Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vodka Natural Disinfectant -- Natural Cleaning Product Review

Vodka, age-old Russian distilled spirits, which will burn your throat and warm your insides was first cultivated as medicine, and was used as one of the earliest disinfectants and antiseptics. Currently, crafted from a variety of grains and often aged in oaken barrels, centuries ago it was nicknamed "aquae vitae" or the water of life.

A Russian Treasure
Vodka, usually 37% alcohol, a longstanding, revered tradition in Russian culture and history, is more expensive than common chemical disinfectants, such as bleach, but it is completely biodegradable and quickly evaporates; and of course, it is edible/drinkable! Although I don't recommend drinking too much of it while you are cleaning or you may never finish your chores!

Cutting Boards, Counters and Cook-tops
For small jobs (such as a cutting board or counter) first wash with an all natural soap, rinse, then wipe down with vodka. This powerful combination acts as a totally natural disinfectant.

I first became aware of the handiness of having a large bottle of vodka around after enjoying a night at a Hibachi bar, where the chefs clean the grill-tops in between customers with a douse of vodka and a squeeze of fresh lemon .

This combo works great for range cook-tops, in particular. It really cuts through the grease! And I love the uplifting aroma of lemon!

It certainly makes for an enjoyable clean-up from a meal!

:) Take Care, GreenKeen aka Pamela Palmer

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hand Wash Dishes with Eco-friendly Efficiency

Manual Dish Washing Using Less Energy, Chemicals, and Water
Dish washing by hand is green and economical. Using biodegradable detergents adds benefits. Disinfecting your dishes protects you and your family in the 'flu Season.

Recently, there has been some confusion over the “greenness” and economy of manual handwashing of dishes vs. using a dishwasher. A study from the University of Bonn cites that the new high-efficiency dishwashers use less water than hand washing.

High-efficiency Dishwashers vs. Hand dish washing
The new high-efficiency dishwashers are certainly more green than older dishwashers, using on average only 4-8 gallons of water vs. the average 15 gallons of older dishwashers. High-efficiency dishwashers use 13-41% less energy, than dishwashers manufactured prior to 1990.

According to the University of Bonn study, high-efficiency dishwashers also use less water than hand washing dishes. The big caveat is though, how consumers in the study washed their dishes. Many of the consumers washed their dishes in a constant stream of water!

Hand washing using the method below uses less than ½ the water of even the “greenest” of dishwashers and saves almost all of the non-renewable energy:

Recipe for Hand Washing Dishes:
Add Hot Water 1/3 full in 2 plastic dishpans, approximately 2 quarts each.
In one, add 2 teaspoons of Dr. Bronner's Lavender Soap, (or other all natural liquid soap) for the wash water.

Note: Dr. Bronner's soaps, one of the oldest, most respected brands of all natural, organic soaps, are very versatile and can be used for face, body, hair care and cleaning. Lavender has long been known to be relaxing and has antibacterial qualities.

For an extra boost of cleaning power, add and mix until dissolved, 1 t. of borax and 1 t. of baking soda.

Note: Don't expect tons of suds. Suds do not need to be present for cleaning action! Most detergents have added chemical surfactants to create more suds for the visual effect not the cleaning power.

In the other dishpan, add 1/4 c. white vinegar for the rinse water.
Hand wash dishes using a scrubbie, replacing water only when it gets too dirty or cools. For dirtier yuk, scrub with more baking soda and borax. A good order is silverware, then cups, bowls/plates, then pots-n-pans.

Rinse all items in the "vinegar" rinse water, air dry in dish drainer. Do not rinse the vinegar off. It will evaporate, killing more germs as it does.

To make it a complete disinfectant, that has been proven to work equal to bleach, you can spray the dishes with 3% hydrogen-peroxide solution after the vinegar rinse. This is particularly helpful if you are cleaning up after raw meat or poultry.

Never directly mix vinegar and hydrogen-peroxide, as it cause a toxic poison, but spraying one after the other is fine, because they both evaporate quickly.

What is So Great About This System?
This system of manual dish washing uses a minimal amount of water, which is great for conservation. The cleaning detergent is totally biodegradable and won't hurt the environment, like the toxic chemicals in most detergents and cleaners.

