Swap Out Commercial Cleaners for DIY All-Natural Alternatives

Before you roll-up your sleeves and get down to a good, deep cleanse around the house, let’s talk about the type of cleaners you’re using. When you walk down the cleaning products aisle, the labels call out with powerful statements about killing bacteria and viruses. Other bottles claim to root out mold and demolish mildew or give your windows a streak-free shine. Sounds good, right? 

What if I told you there’s something better? Something safer. Something that will deep clean and leave behind a fresh scent without chemical components. Even better, what if I told you that it’s something you could make on your own? Here are 5 do-it-yourself cleaners that will be good for the environment, good for you, and good for your wallet

The basics: 

When you’re making out your shopping list, you’re going to want to stock up on white vinegar, baking soda, tea-tree oil, and lemons. These simple ingredients are powerhouse natural cleaners. As you dig into the recipes here or find others to experiment with online, you’ll quickly learn that at least one of these basics is a component you’re going to need. 

1. Glass cleaner

Grab a spray bottle and add two cups of water to it. Combine ½ cup of white vinegar, ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol, and a few drops of your favorite scented essential oil. I recommend trying a citrus scented oil or peppermint. Shake the spray bottle gently to combine the ingredients. Spray the solution on a microfiber cloth and apply it to your window or mirror to clean. 

2. All-purpose cleaner

You’re not going to want to use this one on your windows, but everything else is fair game. Combine ¾ cup of water with ½ cup of rubbing alcohol and a squirt of natural dish soap. Add the same essential oil you used to clean your windows. You can combine these in another squirt bottle for easy application. 

3. Removing mold and mildew

Tea-tree oil is a natural disinfectant and one you ought to keep around the house for a myriad of uses. One task ideal for tea-tree oil is banishing mold and mildew. Add a couple of teaspoons of the oil to 2 cups of water and spray the mixture on the area you wish to clean. You’re going to want to let it sit – the more deeply rooted the mold and mildew, the longer you want to leave it. When you’re ready to remove the cleaner, apply some baking soda. If you’re working on a vertical surface, you may need to make the baking soda into a thick paste with a bit of water. If you’ve cleaned a horizontal service and the tea-tree treated water is still pooled there, just sprinkle enough baking soda to form a paste. Using a small brush, scrub the area gently and then rinse. For tougher stained grout and tile, try using some peroxide, either on its own or in a paste with baking soda. Apply, let sit, and then scrub as needed.

4. Garbage disposal

If you’ve got a garage disposal that smells a little funky, there’s a natural freshen-up for that, too. The next time you’re enjoying an orange or using lemon in a dish, save the peels. Fill an ice cube tray with them and top each cube off with white vinegar. For an added aromatic boost, throw in sprigs of fresh herbs like rosemary or lavender. When you want to freshen things up, toss in a frozen cube and turn on the garbage disposal.

5. Wood polish

Treat your wooden furniture to a natural clean with a few items from your kitchen. Combine the juice of one lemon with a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of grapeseed or olive oil in a small jar. Seal the jar tightly and shake the ingredients until they emulsify. Using a clean cloth, apply the mixture to your furniture.

by Anjie Cho


Greenwashing and How to Avoid It

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With the increased focus worldwide on taking better care of our planet and preserving our natural resources, marketing campaigns have started to focus on sustainability as a selling point in many fields. This is an awesome move if the company really is an active advocate for preserving water, energy and the like; however, many times companies toss a green marketing claim to consumers based on little to no actual action. Customers who fall for these claims and purchase advertised products from companies who aren't actually green are doing little to help save our planet and, in reality, may be unwillingly doing more harm than good. We call this "greenwashing."

Fortunately, greenwashing is a villain that can be stopped relatively easily if consumers are careful and pay close attention to products they purchase. The most accurate way to avoid being greenwashed is to properly research "green" products before purchasing. If your favorite detergent company has just launched a green cleaner, take the time to check facts about what exactly makes this new detergent qualify as green.

