Natural Cleaning Tips For Healthy Living - May 2013

Create and maintain a clean environment of your very own.

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Cleaning with Lemon: 10 Surprising Ways to Make Your Home Sparkle

They taste sour on their own, but add delicious zest to sweet and savory dishes and drinks; their cheerful color & scent has been known to brighten up a dull room; and the sheer versatility they bring to health, beauty, cleaning, and cooking is practically magical!

We’re talking about the lemon, of course. This small but powerful fruit has hundreds of uses, and as a green cleaning service we’ve put them all to the test over the years! Its citric acid – the element that makes lemon juice taste sour, but smell wonderful—its natural antibacterial properties, and low pH balance combine to give the lemon its super boost of cleaning power.

In fact, we’re such a fan of cleaning with lemons that Limoniera, one of the largest providers of lemons in the U.S, has selected us as a New York-based cleaning expert thanks to our innovative uses of lemons as an all natural cleaning solution.

Here are our 10 favorite (and surprising!) ways to clean with lemon

#1. Clean a stinky garbage disposal with lemons

Grinding lemon rinds in the garbage disposal will clean, sanitize, and banish nasty smells leaving only their telltale fresh, clean aroma. Run hot water into the disposal when you turn it on and keep it running until you hear the disposal finish crunching up the lemon.

#2. Lemons clean your microwave

Lemon slices, a (microwavable) bowl of hot water, and a damp cloth is all you need to clean and sanitize your microwave. Kill bacteria and loosen dried food by cooking the lemon slices in the bowl of hot water for 1 minute on high. When the timer goes off, take your damp cloth and wipe out the microwave.

#3. Turn shower grout white again with lemon

Using harsh cleansers to clean shower grout is a mistake that can haunt you for days after. The humid environment of the shower keeps the smell alive and its tight quarters don’t give you any room for escape. We like to clean gritty showers using a small stiff brush—like an old toothbrush—and a mix of 1 cup of lemon juice and ½ cup of baking soda. The mixture will fizz and bubble, which means its ready to go! Scrub it into the grout with a stiff brush and wait at least 30 minutes before rinsing. The lemon will brighten grout and destroy any bacteria.

#4. Use lemon instead of dish soap to clean your pots & pans

The lemon juice and baking soda combination also works as a substitute for dish soap. Instead of combining the two in a separate bowl, use the lemon as a sponge and apply the baking soda directly to the cut side. Don’t forget to rinse dishes well so you don’t ruin your cleaning with a sticky residue.

#5. Make dingy windows sparkle with lemon

Never use chemicals to make your windows sparkle again! Mix ½ cup of lemon into a spray bottle of water, shake well, and get to work. Wipe windows down with a clean, dry cloth after you spray.

#6. Refresh your cutting boards (and containers) with lemon

Lemon juice will remove stains from cutting boards and food storage containers if you rub it in and let it sit until the stain starts to fade. Tough stains might need to soak in lemon juice overnight, others will take only a few minutes to lighten up. Rinse well and dry thoroughly when clean.

#7. Lemon makes your laundry smell like sunshine!

You don’t need to buy expensive—and dangerous—laundry products to remove stains, smells, and dullness from clothes.

  • Try adding the juice of one lemon to a load of laundry (combine with  detergent as normal) for better smelling clothes.
  • Restore clothes to their original brightness by soaking whites in hot water and 1 cup of lemon juice before you wash.
  • Lemon juice on a grease stain will lift the stain overnight, and even rust can be removed when it’s treated with a mix of lemon juice and cream of tartar.
  • As with anything involving expensive clothing and laundry, please test all remedies on a small area of the fabric first.

#8. Shine copper with lemon

Pour sea salt onto the cut side of ½ a lemon and use it as a sponge to rub tarnish out of copper. Continue adding salt and rubbing until you get the results you want. Rinse and dry well when you’re finished.