The combination of all-natural soap, lavender, borax, baking soda, and vinegar with hot water works like a disinfectant and will kill almost all germs. Spraying hydrogen peroxide on the dish surfaces creates a complete non-toxic disinfectant, that will evaporate safely.

Keep hydrogen peroxide in an opaque spray bottle because it will lose its potency in prolonged light exposure.

This dishwashing system uses hand power and not electricity, which conserves non-renewable resources and money.

Other Tips and Tricks
Keep all the "nubs" from your all natural bar soaps and put in a scrubbie bag to use as a substitute to liquid dish detergent.

Use a recycled container for the baking soda/borax mix. Label the outside to avoid misuse.
After washing the dishes, add soap to the vinegar rinse water to reuse it for washing the sink, faucets, and counters. Finish the disinfection by spraying with hydrogen peroxide and let it evaporate.

Happy Greencleaning! --GreenKeen aka Pamela Palmer

Friday, February 26, 2010

Natural Biodegradable Disinfectants

The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA defines the legal, regulated term of disinfectant as a substance tested in an approved, scientific-method laboratory showing an effective kill within 10 minutes of household-representative microbes.

More Green Disinfectants Needed

All-natural and even homemade cleaners work great, smell great, and are healthy alternatives to the often toxic chemical cleaners, but most green cleaners are not rated as disinfectants by the EPA.

The biggest drawback for alternative natural disinfectants is the lack of evidence-based testing to prove their power compared to EPA-rated disinfectants. In 2000, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did a study which states that vinegar and baking soda each killed 90% of germs versus the 99.99% of EPA-approved disinfectants.

This study measured the kill-rate of baking soda and vinegar as separate substances after 30 seconds and 5 minutes. It did not test the combined kill rate of a 2-step disinfection process of cleaning with baking soda and then vinegar.

Also, this study did not test baking soda or vinegar after 10 minutes. In other studies some natural disinfectants have taken up to 10 minutes to kill organisms. Natural substances may work as disinfectants, but may work slower to equal the kill-rate of chemical disinfectants.

Even bleach, or sodium hypochlorite, in certain concentrations, kills 99.9% of microorganisms in 30 seconds, but still takes up to 10 minutes to kill resistant types of bacteria like MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant strain of staph.

EPA-Approved Natural Disinfectants

Benefect, the first completely botanical-derived, EPA-approved disinfectant, needs a kill time of 10 minutes for some of the organisms that Bleach kills almost on contact. Yet, on the up side, Benefect, derived from Thyme and citrus, is so non-toxic that you could drink it and not be harmed!

Staphacide, a recently-marketed disinfectant, with the lowest toxicity level for humans, formulated from ionized silver in a citric acid solution, has been rated to kill a broad spectrum of microbes, including MRSA. Staphacide kills most organisms faster than Benefect, but has not been proven to kill the variety of organisms that Bleach kills.

Bleach in Household Disinfection

For now, bleach is the least expensive, most widely available disinfectant with a fast and broad spectrum kill-rate. Benefect and Staphacide each cost approximately $40.00/gallon, compared to the bleach $2.00 or less per gallon cost.

Bleach for household disinfection should not be discounted completely by eco-conscious consumers. It is considered by the EPA as non-carcinogenic and non-toxic to the environment from household cleaning. It is the manufacturing of and industrial use of bleach that have come under fire as causes of environmental pollution.


There is a growing concern over the development of bacteria resistance to antibiotics and disinfectants. Bacteria may be less likely to build up resistance to natural disinfectants. The best bet in the war on harmful microorganisms will be the power of a combination of several natural substances versus the use of a one-dimensional disinfectant. There should further science-based research to confirm non-toxic combinations of known, natural, disinfecting substances to be developed as EPA-rated disinfectants derived from the abundant flora of our plentiful planet.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Soap Nuts: Biodegradable and Hypo-Allergenic: Independent Review of the Only Tree-Grown, Sustainable Soap

Soap Nuts are one of the Earth's truly sustainable natural soaps. Actually, a fruit containing saponins, a natural soap, that is harvested from trees in India and Nepal.

Sustainable and Biodegradable

Not only sustainable, but biodegradable, chemical-free, gentle, natural detergent—for your laundry detergent choice look no further than the humble Soap Nut. They can be purchased on-line from and other websites.

