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Avoid Toxins; Look to Your Pantry for Natural Cleaning Agents

Darla Antoine
11/10/13

It’s November and up north the leaves and/or the snow is falling, but down here in Costa Rica the rain has finally STOPPED pouring buckets.

Though we are still above the equator, Costa Rica is beginning to enter the dry season, also called summer here. June/July through October/November is the rainy season, or winter. We only have the two seasons, and each one lasts almost half the year. Similarly, you all just had daylight savings time end and the days are getting shorter. Here we have 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness every day of the year.

As the clouds are lifting and we’re beginning to see more of those 12 hours of daylight, we’re all starting to get the spring-cleaning bug. After several months of living mostly indoors, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start doing some deep sweeping, mopping, dusting and general tidying. And though I know most of my readers are just now beginning to hunker down for the winter, I thought you might want to do an early-winter cleaning. Get your house spic and span and totally prepared for the next four to six months of indoor living.

To add more even more pizazz to our winter cleaning spree, the following tips and methods are all based on natural cleaning products that you probably already have in your kitchen, because toxic cleaning agents are so last century.

White Vinegar
At $2-$3 a gallon, white vinegar is a fantastic tool to have in your kitchen arsenal. For mild cleaning projects you can simply mix 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of water in a spray bottle. Use this mixture to clean countertops, the shower, and even your hardwood floors.

For harder cleaning projects use the vinegar undiluted, straight from the jug. If your toilet or bathtub has rings in it, tackle them with undiluted vinegar. You could even soak your showerheads in vinegar to help dissolve calcium deposits. Finally, you can use 1 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle of your washing machine (instead of fabric softener) and in your dishwasher. The vinegar will help your glassware come out streak free and gleaming.

Baking Soda
Baking soda is a great home cleaner because it is mildly abrasive and has odor-eliminating super powers. Tackle those same rings in your toilet or bathtub with vinegar AND baking soda. Just sprinkle a little onto your sponge and scrub away. For tougher stains make a paste with baking soda and water and let it sit on the stains for a good 20 minutes.

Cream of Tartar
Until recently, I was completely unaware of the cleaning powers of cream of tartar. I thought it was just an ingredient with a funny name that I needed whenever I was making a merengue. But mix a little with some hot water and hydrogen peroxide and you can get rid of any stubborn stains or rust marks on your aluminum cookware. Mix it with lemon juice and revive your copper pans (or copper jewelry). And did you know that if you mix cream of tartar with baking soda you will get baking powder?!?

Rubbing Alcohol
Finally, mix 1 cup of water with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and say goodbye to Windex forever.

Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.

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