#9. Clean and sanitize earrings with lemon

Earrings find themselves in drawers, at the bottom of purses, and on the floor. Sanitize the posts before putting them back in your ears by soaking them in a little lemon juice. Only the posts need to be submerged, so don’t worry about hurting expensive pieces of jewelry.

#10. Use lemon to unclog a drain

Once you try this method you won’t go back to using Drano. Mix baking soda and lemon juice—amount depends on the size of the drain (and the size of the clog)—and pour the mixture down your drain as you would with Drano. Wait at least 15 minutes before pouring hot water down the drain to test the clog. If it’s still backed up, repeat the process with more lemon juice and wait a little longer until it clears.

Try it for yourself!

We hope you’ll discover, as we have, that cleaning with lemons is an inexpensive, easy way to keep your home or office green without sacrificing cleanliness. Of course, we always recommend giving your environment a thorough scrubbing to kick off your transition into green cleaning so old chemical residue doesn’t follow you into your new healthy lifestyle.

What else can you do with lemon? We’re always open to ideas and suggestions, just leave us a comment or chat with us on Facebook anytime.

 

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Creative Uses for Yard Waste

An outdoor space is a continuous source of joy and effort, but when you come across a creative use for yard waste it can be such an occasion for celebration! Especially at this transitional time of year when keeping up with landscaping feels like a full time job.

You probably know about reusing sticks, pine cones, leaves, and brush as unique home décor items or giveaways, but what does that actually mean? Is it realistic to tote a few branches and a pinecone inside and put them on the table to call it art? Well, probably not; especially when these items just end up looking like a big mess in your home. 

We needed a little more structure, inspiration, and flair. Luckily, we found these fantastic ideas to reuse and repurpose the items nature drops into your outdoor space.

Instead of just displaying sticks and leaves as décor, try sprucing them up with some (non-VOC) metallic paint in silver or gold or a flat matte finish in white. The paint adds a much needed drama to the natural materials and makes them look like something purchased as designer home décor. We suggest arranging your new items in a stylish vase or container or mounting them on a wall or a mantle as appropriate.

Or think even bigger and construct a fence or trellis out of the materials you were about to leave on the curb for trash pickup.

  1. First lay out the pieces of wood on your driveway or sidewalk, arranging them in a pattern you like.
  2. Tie the large branches together with wire (find some in a craft store) or try nailing them together for a stronger structure.
  3. Use small branches for support, tying them into place last.
  4. Finally, pick up the secured form and plant it firmly into the ground where you’d like to display it. You might have to be creative about securing the branches together and creating a permanent structure, but the end result will be well worth it.  

If reusing yard waste as décor isn’t an option, consider using it to keep your outdoor space healthy and vibrant. Mix leaves and grass clippings together, then allow them to decompose. Use the resulting compost to mix or spread into landscape or garden beds as a free, safe and slow-release fertilizer.

If you only have minimal yard waste you can reuse it as brown material for your urban compost.

What are you doing with yard waste this year? Send your photos and creative ideas to us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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Do You Know Everything You Should About Phosphates?

phosphate freeBeginning July 1, 2013, commercial establishments in New York will no longer be allowed to use detergents containing phosphates.

The Dishwasher Detergent and Nutrient Runoff Law has been in effect for homeowners since 2010 so we’ve all gotten used to seeing no-phosphate containing detergents replace the dangerous alternatives on store shelves, but for the last three years commercial establishments were still allowed to use the dangerous chemicals on dishes, silverware, linens, and other items used by the public.

What are Phosphates?

Phosphates are an inorganic compound that has a variety of uses in detergents, food, carbonated beverages, and others. In detergents phosphates remove hard-water minerals to make detergents more effective and to prevent dirt from settling back onto items during a wash. On the surface, they seem like a helpful natural element, they clean household goods, thicken and preserve food, and add the sparkle to sodas; but, in reality they are a danger to the environment.