How to Use

They are very easy to use in your washing machine. Pop 3-4 soap nuts into one of the small cotton bags, also available at . Tie and toss into the washer; add clothes and water. Each of these bags of soap nuts can be reused for 4-5 loads, then can be disposed of in your compost pile. A second option, according to Erin Johnson, who co-owns with her husband, an online business that they run from their Melfort, Saskatchewan home in Canada, is to make liquid soap nuts laundry detergent outlined on her site.

You can also choose to add a 1/2 cup of borax or baking soda to the wash cycle to boost cleansing power or white vinegar to the rinse cycle, if you want greater germ-killing power. The soap nuts do not need to be used with any fabric softener, as they are naturally softening. Soap nuts are also exceptionally gentle, even on the most delicate of fabrics. And they are non-irritating, a wonderful perk for those with sensitive skin.

Do Soap Nuts Have a Fragrance?

The clean, fresh scent of Nature is the only "fragrance" that soap nuts have, which is often a plus for those with allergies. If you want to add fragrance, look for an all-natural, essential oil; a few drops into the wash or onto a clean rag tossed in your dryer will do the trick.

Soap Nuts and Dirty Jobs

When asked if soap nuts work with heavily-soiled items like dirty cloth diapers or a teenager's athletic socks, Erin, an experienced, young mom of one toddler in diapers, states that soap nuts work great to remove bad and musty smells. To disinfect and whiten though, you will need to add your choice of ½ cup of borax or hydrogen peroxide. She was amazed after starting to launder her daughter's dirty diapers with soap nuts at the natural clean smell (i.e. the lingering urine smell was gone). Another bonus was that the natural saponins in soap nuts worked to strip the old detergent residue from the cloth diapers, making them more absorbent again.

Soap Nuts and Your Conscience

Although some consumers are concerned with the energy costs of shipping products from the far corners of the world, harvesting and exporting Soap Nuts creates jobs for villagers in India and Nepal. These local co-ops provide sustainable, economic prosperity for local people. Often, the alternative is trees are cut down for a one-time use as fire wood.

The Nepalese supplier for has recently applied for a Fair Trade certification, a certification whereby local business co-ops in impoverished areas link with importers in developed countries to market their products at a fair price to enable their communities to prosper.

Soap Nuts might look a little funny, but let's not judge the "package from the outside" – they pack a powerful, all-natural option to the chemical, manufactured detergents polluting our bodies and water. Try some; you might just keep on "buying soap nuts"

--Pamela Palmer

Natural Cleaning Product Reviews:

Suite 101 Magazine Contributing Writer:

Women's Online Magazine Columnist
"Living Green Each Day"

The copyright of the article Soap Nuts: Biodegradable and Hypo-Allergenic in Green/Simple Living is owned by Pamela Palmer. Permission to republish Soap Nuts: Biodegradable and Hypo-Allergenic in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Salt | Natural Cleaning Product Review

Common Table Salt: A Cheap Clean!

I recently changed over to using only Sea Salt in my food prep. What do I do with all my old table salt? Use it to clean!!
Cleaning Uses
Salt has been used for thousands of years for cleaning and sanitizing. Although not a complete disinfectant, salt used in conjunction with soap or vinegar or lemon will kill most germs.

Salt is a safe, natural cleaning product easily combinable with other soaps and cleaners to sanitize. Sprinkle salt in your toilet bowl, squirt some Dr. Bronner's Lavender soap, scrub and flush--for a quick clean method.

I still remember helping my mom scour copper-bottom pots with a sprinkling of salt and vinegar to make them shine like new.

Safe for Environment

Common Table Salt is a naturally-occurring crystallized mineral (sodium chloride or NaC1) that scours surfaces when used dry or semi-dry as a scrub. It quickly dissolves in water and is safe for the environment when used in typical household amounts.


Refined Table salt costs around a dollar for a small container. Pure Sea Salt is almost twice as much. Still for a quick, natural cleaner/scrub it is a great choice.

My Take on Salt as a Household Cleaner? Thumbs Up!

Have a Great Natural Cleaning Day! --Pamela Palmer aka "Green Keen"