Americans Embracing 'Green' Cleaning

For some people, there is no question that using all-natural cleaners is worth a premium. One of Berman's customers, Constance Pond, a New York resident and mother of two sons, said at first she hired green cleaners because they were convenient and reliable. Since then, one of her sons has been diagnosed with autism, and now she says she can never revert to using a regular cleaning service.

"It is extremely important to me to limit the chemicals in my house, because my son tends to be more sensitive to chemicals," she said. "It's not even a problem to be in the house when they're cleaning because there are no toxic fumes or anything like that."

A Little Vinegar Goes a Long Way

If people have the time, there are also inexpensive ways to "eco-clean" your own home. Rangan points out that combining basic household items, such as white vinegar, baking soda, olive oil, borax, water and lemon, can work just as well as any premium-priced product.

"There's a little bit of science behind it so you're not just using lemon on everything," she said. "But making your own formulations is pretty easy."

Below are a few natural cleaning tips from GreenerChoice.org, an independent, nonprofit group that collaborates with the Consumer Policy Institute. A more complete list of cleaning formulations is available here: http://www.eco-labels.org/greenconsumers/products.cfm?product=greencleaning&page=RightChoices

Ovens: Mix one cup of baking soda and 1/4 cup of washing soda, then add enough water to make a paste; apply the paste to oven surfaces and let soak overnight. The next morning, lift off soda mixture and grime.

Tub and tile: Mix 1 2/3 cup of baking soda, 1/2 cup of liquid soap, and 1/2 of cup water. As the last step, add two tablespoons of vinegar (if you add the vinegar too early it will react with the baking soda.) Immediately apply, wipe and scrub.

Toilet bowl: Pour one cup of borax into the toilet before going to bed. In the morning, scrub and flush. For an extra-strength cleaner, add 1/4 cup of vinegar to the borax.

Furniture: Mix olive oil and vinegar in a one-to-one ratio and polish with a soft cloth.

Windows: Put three tablespoons of vinegar per one quart water in a spray bottle. For extra-dirty windows, try 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap, three tablespoons of vinegar, and two cups of water. Shake well.

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