Your house can be clean and smell fresh without the harsh chemical cleaners that most of us have in the cupboard under the sink. Homemade green cleaners are the topic of a workshop March 25 presented by Bluegrass Greensource.
It’s part of a series called Green Living Lab, designed to teach specific environmentally friendly skills including sustainable cooking, starting native plants from seed, creating monarch butterfly way stations, litter abatement, traditional composting and vermicomposting, which uses worms to recycle food scraps and other organic material into a soil amendment called vermicompost.
Green cleaning tips are designed to both save money and use more natural ingredients that most people already have in their pantry, including vinegar, baking soda, salt and borax, said Deb Larkin, a Greensource environmental educator who will teach the class.
“This is not claiming to be a workshop on organic cleaners, but to be as green as possible,” Larkin said.
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These are typically how homemakers cleaned their homes generations ago, when store shelves weren’t lined with an array of cleaners tailored to home tasks: polishing wood furniture, cleaning countertops, disinfecting toilet bowls and removing a ring around the bathtub.
“People used what they had. Those cleaners were effective, less harsh on the skin and less damaging to the environment, ” said Larkin, who grew up seeing her grandmother use many of the cleaners she will teach about in the workshop.
For sparkling windows, workshop participants will make a window cleaner using borax, white vinegar and baking soda.
To clean tile floors, Larkin whips up a solution of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and tea tree essential oil. “Tea tree oil is a powerful antiseptic that is a fungicide and kills bacterial spores,” she said.
For cleaning and polishing wood floors, she blends vegetable oil, melted beeswax and seven essential oils.
Essential oils are natural substances found in plants. The oils are highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way.
Most essential oils are natural disinfectants, Larkin said. Some of the strongest are bergamot, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, lime, niaouli, orange, pine, rosemary, tea tree and thyme.
They can be used in diffusers to kill airborne germs. Or put seven drops in one cup of warm water to wipe down surfaces in the bathroom and kitchen.
Larkin makes a natural hand sanitizer with witchhazel, liquid aloe vera, vitamin E and an essential oil. “It doesn’t dry out your hands, and you know what’s in it,” she said.
She’s is an experienced environmental educator who teaches students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade in several Central Kentucky counties. Before working for Greensource, she was the herbalist at Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill.
You might ask, isn’t it enough to have to clean your house without having to first make the cleaner? Larkin said that when you make your own household cleaners, “You’re using ingredients you have in your house, so it’s saving money. And then you know exactly what is in the product.”
When presenting classes to adults, she is frequently asked about the chemicals in household products. “These are people concerned about what comes in contact with their skin, what the impact is on their home environment and the impact on the environment at large,” she said.
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