I've been buying for years a biodegradable concentrated household cleaner. One bottle lasts me about one year. It costs me about $ 15 and is diluted to different concentrations for diverse jobs around the house. This cleaner is good for the environment and it is also the only cleaner I need in my house. It is available in healthfood stores.
-- Angelika Thomas, Matteson, Ill.
I reuse dryer sheets several times in the dryer and after that, I use them to dust furniture.
-- Suzana, Indiana
Coming from the Philippines, being eco-friendly is a way of life; plain and simple. This way of life was handed to me by my grandparents and parents. I came here 29 years ago and was amazed how wasteful citizens of this country can be. We recycle at home with 3 blue-lined bins for papers, plastics/ glasses/bottles and aluminum cans. And my most recent way to help the environment is to re-use used fabric softeners. YES, re-use the used fabric softeners! I use them to remove/wipe dust, lint, hair, tiny dirt on the floors from living room to bedrooms, bathroom, corners, under the fridge, etc., instead of buying (which I used to) that "dry cloths" manufactured by big name household companies. In addition to leaving a mild scent to the newly wiped/cleaned area, I am able to save $2.59+ tax every two weeks by using the used fabric softeners this way (a savings of $60. +/year).
-- Delia Millanes-Quinain, Chicago
My environmental change was going back to good old bar soap. I eliminated liquid and shower cleaning cleaners, which comes in plastic bottles...Its cheaper and a lot less to recycle.
-- Donna Kowatch, Chicago
Ditch paper towels
To cut down on paper towel use, I bought microfiber cleaning cloths. Dampened, they are excellent for glass and countertops. They do not require cleaning chemicals, so I use those much less now. Newspapers work very well to clean windows, as does the old-fashioned squeegee.
-- Harriet Hopkins, Bourbonnais, Ill.
I once asked my mother what people did before paper towels, throw away dusters, etc. She said "We used rags." Use rags?? Yes. Old towels, t-shirts, dish towels all do the job and do it well. And the more they're washed, the better they get. If you're short on rags, buy some flour sack towels to start with...fantastic for cleaning glass with vinegar and water. And what about using cloth napkins??
-- Caroyn Bertagnoli, Chicago
Put your paper towels in a very inconvenient location and only use them under extraordinary circumstances. I use cotton kitchen towels for just about everything that a paper towel would be used for -- patting chickens dry, drying herbs, counter clean up when I don't use a sponge, etc. When they are semi-soiled, I cycle them to a hook under the sink and use them to wipe floor spills and other dirty tasks. Washing the towels as part of a large load eliminates all of those paper towels in land fills and saves money.
-- Carol A. Williams
I haven't purchased paper towels ever since I found large squares of white terry cloth "rags" in the automotive section of one of the mega stores. They look like cloths that are used to hand-dry and polish cars, but they are hemmed, extremely absorbent, and very inexpensive (about 34 cents apiece) and can be laundered (bleached, in case of staining). I use them for everything in the kitchen except drying rinsed meat, fish, and dishes. Saves a lot of trees.
-- No name
We almost never buy paper towels. Instead, I cut down old (discolored, shabby) towels or clothes and keep them on hand for cleaning up spills, washing windows, even use them as napkins. Aside from the cost-effectiveness of this method, the energy it takes to wash these is minimal and makes it me feel good to know we are not adding to the ongoing problem of waste disposal.
-- Joni Quinn, Evergreen Park, Ill.
Use old t-shirts as cleaning rags.
-- Sara Parvinian, Libertyville, Ill.
An indoor tip is to clean windows with tissue paper left over from gift boxes. I add 1/4 cup vinegar to 1 quart of water in a spray bottle and the results are spectacular. There is no fuzz or residue left on the windows from other materials such as cotton cloths.
-- Barbara L. Collins
My tip to live more greenly is simply this: vinegar. I dilute it by half, fill a spray bottle and use it as my all purpose cleaner including windows, mirrors, sinks, facets, the inside of the refrigerator and counter tops. I also add a generous splash to a bucket of warm water to quickly clean tile or vinyl floors. Other uses include cleaning my drains with straight vinegar and baking soda. (This combination also works to clean toilet bowls). Lastly, I occasionally rinse my hair with vinegar and water which will leave it shiny and free of product build up.
-- Jolene Brandt
Rather than clean with harsh chemicals every week, I wipe down the tub and shower walls with a sponge after every use to prevent 'rings,' wipe off the sink counter and faucet with a sponge after use, and use only baking soda or vinegar for thorough cleaning.
-- Jennifer Zinnecker, Naperville, Ill.
We have become much more aware of the dangerous chemicals found in everyday items such as soap, shampoos and household cleaners -- which pose dangers for people, pets and the environment. We have started using vinegar and baking soda for most of our cleaning, and are searching for good old-fashioned soap -- something without chemicals such as triclosan or sodium lauryl sulphate.
-- Marks Family
The best and cheapest cleaning ingredients for "green" cleaning sinks and tubs are vinegar and baking soda. Wet a sponge liberally with vinegar. Rub the sponge all over surface to be cleaned. (If it is "grimy", for example: kids have washed their dirty feet in the sink, you can actually feel it get slippery as the dirt loosens.) Sprinkle baking soda on the surface and scrub a little to mix the two. Rinse clean with water.
-- Sandy Schoephoester, Morton Grove, Ill.