On this same note, avoiding greenwashing is about more than just ensuring that you buy holistic products. The idea behind going green requires that we do everything in our power to reduce the carbon footprint each of us leaves on the world. In this way, we can directly save many of the non-renewable resources we're currently flying through. That said, even if a product really is "green" on the consumer side, if the company is required to use more energy and produce more waste in order to create the product, perhaps promoting its production isn't the best thing for our planet. Just like you research your products, research the companies who make them. Are they really following a green initiative or just trying to make a buck off the good efforts of others?

I'm very happy to see the overwhelming number of new environmentally friendly options on the market, but remember the reason for these products. If we aren't actually conserving the earth's resources, perhaps these campaigns are less "green" and more "greenwash."

by Anjie Cho


5 Ways to Add More Relaxation to Your Home

After a day jam-packed with full-speed busyness, (and let’s face it, for most of us that’s pretty much a normal day), slipping your shoes off and melting into your favorite, comfy spot at home is likely high on your evening to-do list. That is, until you get home and that transition from ‘doing’ to ‘unwinding’ isn’t as smooth as you’d hoped. Don’t give up. Try these five simple steps to convert your home into a more serene, relaxing sanctuary.

Dedicate a space.

There are areas of your home that are ideal for work and for play. Set aside a space dedicated to relaxing, too. It doesn’t have to be an entire room. Create a nook or corner dedicated to relaxation. Folding screens can help differentiate the space from the rest of the room. If a good book is your ideal way to unwind, add comfortable seating, a shelf of books or a small table to hold your current reads, and proper lighting to the space. If music or movies are more your style, design your space accordingly.

Get organized

It’s hard to relax amidst clutter. Set-aside some time to organize and properly store your stuff. Look for storage solutions that complement your personal style. Look for baskets, bins and other containers that work as décor accents, as well as functional pieces. 

Light matters

Sunlight is a natural pick-me-up, but too much can be more stimulating than calming. Use light filtering shades for some privacy, as well as to create a softer, more tranquil effect. In the evening, use dimmer lights and candles to create a spa-like ambiance. As an added bonus, use a lavender scented candle to help promote relaxation. 

Colors count

Bright colors energize; soft, earth-toned shades soothe. If you’re looking to add more peacefulness to your home, incorporate tranquil blues, greens, and neutrals like gray, tans and white into your sanctuary spaces. Keep this in mind when you’re looking for accessories, too. Whether that peaceful space is a nook or whole room, stick with serene hues for your furniture, pillows, rugs and other accents.

Unplug

Your dedicated downtime space should be free of high-tech distraction. Learn to leave the phone, tablet and laptop aside. That reading nook we talked about above should be device-free to eliminate the urge to check your email just one more time or to count how many likes your last Instagram post garnered.  

Above all else, make your space yours. The best way to relax and unwind is to create a space that you feel most comfortable in.

by Anjie Cho


Non-Toxic Cleaning Products

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No doubt the reasons for purchasing highly advertised and recommended cleaning products are almost all, if not entirely, based on the goal of keeping your home clean so that your family can live a long, healthy life. Unfortunately, purchasing these chemical agents most often accomplishes exactly the opposite effect, filling households with tainted air supply and ultimately resulting in a plethora of health issues including, but certainly not limited to, asthma, allergies, eye irritation and nausea.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has noted that indoor air quality (IAQ) can be anywhere from two to five times as polluted as the air we breathe outside. This is due to a range of factors including chemicals in decorating materials (like paint) and highly toxic cleaning agents. Store-bought cleaning products come with a laundry list of hard-to-pronounce chemicals, all of which you repeatedly release into your family’s internal atmosphere every time you use them to provide a “clean” environment. Fortunately, it’s perfectly possible to do away with these cleaning materials once and for all and still rest easy in a clean, non-toxic home

Switching to homemade, non-toxic cleaning supplies is as easy as looking up time-tested recipes online or in books and committing to using these substances in place of toxic agents. The best part? A healthier family isn’t the only positive outcome to making this change. Eliminating toxic cleaning supplies from your home is also a great way to ensure that children don’t accidentally come into contact with these harmful materials, whether snooping around in cabinets or lovingly offering “help” during cleaning times.

