Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

The Basic Toolbox for Nontoxic Housecleaning

As mentioned in our earlier post about sustainable food, two new books (from our contest earlier in the year) Chelsea Green Guide to Sustainable Food by Elise McDonough and the Chelsea Green Guide to Nontoxic Housecleaning by Amy Kolb Noyes are now available! Here’s an excerpt from Nontoxic Housecleaning: The Basic Toolbox for Nontoxic Housecleaning Most of the basic ingredients you’ll need to make your own household cleaners can be found at your supermarket, although not all of them will be in the cleaning aisle. A few ingredients may require a special trip to a co-op or health food store, if your local supermarket does not have a sizable “natural foods” section. Many of these items may already be in your cupboard. The Big Three: • Baking soda (the little yellow box you keep in the refrigerator) • White vinegar, 5 percent acidity (this is your normal, everyday plain vinegar) • Soap (or detergent, if hard water is a concern) Baking Soda That little yellow box absorbing odors in your refrigerator and/or freezer is also a star of natural cleaners. Sodium bicarbonate, a.k.a. baking soda, is a mineral derived from soda ash. It is slightly alkaline and neutralizes acidic things, such as odors in liquids caused by acids, so it works on laundry, in drains and garbage disposals, and even on tough problems such as pet urine. Baking soda’s abrasive texture makes it ideal for scrubbing surfaces such as sinks, counters, appliances, and bathroom fixtures. If you adopt no other techniques in this book, you will still be making a big difference by swapping your toxic scouring powder for plain baking soda. Vinegar Distilled 5 percent white vinegar can be purchased economically in gallon jugs at many supermarkets. When a recipe in this book calls for vinegar, it always refers to distilled 5 percent white vinegar. Other vinegars, such as apple cider and red wine vinegar, can leave behind stains—not what you want in a household cleaner. Vinegar, for cleaning purposes, is the opposite of baking soda. It is acidic and thus neutralizes alkaline substances. Like all acids, vinegar corrodes and dissolves. For example, it will break down “hard-water” mineral buildup on sinks and tubs. It also dissolves tarnish from metals such as brass and copper. Vinegar is a powerful sanitizer. Although it is not officially recognized by the EPA as a disinfectant, it is commonly known to kill bacteria, molds, and other microbes. While the smell of vinegar can be overwhelming, it dissipates after a couple of hours. Liquid Soap or Detergent Unless I specify otherwise, whenever I refer to soap in this guide I mean a liquid soap. Purists insist upon using castile soap, which has a vegetable- or nut-oil base. Other soaps use an animal product, such as beef tallow, as their necessary fat. (Soap is formed through a process called saponification, in which fats chemically react with a strong alkali, such as lye.) Detergents work like soaps, but are made from synthetic ingredients. Detergents were developed during World War II, when the oils used to make soap were scarce. They are generally made from petroleum products with added surfactants and foaming agents. That said, there are some very good phosphate-free, biodegradable detergents on the market that are free of artificial dyes and perfumes, and are not tested on animals. (Phosphates are a problem because, as they build up, they pollute waterways and can cause fish kills and other ecological damage.) The major advantage of a detergent is that it does not react, as soap does, to minerals in hard water. The evidence of this reaction is commonly referred to as “soap scum” that can build up on shower walls and cause white laundry to dull and turn gray. Those with soft water need not worry much about such reactions. I personally prefer to use a castile soap that has been scented with an essential oil such as peppermint, sweet orange, or lavender. This reduces the amount of essential oil I add to my homemade cleansers, thus keeping down the end cost. Dr. Bronner’s is a widely available brand that is made with organic oils, is certified fair trade, is not tested on animals, and is available already scented with essential oil. Vermont Soap Organics is another popular brand.
These three ingredients will take you far. When combined in a cleaner, a castile soap scented with an essential oil will mask some of the vinegar scent. Additional oils can be added to customize your cleaner and to boost certain cleaning properties. For example, just a few drops of tea tree oil will help combat bathroom mold and mildew.Note that vinegar’s scent will dissipate fairly quickly. While it may smell strong at first, it will not linger as the scents of some synthetic cleaners are meant to do. Therefore, it only takes a few drops of essential oil to scent a whole bottle of homemade spray cleaner. As the smell of vinegar fades it is the essential oil that will leave a lasting impression.


Q&A with Pascal Baudar: The New Wildcrafted Cuisine

A Q&A with Pascal Baudar, author of The New Wildcrafted Cuisine: Exploring the Exotic Gastronomy of Local Terroir Go foraging with master forager Pascal Baudar this Spring! The School of the New American Farmstead at Sterling College presents a 2-week intensive course on Foraging and Wildcrafting. Learn to identify, process, preserve, cook, and EAT the […] Read More

RECIPE: Grilled Nopalitos for Cinco de Mayo

From The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Cookbook Native to Mexico and prevalent throughout the Southwest and California, the prickly pear or nopal cactus, Opuntia ficus-indica, is a stunning drought-hearty landscaping plant, natural barbed-wire fence, and a source of nutritious food – both pads and fruit are edible. Inside the prickly pads lies a cooling, […] Read More

Ask the Experts: Submit Your Permaculture Questions Now

Attention all growers, food-lovers, and green-living enthusiasts, we are once again celebrating Permaculture Month by putting our pioneering permaculture authors to work for you.Chelsea Green is proud to publish and distribute some of the most recognized, and award-winning, names in permaculture, and we’re making several of them available to our readers to answer any and all […] Read More

Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation – Review in Small Farm Canada Magazine

This review was originally published in Small Farm Canada, Volume 12, Issue 5, September/October 2015If you could have only one book on mushroom production…Review by Janet WallaceTradd Cotter‘s book, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, is a masterpiece. I have long been interested in growing mushrooms and have read several books on the topic. This book, […] Read More

Hands-On Learning: School of The New American Farmstead

This summer, twelve of our authors (plus Chelsea Green’s own President and Publisher) will be leading hands-on intensive courses at Sterling College in Craftsbury, Vermont. These workshops, classes, and certifications will inspire you, equip you with marketable skills, and provide you with new perspectives on integrated, community-centered farming and food production. Engage your Senses The […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com