The problem came to light when it became apparent that phosphates weren’t easily broken down by ordinary wastewater processing systems. As they traveled into streams, lakes and rivers, they increased the algae growth and subsequently decreased the oxygen that is needed for healthy aquatic life, which contributed to the high water pollution.

Thankfully, many states, including New York, signed into law a prohibition against the sale of phosphorus-containing dishwasher detergents, the most controversial product; but, phosphates are still used in a wide array of cleaning products including laundry detergents, counter and window cleaners, over cleaners, and even some food.

Interestingly, detergent manufacturers are not required by law to list their ingredients, so it’s not always possible to determine if detergents and cleaners contain dangerous phosphates. The best option is to stick to eco-friendly brands that produce green products. Thankfully, green cleaning options exist for everything from dishes and laundry to counter tops and skin.

Here are a few of our favorite non-phosphate containing detergents.

 EcoSpirit Cleaning Products

$6.99+ at greenhouseecocleaning.com

All natural, vegetable-based cleaners that remove dirt, grime, and bacteria from countertops, floors, windows, and bathrooms without leaving a toxic residue.

Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Detergent Concentrated Packs

$23 at most supermarkets

These are a great alternative to phosphates for sparkling clean dishes and glassware.

Seventh Generation Free & Clear Natural Laundry Detergent
$6.99 at most supermarkets

This detergent is great at removing most stains, better than many other eco-friendly laundry detergents, and they disclose all the ingredients on the label.

Nearly every food contains some phosphorus as well. As a general rule, foods high in protein are also high in phosphorus. Fast food and processed foods contain high amounts of phosphorus, which are used as preservatives. Check the label for ingredients that contains “phos” in the term. Here are some examples:

  • Calcium phosphate
  • Disodium phosphate
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Tricalcium phosphate
  • Monopotassium phosphate
  • Pyrophosphate polyphosphates

Despite the fact that phosphorus is an inorganic compound found in nature, it doesn’t mean it’s safe to consume in large amounts or safe for our environment. Protecting ourselves and our waterways starts with being educated and aware.

Have you discovered a new green product that you can recommend? We’d love to know how you’ve managed to get your household items sparkling clean without harming the environment. Let’s chat on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest

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How To Give Your Interior Design a Green Home Makeover


Our homes truly are our castles. They are our refuge from the hectic world and the place we run to when we need to rejuvenate or just unwind from a crazy day. More than just a shelter, our homes are a reflection of ourselves and things we care about.

For that reason, I’d like my home to be a place where my passion for the environment and living a pure, healthy lifestyle can be showcased, which is why I’ve been learning more about how to give my home a green makeover.

Have you noticed that choosing green products and services isn’t difficult when you look for green alternatives to those things we use every day such as food, water, transportation, and other necessities? The same principle applies to green interior design. It’s not that difficult or pricey to give your interior design a green makeover, but it does take a willingness to look for alternatives and a hunger to design a home that expresses your personality in a very unique way.

The touch stones of eco-friendly designing are: recycle, reuse, or renewable.

Decor

Keeping items eco-friendly is just part of what it means to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle. The other aspect is about being aware of the amount of “things” we bring into our lives. After all, each item we use had to be produced and delivered to us, all of which requires energy and resources. Reuse old items or structural elements in your home in a new and different way as part of the new design. This is your chance to be creative. Can that old door be reused as a coffee table or a headboard? Your old vanity dresser can be used as a new bathroom sink just by cutting out holes for the sink and drainage system. The kitchen pots you don’t want anymore can be used as planters with drainage holes added to the bottom. There are hundreds of options for your creative mind to run with, don ‘t be afraid to really go for a unique design idea!

And, of course, if it can’t be reused in your space it can probably be reused by someone else. Don’t throw items out that can be donated to Goodwill or another thrift store or junk shop. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Etsy and Fab.com are great resources for handmade, micro-produced items which add a unique flair to your home décor.

