Clean Your Car the Green Way!

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We talk a lot about green house cleaning on this blog. It makes sense, since we are Asheville’s top source for environmentally friendly home cleaning services! We’ve written about green ways to keep your kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, and even your home electronics clean and organized. But there’s one topic we’ve never covered: green ways to clean your car.

It’s not technically part of your house, but your car is, for all intents and purposes, an extension of your home. You rely on it to get you, your family, and your stuff where you need to go, and you probably occupy it every day for at least an hour or two. You pack your groceries into it, you put your gym bag on the floor, and if you have kids, they probably eat French fries in the back seat. Sometimes.

With all that activity taking place in your vehicle, it can get pretty messy. It might even get dirty and smelly. And so of course, you clean it periodically. But are you treating your car with the same care as you do your living spaces when it comes to cleaning? There aren’t many green cleaning products on the market that are specifically made for use in or on automobiles, but it’s just as important to clean your car with non-toxic, environmentally friendly substances as it is your house. Maybe even more important, since everyone in the family spends time there in close quarters.

So here is a brief guide to cleaning your car the green way. You can get your car sparkling clean on the outside and spotlessly fresh on the inside without resorting to toxic chemicals that can harm your health and the environment!

Glass

Use a mixture of white vinegar and water to clean your windshield and windows on the inside of the car.  Mix equal parts in a spray bottle, and if you want, add a little cornstarch, which will scrub off grime without leaving a residue. You can also add a few drops of essential oil to mask the vinegar smell. (If you don’t add essential oils, the vinegar smell will still go away in a couple of hours if you leave the car doors open to allow air circulation.) Spray the solution on the glass surfaces and wait thirty seconds or so before wiping them with a lint-free cloth in a circular motion. This should give you a streak-free clean.

Upholstery and Floors

First, vacuum the floors and upholstery thoroughly. If you have any stains on your fabric upholstery or floor mats, you can tackle them with the same vinegar-and-water solution that you used on the glass surfaces. On leather or vinyl surfaces, toothpaste is a good stain remover.

Vinyl and Plastic Surfaces

Again with the vinegar-and-water mixture? I know, it’s kind of redundant, but vinegar is such a great, green cleaning solution, and it works on so many different types of surfaces. For your dashboard, console, cup holders, etc., use the vinegar spray, but this time instead of spraying it directly on the surface, spray it onto a cloth and then wipe down the surface. This will prevent moisture from seeping into nooks and crannies.

Odors

You have a couple of options when it comes to green solutions for odor control in your car. One is to make your own scented air freshener, using just water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. You can spray it on the floors and upholstery while you’re cleaning the car, or you can just keep a bottle in the car for regular use. Another method is to sprinkle baking soda on the seats and floor, leave it overnight, and vacuum it up in the morning. The baking soda will absorb any unpleasant odors.

Body

Here’s the fun part. Fill up a few buckets (four ought to do it for a sedan) with warm, soapy water. Use a plant-based soap with no bleach, no harsh additives, and no added enzymes. Apply the soapy water with a sponge made for washing cars, or you can use an old t-shirt. Just make sure that whatever you use is non-abrasive. Get all soapy and wet (don’t forget to get the car soapy and wet, too), and then empty your buckets, fill them again with clear water, and rinse!

Headlights

Toothpaste works great for cleaning dirty, cloudy headlight surfaces. And if you have an old toothbrush lying around, that will make a great abrasive tool to get dirt and gunk and dead insects off the headlights. (Just don’t use the toothbrush on any painted surfaces!)

And that’s it! We hope you found this guide helpful for cleaning your car the green way. We don’t clean cars, but we do clean houses! If you’re looking for a highly efficient, green house cleaning service in the Asheville NC area, drop us a line or give us a call at 828.505.7320.

 

Baby Safe Cleaning for the Green Home

Is your home blessed with a baby or small child? You'll want to know these easy tips for baby safe home cleaning!

Is your home blessed with a baby or small child? You'll want to know these easy tips for baby safe home cleaning!

If you have a baby or small children, or you’re expecting, or even if you have small people coming over to visit, it’s a good idea to take stock of the cleaning products you use in your home. Many (ok, most) commercial cleansers contain harsh, toxic chemicals that can be especially harmful for little ones. These chemicals are not limited to the active ingredients in the cleaning product; they may also include fragrances, color and preserving agents. The toxins may never cause any problems for adults, but can cause eczema, airway and eye irritation, poisoning and a litany of other known and unknown side effects. Certain industrial cleaners commonly used in schools are linked to an increased rate of asthma.

"Parents need to know that there can be a trade-off between a sterilized kitchen and their baby's health," says Sonya Lunder, MPH, a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C. And she’s not the only expert warning parents about the possible harmful side effects of harsh cleaning products. New research shows that developing immune systems are compromised by strict sterilization routines in the home.

