Back to Basics Cleaning Blog

Natural cleaning and green living topics can be found just about everywhere these days. Visit our blog often for the latest news, tips, and advice on going green.

Gonzo Odor Eliminator/Air Freshener

I rented an apartment recently. The previous tenant was a longtime smoker. It seemed like the place was haunted by her Camels. Baking soda or vinegar

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Clean Candles

Melissa F. inquired, “Is there a clean/safe way to burn/make candles?”

Don’t you love to see the flickering of candlelight in any room? What you can't see when you burn those pretty scented candles is that you are releasing harmful pollutants and reducing the air quality in your home. Most scented candles on the market are paraffin-based, made from petroleum compounds, which release unhealthy chemicals and soot into our homes.

Candle wicks could also pose a problem if they have a metal-core, because they could release high levels of lead into the air and leave a harmful lead residue on every surface of your home.

Green Living Tip

The natural alternative is to burn either natural beeswax candles or vegetable-based soy candles. Either of these alternatives will spare you from showering your home with a nasty, sooty chemical residue. Soy candles are non-toxic, biodegradable and are a renewable resource. Beeswax may be a bit pricier, but just as easy on the environment. Purchase your candles from reputable sources, and buy 100-percent soy or 100 percent beeswax with cotton wicks, and enjoy the beautiful flickering light.

There are also many flameless (battery-operated) candles available now, some of which are scented. They can be purchased at many home stores and online. We like the flameless timer candles, which turn on and off at the same time every day!

Check out more info on candle safety here: Candle Safety

Here’s a link that gives great information on fire safety and how to choose safe candles: Fire Safety

And here’s a link to a Beeswax Candle project: Candle-making Project

Green Athletes Compete!

Do you want to get in the race to stop climate change? Sign up at Carbon Rally and compete against others to make simple lifestyle changes to save our planet. "Carbonrally is a web-based activism platform offering individuals and groups a fun, simple and social way to have a measurable impact on climate change." Take a challenge and find out how to reduce your carbon footprint!

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Showers of Dangerous Chemicals

If you're in the market for a new shower curtain, don't buy vinyl or PVC curtains or liners. The familiar strong plastic smell of new vinyl shower curtains is actually off-gassing of volatile organic compounds. These compounds have been shown to cause headaches and other respiratory problems. Harmful organotins and phthalates are released into the air and can cling to the dust in your home.

Green Living Tip

Target, Sears and Bed, Bath & Beyond have all vowed to phase out vinyl shower curtains that contain PVC.

To be absolutely sure your curtain is safe, find natural alternatives such as cotton, hemp or canvas. Avoid curtains that list "vinyl" or "pvc" or show a "3" in the recycling code. Follow the link below to read more about it.

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Natural Oven Cleaner

Aerosol oven cleaners contain some of the most toxic and dangerous chemicals on the market. Ethylene glycol, lye, methylene chloride, and petroleum distillates can cause lung irritation, and are corrosive to the eyes and skin. Check out the link below to see the hazards and some of the dangerous side effects.

So, give up your chemical oven cleaners, grab a good scrubbie, and try this natural alternative.

Green Living Tip

You will need:

  • Borax
  • distilled white vinegar
  • water
  • castile soap (can be found in your local health food store)
  • spray bottle

Mix two teaspoons of Borax, five tablespoons of white vinegar, two cups of warm water and an eighth of a cup of castile soap. Shake gently to dissolve the mixture.

Spray this cleaner on all four oven walls. Then, sprinkle the wet surface with baking soda and follow with a second spray of the cleaner. Let sit overnight and wipe clean in the morning.

Make sure to label this mixture if you plan to save it, and keep out of the reach of kids and pets.

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Report Confirms BPA Danger in Plastics

In a recent report, the National Toxicology Program acknowledged that BPA may cause health problems in humans with this statement, "The possibility that bisphenol-A may alter human development cannot be dismissed."

As a result, Playtex and Nalgene have announced that they will stop using BPA, and both WalMart and Toys R Us will stop selling these plastics in Canada, and by next year, in the U.S.

Green Living Tip

Until BPA is truly gone from store shelves, use the resource links found on this page to make sure that your plastics are BPA free!

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Safe Baby Plastics

This site has a great list of safe baby products!

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Dangerous Plastic Containers

There's been plenty of confusing information in the news about the safety of plastics. The chemicals used to manufacture some of the bottles and containers we use every day could be very harmful to our health.

Phthalates (pronounced thay-lates) and bisphenol-A (or BPA) are the main culprits. These chemicals have been linked to health problems because they mimic hormones and may damage reproductive organs. Long-term exposure to these dangerous chemicals could also cause heart, liver kidney and lung damage. Amazingly, BPA and phthalates are found in many of the plastic products that we use every day for food and water, including baby bottles!

Not all plastics are dangerous, however, there is no definitive way to tell whether your plastics are safe. Check the link below to get the full story, as well as a link to a handy guide on how to identify toxic plastic containers.

Green Living Tip

  • Unwrap all your store purchases and move them to glass or ceramic containers.
  • Don't reuse water bottles
  • Don't microwave food in plastic, especially for babies
  • Check and discard all plastic products used for babies that you can't verify
  • Don't reuse plastic water bottles.
  • Don't store food in plastic, and use glass whenever possible

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Practical green living tips at Lifehacker

"Lifehacker" is a great resource for all kinds of ideas and tips on how to get things done and streamline our busy lives. You'll find a wealth of techie stuff here, but there's so much more. For example, there's a tip which shows how to mulch your garden with shredded junk mail. There's also an "environment" page where you'll find practical ideas on how to green your life. My favorite tip here is on how to conserve water by not rinsing dishes before they go into the dishwasher. Don't you always feel like you have to rinse first? I did-but now I know I can just go to the dollar store to pick up an inexpensive food scraper tool. I bet my water bill goes down, too!

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