Aside from creating an all-around healthier living environment for you and your family, going green and non-toxic in the area of cleaning can save money by a long shot. Rather than paying per bottle for toxic concoctions, there are numerous ways to combine safe, cheap, regular household chemicals to create non-toxic cleaning supplies for your home, and many of these substances can be purchased for pennies on the dollar, especially in bulk. Not to mention many of these products also have other uses in the home, from laundry detergent to cooking to more.

On a global scale, reducing the use of toxic chemicals in your home also increases the quality of the outdoor environment as well as the amount of safe drinking water available to our population. When you use toxic cleaners, chemicals are released into the air, and though they most immediately pollute indoor air, they eventually make their way outdoors and, ultimately, into the ozone. Pouring chemicals into drains and washing them away results directly in pollution of the water supply we use for safe use and consumption, thereby reducing the already tiny 1% we have for use.

by Anjie Cho


Wallpaper: Why It’s Hot Again and How to Hang It

image credit:  Hygge & West

image credit: Hygge & West

No longer a bad word, wallpaper is cool again. But, this is not the drab wallpaper of 1970. Thanks to popular interior design TV shows and design-inspired communities like Etsy, wallpaper has been resuscitated and transformed. 

With its new, design-friendly reputation, today’s wallpaper breathes fresh personality into rooms with natural themes, bold graphics, and unique patterns. Most importantly, it’s being used in new ways - and it’s being applied sparingly. 

Today, wallpaper is hung to create accent walls, dramatic borders, or unique backsplashes. And you’ll find it in unpredictable places, lining the inside of closets or bookcases. 

Here’s how to hang wallpaper if you’re in a DIY state of mind:

1) Pick a single wall and an easy-to-apply wallpaper.

For first-timers, turn a single wall into an accent wall. If it’s a patterned wallpaper, pick a pattern that’s easy to match up. To make the project even easier, pick heavier papers, which are easier to handle.

2) Clean wall and apply primer.

Wipe down the wall with a rag and warm water. When dry, apply a coat of wallpaper primer to the wall to ensure the paper adheres well. Allow the primer to dry.

3) Measure wall and draw a centered plumb line.

Measure the wall’s height and width, and then mark the wall’s center. Use a level to draw a plumb, vertical line through the center mark for plumb wallpaper panels.

4) Align your pattern and trim bottoms.

Side-by-side, unroll two rolls and align patterns. Mark the bottom, adding a 4-inch margin, where you’d like it to end. Use a straight edge to trim all bottoms. 

5) Measure, mark and trim tops.

Measure wall height and use straight edge to mark and trim the top. On the back of the roll, write a “T” to indicate the top. 

6) Prep the paper.

Lay a roll face down. If pre-pasted, moisten back of roll with a damp sponge. If not pre-pasted, apply paste evenly to the back of the roll. 

7) Book the wallpaper. 

Without creasing, gently fold both ends of the roll to meet in the middle – paste side in. This is known as “booking.” Let the strip of paper rest for the amount of time recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions (usually about 10 minutes).

8) Hang wallpaper ceiling to floor. 

Unfold the top half of a “book” and align a side to the plumb line. Gently apply to the wall, top to bottom, with a smoothing tool. Unfold the bottom half and smooth against the wall. 

9) Trim bottom. 

Hold a straight edge against the bottom of the wall or baseboard. Use the straight edge as a guide while you carefully trim the excess paper with a utility knife.

10) Wipe with a damp sponge. 

Smooth from top to bottom, and from the center outward, with a slightly damp sponge. This will smooth out any air bubbles and wipe away excess adhesive.

11) Hang another piece of wallpaper. 

Unfold the top half and align the side to the paper on the wall. Edges should touch, but not overlap. Be sure the patterns align as desired. Apply to the wall and repeat until done.

You can have a stunning, wallpapered accent wall easily. But, take your time and don’t rush!

by Anjie Cho