fish preservative, and insecticide.
Dering said in the 1830s Austin Church developed a food-grade baking soda and, 30 years later, launched Arm and Hammer. “He became a very wealthy man,” she said.
Baking soda is abrasive, but soft on the hands. It also has natural deodorizing properties. Dering recommended using it on all household appliances and surfaces. She suggested sprinkling some in the bath water immediately prior to letting the water out.
As it moves down the tub’s walls, it scours away soap scum. She said it will also clear out slow running drains. Pour 1/2 to 1/4 cup of baking soda into the slow drain and run just enough hot water to wash it down into the pipes. Let it stand anywhere from two hours to overnight and flush with hot water. She warned not to use this method on clogged drains.
Baking soda can also be mixed with hydrogen peroxide and used as toothpaste. It can be added to shampoo to remove product build-up. To clean sponges, soak them in four cups of warm water and four tablespoons of baking soda. Dering said to clean stuffed animals, place the animal in a pillowcase or other bag, add 1/2 cup baking soda and shake. Removed the stuffed animal, brush it, and vacuum it.
Dering’s second favorite cleaning solution is Borax. Dering said borax was discovered in Death Valley, which straddles eastern California and Nevada.
Twelve-mule teams were used to haul the mineral up and out of canyons. “It took 10 days to carry 10 tons of borax across Death Valley in 1894,” said Dering. She said Ed Stiles, a teamster, began using a 20-mule team. At the same time, others in the industry decided to use a train. “The train, named Diva, was no match for the mules,” said Dering. “It broke down in Las Vegas.” Today, 20-Mule Borax can be found anywhere cleaning supplies are sold.
Dering said borax, like baking soda, is gentle on the hands. “It’s a cheap alternative to bleach, it’s color-safe, and has no chemical fumes.” She said one of her favorite uses is in the dishwasher. She sprinkles it on the floor of the appliance, under the bottom rack in two piles, one on each side of the dishwasher.
Both borax and baking soda can be used to clean vegetables and fruits.
Dawn brand liquid dish soap is Dering’s third favorite cleaning supply. It can be used as a shampoo or mix 1 teaspoon of it with 16 ounces of water, pour into a spray bottle, and use it to kill ants, wasps and roaches.
For grout and soap scum, Dering recommends mixing up a paste of baking soda or borax and hydrogen peroxide. For grout, use a toothbrush to scrub.
For windows, mix 1/4 teaspoon of liquid dish soap, 1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar, and 1 cup of water. Pour into a spray bottle. Y dirty glass, use more liquid soap.
In lieu of dryer sheets, mix vinegar and an essential oil in a jar with a lid. Shake. Place fabric squares in the jar. To use, wring out a square and put it in dryer with wet clothes. Put the square back in the jar after cycle is done.
Other ingredients to have on hand for green cleaning include:
— cleaning vinegar
— rubbing alcohol
— hydrogen peroxide
— Castile Soap (can be used to clean nearly every body part, dishes, laundry, floors, toilets, windows, veggies, fruit and more.)
— olive oil (can be used to shave legs)
— essential oils (can be added to baking soda and used as room freshener, or to spray mixtures for a nice smell).