Frugal Tips, Safe Cleaning

My 3 Favorite Green Finds

If I had to choose one green item to take with me to a desert island, I’d choose white vinegar. My kids joke that our house runs on vinegar, because we use it for cleaning, as a fabric softener, to unclog drains (with my second favorite green item, baking soda), as a mild disinfectant and probably several other things that escape me at the moment.

It’s wonderful for removing that overpowering smell you get from new clothes. It cuts down on static cling and wrinkles if you put it in the final rinse in your washer. It removes the smell of smoke from clothes, curtains and even hair, although we use apple cider vinegar as a hair rinse and detangler.

There’s nothing better than vinegar for washing windows and getting greasy counters clean. Put a handful of baking soda in your drain, add a cup or two of vinegar all at once, and you get a mini-Vesuvius that powers away clogs and soap scum.

Next to vinegar, I’d have to opt for baking soda as a favorite green find. It’s as good as scouring powder for getting soap scum off the tub without scratching. Put it in your water-pic and/or brush your teeth with it. (I add a drop or two of peppermint oil for flavoring.) Put it in the tub to soften the water. Use it as a poultice for insect bites and stings. You can even throw it on a grease fire to smother the flames.

Third on my list of green essentials is Sal Suds. I use Dr. Bronner’s brand and I use it for everything. My son even used it to remove permanent ink from a rug. It’s dandy for deodorizing and cleaning stinky things like diaper pails and cat boxes (after you tip out the litter and any resident cats, of course) and great for toilet bowls. We leave some in overnight, brush and flush the next morning, and avoid the buildup that our hard water causes.

Because we don’t use bleach, we pour a capful of Sal Suds into the whites every so often and it works just as well at getting the gray out. It cleans our wood floors, painted walls, and everything else that’s washable. It is strong, though, so it might be a good idea to wear rubber gloves. I don’t, but I do rinse my hands well afterwards.

So those are my three green stalwarts. There are other things like liquid castile soap and essential oils that are part of my green toolkit, but they’re minor players. The big three take care of 90% of the household cleaning and maintenance chez Hawkins. Best of all, they’re really inexpensive, which is part of being green to me. If it doesn’t save money as well as save the earth, it’s not really green.

Safe Cleaning

6 Embarrassing Items You Should Never Leave Off Your Cleaning Checklist

Like most people nowadays, you probably worry about germs and carry hand sanitizer with you. And most of us would say we’re pretty good about keeping ourselves and our environment clean. All those commercials about antibacterial wipes and cleaners have most people convinced that they’ll get some dread disease from their counters or poison their family if they don’t use them. It’s not true, but it’s scary. The irony is, I’d be willing to bet that there are several very dirty objects that you and your family touch everyday, without even being aware of it.


EarringsDo you have pierced ears? Do you wear posts? Do you take them out everyday and clean them with peroxide? If, like many women, you wear the same post earrings for long periods of time, take them out right now and look at them. Chances are, they’re covered with skin oil, cosmetics, shampoo, soap and unidentifiable gunk. Soak them in some peroxide while you read the rest of this article.


RingsWhile we’re on the subject of jewelry, check out your rings. Look at the area around the prongs and anywhere there’s an opening. Again, most rings that are worn daily have a residue of skin oil, cosmetics and dirt that builds up in spite of the many times you put your hands in water everyday. How this fails to wash off is a mystery, but it doesn’t. However, inexpensive jewelry cleaner can clean rings, earrings and bracelets too, for that matter.


EyeglassesWear glasses? Clean them with that spray cleaner? Look at the hinge areas and in between the lenses and the frames. Nose pieces are very hard to clean without soaking and quick to accumulate grime. This is why just spraying them with lens cleaner won’t keep them clean. At least once a week, you should soak them in mild dish detergent and water. (Warning! Check with your optician first if you have coated lenses. Some of them need a special cleaner.)


WatchesThe back of your watch face and band pick up skin oil and dirt. If it’s a metal band, clean it gently with a non-abrasive cloth and jewelry cleaner that’s safe for metals. If it’s a leather band, use a vegetable-based soap or saddle soap. For plastic bands, dish detergent and water are fine.

Car Door Opener

Car Door OpenerMost of us use one of those plastic key fob door openers. One tap of our thumb and the lights flash, the horn beeps and the car is locked. Of course, our thumbs also deposit oil and dirt on the fob and how often do we really look at the thing? Like many items that we use several times a day, key fobs don’t really register on our “dirt” radar. They’re so much a part of our lives that we just don’t notice them anymore. Swipe yours with a cloth dampened with a gentle cleaner or a wet wipe, but make sure you don’t get liquid inside it.

Cosmetic bottles

Cosmetic bottlesThey’re not technically fashion accessories, but you probably use them everyday. They’re the pump or spray bottles on your dresser or your bathroom vanity and they’re usually covered with a film of product that attracts dust. Wipe them with a damp cloth once a week or so and don’t forget the cosmetics in your purse. Compacts, lipsticks and other cosmetic containers pick up all kinds of residue, which is why it’s a good idea to keep them in a little plastic cosmetic purse you can wash once in awhile.

Routine maintenance of all these little overlooked things doesn’t take all that long. You can do it every Saturday morning or in a few minutes, one evening a week before you go to bed. Not only will you cut down on germs, you’ll prevent the embarrassment of having someone else notice your dirty little secret before you do