Furniture and Building Supplies

Environmental engineers and manufacturers are working together to create stylish and eco-friendly products for savvy consumers using renewable or recycled sources. Look for products that are FSC certified, which means that the Forest Stewardship Council has verified that the producers are using forest resources responsibly.

Paints

The right color paint can dramatically change the look of a room; just make sure your paint isn’t making dramatic changes to your health as well. Did you know that traditional paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs)? These emit toxic chemicals into the air of the home, negatively affecting air quality. Now low-VOC and no-VOC paints are available. Benjamin Moore’s Natura line, is a budget-friendly option, and it’s available in a wide range of colors.

Flooring

The biggest element that sets a green home apart from a traditional home is the eco-friendly flooring. Unfortunately, many standard flooring options are not only environmentally harmful, but they contain toxic chemicals, which can be dangerous to your health. One of my favorite green flooring material is reclaimed wood. Floors that are made from boards that are saved from old barns, buildings, or logs not only look beautiful but also come with such a rich, vibrant history. Not to mention how well the material fits into our mantra of: recycle, reuse, or renewable.

Of course, you don’t have to reuse materials to keep your home green. Bamboo and cork flooring are increasingly popular materials with options that fit almost every budget.

Rugs

Did you know that wool is a natural fire retardant? That makes it a stylish and natural choice for a green home makeover. Wool also absorbs moisture and captures dust or pollen, which reduces the humidity and allergens in the air. Cotton or jute make good options as well. 

Keeping Your Green Home Clean

Once you’ve repainted your walls, replaced your furniture, and gone organic with your linens, you’ll still need to keep everything clean. And you should make sure that your cleaning efforts don’t interfere with your greening efforts. We suggest EcoSpirit all-natural cleaning products to keep your new home green and clean.

Share your new interior designs with us on Pinterest, Twitter, or Facebook. We’d love to see your before and after photos and hear what you’re doing to give your home a green makeover.  

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Benefits of Growing Native Plants

Spring and summer mean the long awaited return of plants, flowers, and green grass. Every day I try and spend a few minutes in nature, breathing in the fresh oxygen and enjoying the beautiful blooms and greenery.

So I was surprised to learn that many of the plants, flowers, and grass I enjoy on my daily walks are actually the source of unbalance to the biodiversity in our landscapes.

That’s because many of the flora and fauna we see everyday are not native to our region, which means they are disrupting animal life, and taxing the soil and sustaining resources they draw from.

Thousands of plant species have been brought to North America in the past three centuries. Most are well-behaved, rarely penetrating natural areas. Several hundred, however, have no natural controls here, and are able to out-compete and gradually displace our native plants, even deep in forests and undisturbed ecosystems. Variously called alien, introduced, or exotic, these non-natives are highly invasive.

Some of these plants were brought here intentionally, for their medicinal, ornamental, or food value. Others hid in soil, clothing, boots, crop seed, or ballast. Most came from other continents, but a few have spread from other parts of the US. In each region, different species are better adapted and therefore pose a greater threat.

Native plants, on the other hand, are low maintenance and require little to no special attention to thrive. They’re also resistant to disease and pests, which usually means no pesticides are required. Because they’re native to the region, they provide sustenance for local animal life like bees and pest-eating bugs.

Starting to incorporate native plants in small areas can lead to a patchwork of habitat that supports native biodiversity. In this way even adding a few native plants in a suburban yard can be part of restoring imperiled organisms and habitats.

Decorating with native plants indoors can also cut down on pollens that may be causing some allergies and allow you to breath easier.

It’s worth finding out more about native plants versus non-native plants so you can let your employer or building manager know about alternatives to current landscaping.

To find out about planting a native garden or landscaping your business or home you can contact your local garden center or nursery or visit Plant Native to see a list of hundreds of flowers, shrub, and trees that are native to the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania area.

What native plants have you found to replace non-native species? Send us photos of your favorites to our Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages.