Many toxic and harmful commercial cleaners, bug killers and weed killers can be replaced by less harmful products. Try these Household Solutions — they're not only easy on the environment, but safer for your family, and very inexpensive.
All Purpose Cleaners
- Mix 2 Tbsp. vinegar with 1 tsp. salt in 1 qt. warm water.
- Use water-based detergents or citrus-based products. Avoid products that contain methylene chloride. Don't use gasoline to clean auto parts. Gas contains benzene and is highly flammable. These are also cancer causing.
Toilet Bowl Cleaners
- Sprinkle baking soda around rim and scrub with toilet brush.
- Soap and hot water are sufficient for most household needs.
- Use 1/4 cup liquid chlorine bleach to kill germs on cutting boards; in the shower to prevent the spread of athlete's foot fungus; to prevent mold growth in damp areas.
- Hydrogen peroxide (3% solution) is effective against viruses.
- Pour 1/4 cup baking soda and then 1/2 cup white vinegar down the drain, let set, and then flush down with boiling water.
- Use a plumber's "snake" to open drains.
- Remember to put strainers on all drains.
- Do not use toxic copper sulfate-based root killers, use a plumber's "snake" instead.
- Repair or replace lateral sewer lines to prevent root entry.
- Use equal parts vegetable oil and white vinegar.
- Use small amount of mayonnaise on a soft cloth.
- For wood floors, use oil and vinegar in equal parts.
- Brass: mix 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 cup white vinegar with enough flour to make a paste. Apply thickly. Let sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with water to avoid corrosion.
- Copper: polish with a paste of lemon juice and salt.
- Silver: boil silver 3 minutes in 1 qt. water with 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt and a piece of aluminum foil. Or, rub silver with baking soda/water paste with a soft cloth; rinse and polish dry. Or, rub with toothpaste, rinse and dry with a soft cloth.
- Use detergents that do not contain phosphates and less polluting metals.
- Use 1/2 cup borax, washing soda or baking soda in wash load to reduce amount of detergent needed – helps soap work better.
- Bleach: use non-chlorine bleach or baking soda to whiten clothes or try using half the recommended amount of bleach and add 1/4 or 1/2 cup baking soda per load.
- Fabric softener — to freshen and soften natural-fiber clothing, add 1 cup vinegar or 1/4 cup baking soda during the final rinse.
- To reduce "static cling," line-dry clothes or remove from dryer when slightly damp.
- Introduce frogs, toads and lizards into your yard.
- Grow plants and flowers that attract beneficial insects such as green lacewings and lady bugs.
- Use less toxic products first:
— diatomateous earth and silica gel
— horticultural oil sprays
— insecticidal soaps
— biological pesticides
- For severe infestations, use less toxic insecticides such as pyrethrin insect growth regulators.
Slugs and Snails
- Use copper barrier stripping (2 inches wide or more) mounted around raised planting beds to protect plants. Snails won't cross copper. Be sure to capture all snails/slugs already in the area. Bend sharp edges under to protect children and pets.
Aphids and Mites
- Spray with insecticidal soap.
- Mix 1 Tbs. dish soap/detergent and 1 cup vegetable oil. Add 1 tsp. of this mixture to 1 cup water and spray on aphids and mites. Oil may harm cabbage family plants.
- Introduce green lacewings.
- Control ants at the same time if seen in aphid-infested areas.
- Don't fertilize with high nitrogen fertilizer in the early spring. Aphids love new growth. Use fish emulsion, a slow release fertilizer.
- Use boric acid baits or hydramethylnon, which are less toxic than arsenic. To prevent ants from climbing up plants, apply band to nursery tape, tin foil or plastic wrap around base of plant.
- Destroy nests with either boiling water, insecticidal soap, a pyrethrin solution or diatomaceous earth.
- Start a back yard compost pile or worm bin. Call the Monterey REgional Waste Management District at 384-5313 to learn how to get started.
- Use organic amendments such as peat moss, blood meal, bone meal, horn and hoof meal, manure, fish emulsion and seaweed.
- The improper disposal of household wastes can cause problems for the entire community. Wastes can be explosive or highly flammable. Sewers have exploded and garbage trucks have burned because people have carelessly discarded flammable or reactive wastes. Hazardous wastes can also be corrosive. The acid from discarded auto batteries can eat away many substances. Some wastes are poisonous to humans or wildlife, while others can cause cancer, birth defects or other serious medical problems.
- The Household Hazardous Waste Chart (PDF format) will guide you in disposing of potentially hazardous material around your home. You can display this chart in a convenient location for easy reference.
- Remember to never dump hazardous wastes on the ground, and always check this chart before pouring them down the drain. If you have any questions, please contact our Source Control Division at 883-1118 or 424-1108.
- Take the following to your local household hazardous waste recycling center free of charge (call for details, Monterey 384-5313 and Salinas 758-7295):
— motor oil
— used photographic fixer solutions
— paints and solvents
— wood preservatives and stains
— pesticides and weed killers
— acid and alkali cleaners
— car batteries
— household batteries
Used Oil and Oil Filters
- For information on how and where to dispose of used motor oil and oil filters, call 1-800-CLEANUP.
Water Softeners: Switch from Sodium
Please visit the Salt Reduction page.