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Be an Earth Hero by doing simple things

Published: Saturday, April 6, 2013 5:00 a.m. CDT

Now that spring is officially here, we all start to look at the interior of the home and windows for cleaning.

However, is there a way that we can do so such that the earth is not negatively impact by the chemical solvents that we use and dispose of? Let’s be Earth Heroes!

We can do the simplest of things to help the planet that has given us so much. Some things to consider are the proper disposal of hazardous materials and the use of alternative materials when completing our Spring cleaning. 

Hazardous materials are constants in our houses and as we use those cleaning products the fumes, discharge and effects are not only somewhat harmful to ourselves but to our planet as well. So in this month’s E-Corner, we will help by providing some keen insights and helpful alternative solutions for you to incorporate that will aid in our stewardships as residents of this planet.

Household Hazardous Waste (HHW):

According to the US EPA each person contributes about four pounds of HHW a year which would equate to about 530,000 tons/year. These materials can be incorrectly added to a landfill, or wrongfully enter into the waterways for the area via the drain or storm sewer. Car products, degreaser cleaning products, drain cleaners are a few of the items that are considered to be HHW.

How should it be managed?

• Purchase less toxic materials to accomplish the task and only the amount needed.

• Give away any leftover materials to friends or neighbors who may have a need for it.

• Take the materials to the nearest HHW facility for disposal. In our case, that would be the Naperville Fire Department. This facility, which is managed by the IEPA and the Fire Department, collects the materials and disposes of them properly, such that it is not harmful to the environment. In some cases they are able to recycle the materials.  

Common cleaning materials alternatives to HHW:

• Air fresheners: Exhaust fans may be used, or baking soda or vinegar may be used to deaden odors.

• Carpet and rug cleaners: Mix a cup of liquid detergent with 1 pint boiling waste and let cool. With an electric mixer whip into stiff foam and apply to carpet with a damp sponge. Work into section and then wipe off the suds with a clean cloth. To rinse add 1 cup of lukewarm water and rinse and wipe carpet as you go changing rinse water frequently.  Test cleaner on a test area before apply to ensure no discoloration to the carpet fibers.

• Ceramic tile cleaner: Pour ¼ cup of baking soda, a cup of white vinegar and 1 cup of ammonia into a bucket. Add one gallon warm water and stir until the baking soda is completely dissolved into the solution.

• Drain cleaners: Mix one cup of baking soda and one cup of salt with one cup of white vinegar and pour down the effected drain. Wait for 15 minutes for the solution to work. Flush the drain with boiling hot water and use a plunger if needed. 

• Floor wax strippers: To polish linoleum and vinyl floors without commercial wax, mix one part thick boiled starch with 1 part soap suds. Rub the mixture on the floor and polish dry with a clean soft dry cloth. To remove old wax pour a small amount of club soda on sections of the floor, scrub well and let soak for a few minutes, then wipe clean.

• Furniture polish: Use olive oil, lemon oil, beeswax or a mixture of beeswax and olive oil.

• Oven cleaners: Wiping away and grease and spills after each meal helps prevent further hardening of spillage in the oven. Wipe away any charred areas with a non-metallic bristle brush. Then remove the baked on grease with baking soda be careful not to let any of the baking soda to touch the heating elements.

• Metal cleaners:

Aluminum — solution of cream of tartar and water

Brass/bronze — lemon and baking soda or use vinegar and salt solution. 

Chrome — baby oil, vinegar, or aluminum foil shiny side out.

Copper — soak rag in boiling water with 1 tablespoon of salt and one cup of white vinegar. Add to the copper while hot, let cool and then wipe clean. For areas that are more tarnished, sprinkle baking soda or lemon juice on a soft cloth then wipe clean.

Gold — use toothpaste or a paste of salt, vinegar, and flour

Silver — pour water into an aluminum or enameled pan with aluminum foil covering the bottom. Fill such that the silver is covered 2-3 inches. Add one teaspoon salt and boil for 3 minutes. Remove silver, wash in soapy water and polish dry.

• Toilet bowl cleaners — mix ¼ cup of baking soda with 1 cup of white vinegar. Pour into basin and let set for a couple minutes. Scrub with a brush and flush.

• Tub and bathroom tile cleaner — rub baking soda into a damp sponge and rinse with fresh water. Tough jobs prewash with vinegar followed with baking soda as a scouring agent.

• Window cleaner — mix two teaspoons of white vinegar with a liter of warm water. Take crumbled newspaper or cotton cloth to clean. Only use the black and white newspapers.

So in the early summer months as you enjoy your clean home and gaze out those crystal clear windows, think of how you did so and protected the health of yourself and your planet. Great going Earth Heroes in Grundy County!

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