Make Your Own Household Cleaners
It’s easy to make your own cleaning products and you probably have the ingredients lying around your house already. Using only salt, white vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda, a variety of pastes, solutions, and scouring mixes can be made to clean tubs, sinks, floors, windows, countertops, and more. Find more cleaning recipes at The Daily Green (www.thedailygreen.com).
Mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and a liter of warm water. Squirt the solution using a spray bottle, then wipe the surface with a lint-free cloth or old cotton t-shirt to avoid streaking.
1. Drain Cleaner
Pour ½ cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by two cups of boiling water. If that doesn’t work, chase the baking soda with ½ cup of vinegar and cover tightly; the fizzing of the chemical reaction will break up the gunk. Then, flush everything out with 4L of water.
2. Ward Off Mosquitoes with Thai Lemongrass
Mosquito season is almost upon us, but that doesn’t mean you have to resort to harmful insecticides. Thai lemongrass (香茅草) can be raised as a houseplant and contains citronella, a natural and effective mosquito repellent. Available at most flower markets, the plant grows to be around 60cm tall and 40cm across. To use it, break off a stalk and peel away the outer leaves until you get to the scallion-like stem at the base. Bend the stem to loosen it, then rub it vigorously between your palms. When it becomes a pulpy mass, rub the juice thoroughly over exposed skin. The pulp can also be combined with alcohol in a spray bottle.
3. Ditch Paper Towels in Favor of Cloth
Not only are paper towels wasteful, they’re difficult to find in Beijing. Switch to cloth towels instead and save money in the process. Separate your cloth towels according to household use:
• Deep cleaning cloths: Buy a pack of anti-static microfiber cleaning cloths (available at major supermarket) for wiping up kitchen stains, drying dishes, cleaning mirrors, and shining surfaces.
• Kid cloths: Put your children’s old washcloths, burp cloths, and t-shirt rags into a basket, then let them use the napkins for anything they want – whether it’s household chores, cleaning up their messes, or helping around the kitchen.
• Miscellaneous cloths: These are generic cloths that can be used for everything else, such as wiping your hands in the kitchen and cleaning up messes that are too wet to waste a microfiber cloth on.
4. Clear the Air with Natural Fresheners
Many chemical air fresheners contain known carcinogens, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and toxins such as phthalate esters. To freshen up the house and safely get rid of odors, slice up ripe pineapples (two pineapples per room) and set them out for 24 hours to neutralize any smells, or combine a blend of essential oils and water into a spray bottle. Since oils separate easily, shake well before use and continue shaking as you spray around the house. Try the following recipes:
• Six drops of rosemary (迷迭香), six drops of grapefruit (柚子), four drops of lemon (柠檬), and 60ml of water. During cold andflu season, add two drops of eucalyptus oil (桉树油).
• Five drops of orange (橙子), two drops of cinnamon leaf (肉桂叶), and 120ml of water
• Fifty drops of lemon, 50 drops of pink grapefruit (粉红葡萄柚), 10 drops of red mandarin (桔子), 10 drops of patchouli (广霍香), and 120ml of water
These oils can be found on iHerb.com. Tip: To save on delivery fees and conserve energy on shipping, purchase in bulk with friends.
5. Neutralize Mold and Mildew with Vinegar
Mold and mildew are caused by fungi growth and can be dangerous to your family’s health. They tend to appear in shower stalls, cabinets under kitchen and bathroom sinks, and dank environments like basements. Luckily, white vinegar kills 82 percent of household mold strains. Simply put some in a spray bottle and spritz it over mold and mildew, then wipe off with a damp sponge. For mold and mildew that doesn’t respond to vinegar, use the following tea tree oil solution:
Tea Tree Oil Mold and Mildew Cleaner
Combine two cups of plain water and two teaspoons of tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the mold or mildew, then wait 30 minutes before wiping off. For large areas, use warm water and more tea tree oil. Dip a scrub brush into the liquid, and scrub well. Wear rubber gloves to avoid skin irritation. Other useful essential oils include cajeput, nialouli, thyme, and rosemary.
6. Launder Away Impurities
Most conventional laundry detergents are made with petroleum, a nonrenewable resource. It doesn’t biodegrade easily and threatens ecosystems after going down the drain. Many also contain chemical fragrances, phosphates, and known carcinogens. Instead, try soapnuts (RMB 55 for 500g at World Health Store), a fragrance-free natural surfactant suitable for sensitive skin. To use them, simply put three or four soap-nut shells into a sock or cloth tie bag, then insert directly into your washing machine. Once the load is done, take out the bag and let it dry; the same soapnuts can be reused for three or four more washes. Wash in warm water for maximum effectiveness. For cold water washes, soak the nuts in a bowl of hot water for ten minutes, then throw both the bag and the hot water into the washing machine, starting the cycle as usual.
7. Moisturize with Olive Oil
Dry skin is a chronic problem in Beijing and reliable commercial moisturizers aren’t always easy to find. Take a page from Mediterranean countries, where people have used olive oil for centuries as a skin moisturizer. Olive oil contains at least four different antioxidants and linoleic acid, a compound that prevents water from evaporating. It can also be used as an aftershave, cuticle moisturizer, or lip chap (simply mix olive oil and melted beeswax in a 1:1 ratio and add an essential oil for fragrance). If you’re lucky enough to have a bathtub, add a bit of olive oil into the water for a moisturizing soak.
8. Soothe Cuts and Scrapes with Folk Remedies
Cuts, scrapes, sores, and bruises are a common occurrence in households with small children and active teenagers. Next time there’s an accident, ditch the Neosporin in favor of easy folk remedies. Try honey for scrapes and larger cuts that don’t require medical attention; its antibacterial properties help prevent infection and speed up healing. Apply a dab directly to the wound, then cover with an airtight bandage. To get rid of scabs, combine a tablespoon of white vinegar and 2 cups of water, then soak the area. (Brace yourself: Vinegar stings!) Aloe vera is a time-tested remedy for burns and sores; break off a leaf and apply the sap directly to the wound. Repeat every few hours.
9. Zap Pimples with Herbs and Oatmeal
The bane of teenagers and young adults everywhere, pimples are an embarrassing – and sometimes painful – skin condition. Luckily, mild acne can be relieved with a number of natural remedies. Try the following fixes:
Oatmeal and Onion Puree Facial Mask
Boil 30ml of purified water. Pour over 3 tablespoons of plain oatmeal and allow to steep for five minutes. Finely grind a medium-sized, peeled white onion in a food processor to make a smooth puree. Add to the oatmeal while it’s still warm. If the mask isn’t thick enough to sit comfortably on your face, add some honey into the mix. This recipe makes about eight applications and can keep in the fridge for a week.
Organic Tea Tree Oil
Dilute the tea tree oil by soaking a cotton swab into the bottle, then dipping it into water. Spot treat acne blemishes, reapplying the oil up to three times per day.