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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Clean with lemon aids

Kitchen staples such as baking soda can make great cleaning agents that are also eco-friendly
The Straits Times - September 24, 2011
By: The Associated Press
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Clean with lemon aids Forget expensive cleaning agents. Household items such as vinegar and lemon can work as well too. -- PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Cleaning the bathroom can be daunting, even if you are armed with traditional cleaners laden with bleach and strong, but perhaps environmentally unfriendly, ingredients.

But what if you want to go green and still get the sink to sparkle? Start by stocking up on white vinegar and baking soda.

These two staples of the kitchen can help keep your bathroom clean in a way that is safe for the environment.

A little bit of chemistry helps explain why. 'Vinegar, because of its acidity, can be good for cleaning hard water and soap scum,' says Ms Rebecca Sutton, a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group, a public interest group devoted to protecting health and the environment.

Baking soda, on the other hand, is alkaline, says Annie B. Bond, author of books on green living, including Home Enlightenment. Mix it with some water to make a paste, and it can be used as a scrub. And do not forget the soap - a mild castile soap made from olive or vegetable oils.

Just as the move towards green in general is growing, so is the interest in green cleaning products, says Ms Urvashi Rangan, director of the consumer safety group for Consumer Reports. The number of products on the market has grown.

'Within what we have looked at, anecdotally speaking, we have seen some green cleaners start to perform better and better,' she says.

What makes a cleaner green? 'In my book, green has to be both good for health and the environment,' says Bond.

Many conventional cleaners can damage both, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It advises consumers to be alert for 'signal words' on labels. Among them: danger-poison, corrosive, severely irritating, highly flammable, highly combustible or strong sensitiser.

It recommends products that are biodegradable and solvent-free, have a bio base, such as pine or citrus, and are low in volatile organic compounds.

Ms Sutton cautions consumers to be alert for 'greenwashing', in which a company promotes the one green aspect of the product but does not give the full picture of other ingredients.

'A lot of folks, because of the quandary, are moving towards homemade cleaners - vinegar, baking soda, a lot of recipes you can find out online,' she says.

The effectiveness of these cleaners depends on the size or depth of the job. Some homemade bathroom-cleaning products are 'better suited for people who are not leaving the hard cleaning jobs until the last moment', says Ms Rangan.

Also, she adds, vinegar is 'not going to kill some of the bacteria you want to kill if, say, you had someone sick in the house'. Alcohol or hydrogen peroxide might better serve that purpose, and 'soap gets you a long way', she says.

'Stronger isn't necessarily better, and sterilisation and disinfection isn't always the goal,' she says. 'Know when you've got an issue going on.'



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