So what can you do to ensure your home is a safe, non-toxic environment for infants and young children? First things first: If you do keep any commercial cleaning products in your home that may contain harmful ingredients, make sure they are stored out of reach of little hands. Put them in a high cabinet, or use cabinet locks if they are stored near to the ground. But it is probably a better idea to just ditch all of those products and use safer, and often cheaper, natural alternatives. When you mop the floor with a toxic product, the residue doesn’t really go away. That means crawling and toddling babies are very likely to come into contact with the toxins. So try these homemade cleaning agents instead:

  • Use baking soda and water to make a thick paste to clean grime and residue from your sink and shower. For lighter cleaning, you can just sprinkle a little baking soda on a damp sponge.

  • For toilet bowl cleaning, sprinkle a little baking soda around the inside of the bowl and scrub. Then add a half cup of white vinegar and let sit for a few minutes. (Don’t use too much baking soda, or you’ll get a toilet bowl volcano). After letting sit, scrub again and flush.

  • This vinegar and baking soda mixture is great for a lot of cleaning applications! The chemical reaction creates lots of little tiny bubbles that loosen dirt and other substances from the surface you are trying to clean. Try it on clogged drains as well!

  • For cleaning baby toys, pack-n-plays, high chair trays, etc., make a dilution of 1 part white vinegar to 1 part water and use a spray bottle to mist the target. Let the vinegar water solution sit on the object for ten minutes or so, then wipe with a damp sponge or cloth. The vinegar will kill germs and loosen dirt. (The vinegar smell will evaporate within an hour or two.)

  • Surprise! You can also use vinegar to clean your windows and mirrors!

  • Tea tree oil is antiseptic and antifungal. Use it to tackle mold and mildew in the bathroom!

As you can see, these safe, green cleaning alternatives can be made for just pennies, and will make your home a healthier place for you and your little ones.

8 Things You're Probably Forgetting to Clean

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"Out of sight, out of mind" goes the old proverb. This can be a good thing- like avoiding your ex when you are healing from the end of a relationship, or skipping the cookie aisle at the grocery store when you are trying to lose weight. Or, it can be a bad thing, like when your stack of work papers for the big deadline are hidden under a pile of junk mail.

In the context of a healthy home, there are many integral pieces that must, for various reasons, remain out of sight, but don't let that keep you from cleaning them. Here's a handy checklist of the eight most important things that need periodic or seasonal cleaning, that you are probably forgetting about. Print it out and hang it on your fridge or schedule a seasonal cleaning day in your calendar to address these sneaky "out of sight" tasks.

1. Your heating and air conditioning filters. In the off seasons, these could probably get by with just a vacuuming. But before the extreme temperatures kick in, be sure to replace the filters so that you and your family can breathe easy!

2. Your refrigerator coil. It can get pretty dusty back there! You want to pull out your fridge twice a year to clean all the fallen crumbs and morsels that can attract pests. While you're back there, clean the coil with a damp cloth (unplug the fridge first.) letting dust and cobwebs build up back there could pose a fire hazard. Bonus points if you clean the top of the fridge while you're at it!

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3. Your floor vents. Those floor vent covers let nice, warm air into your house in the winter, but they also let dirt, pet hair, and all kinds of grub in to your heating ducts. Vacuum these out at least four times a year. More if you have indoor pets. Your family's lungs will thank you!

4. Under the rugs. Another age old proverb! Even though you probably aren't "sweeping it under the rug", it can get dirty under there just from normal use. Twice a year (more if you have pets), roll up your area rugs and vacuum underneath.

5. Behind the toilet. If you're like most people, when you clean your toilet, you are probably only getting the bowl and the visible parts on the front and side of the column. The back of the toilet is nearly impossible to see, and kind of difficult to get to. But this is an area that should be cleaned regularly in order to prevent bacteria and odor buildup. Try doing it every second or third time you clean the bathroom, depending on how high-traffic the bathroom is.

6. The pantry. Two to three times a year, go through all of your pantry storage areas and throw out food that is past the expiration date. Then take everything out, dust the shelves or inside the cupboards, and reorganize the food. This is a good time to introduce airtight plastic containers for things like rice, pasta, oatmeal and other foodstuffs that attract pests. (Pro Tip: use square, stackable containers for more economical use of space.)

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7. The oven and range. At least twice a year, pull your oven out and clean the floor and walls around it. Take your drip pans out and scrub them (or replace if needed.) Clean the grease and dust that has probably collected on the hood, especially the parts you can't normally see. Finally, clean the inside of the oven.

8. Your kitchen cabinets. Spiders love to make their homes here. And dust can be a problem, as well. Twice a year or so, take all of the dishes, glasses and cookware out of your cabinets and vacuum. Then clean the shelves with a vinegar-water solution if necessary.


Hope this checklist helps you to keep your home clean, green and healthy! (Even the parts you don't see.)