Earth Day Plea: Clean Not Your Homes with Poisons

Quezon City – Earth Day is in the air and the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network promoting sustainable consumption and chemical safety, has come up with practical tips for cleaning our homes without poisoning our bodies and the environment.

To mark the 40th year of the Earth Day on April 22, the largely women member groups of the EcoWaste Coalition organized a unique demonstration project on simple, non-toxic, Pinoy-flavored recipes for keeping our homes clean.

Held today at the vicinity of Nepa Q-Mart in Quezon City, the EcoWaste women showed how consumers can remove dust and dirt particles, get rid of foul odors and deal with household pests minus the use of synthetic chemicals.

“Our growing dependence on chemical-based household cleaners is exposing our families, particularly the children, to a cocktail of toxic fumes and substances, many of which have been tested and proven to cause serious health effects on humans and animals,” said Eileen Sison, NGO Representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

Chemicals commonly found in household cleaners, such as ethylene glycol butyl ether, ethoxylated nonylphenol, methylene chloride, naphthalene, paradichlorobenzene, silica, toluene, trisodium nitrilotriacetate and xylene, are classified as known or suspected carcinogens, endocrine disrupters or reproductive toxins.

“To make matters worse, many of these household cleaners are not properly labeled to provide full disclosure of their chemical content, or their toxic elements are buried under generic terms such as fragrance, dye and surfactant,” said Sison, adding that “in most cases, such products are not eco-friendly.”

“We therefore recommend that we return to the basics, that we detoxify and clean our homes the natural way, to keep our families safe from unnecessary toxic exposures as well as reduce chemical releases into the air and water that could harm not only humans, but also fish and other aquatic organisms,” she added.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited six reasons why it is essential for the Filipino family to switch to non-toxic cleaners, namely:

– to reduce indoor air pollution that is often ignored,

– to reduce human exposure to toxins that can trigger or aggravate diseases,

– to reduce household hazardous solid and liquid waste from being created and disposed of into the environment,

– to reduce environmental pollutants, including greenhouse gases, with the non-use of petroleum and chlorine-based cleaners,

– to reduce market demand for toxic cleaning agents and solutions, and

– to reduce cleaning and maintenance costs.

With inputs from its members, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with “Ligtas Linis” household cleaning tips that incorporate helpful hints from our “lolas,” no frills ideas from Zero Waste advocates, and adoptable suggestions from other sources.

Among the groups who contributed ideas towards non-toxic household cleaning and maintenance were Arugaan, Buklod Tao, Citizens’ Organization Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Stage Filipinas-Maskara, Institute for the Development of Educational and Ecological Alternatives, Krusada sa Kalikasan, SALIKA, Sining Yapak and Zero Waste Philippines.

Among the almost 50 non-toxic as well as cost-cutting “Ligtas Linis” tips are the do it yourself baking soda-based multi-purpose cleaner, sabila (aloe vera) as air freshener, “is-is” leaves for removing char in pots and pans, pineapple peels to clean tiles, banana leaves for polishing wooden floors sans the turpentine smell, toothpaste as silver cleaner, damp newspaper for cleaning glasswindows, malvarosa plant to repel mosquitoes, laurel (bay leaves) to drive away ants, and vinegar as fabric conditioner and chlorine bleach substitute.

“As we mark the Earth Day, we encourage every Filipino home to try and adopt non-toxic household cleaning and maintenance options. Let a safe and healthy home be our shared contribution towards a sustainable future for all,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.



I. General Cleaning:

1. Segregate your discards to make reuse, recycling and composting at home easy.
2. Do not throw hazardous discards into the sink, canal or the rubbish bin.
3. Create your own multi-purpose cleaner by dissolving 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart warm water. Spray or apply with sponge or rag and wipe clean.

II. Cleaning the Air:

1. Make your home a non-smoking zone.
2. Find the sources of unpleasant smells and get rid of them.
3. Keep the air quality pure and clean with the help of house plants.
4. Ensure that all sections of the house are clean and well-ventilated.
5. Refrain from using synthetic fragrances, air fresheners or deodorizers.
6. Place “sabila” (aloe vera) in the rooms to absorb toxins and freshen the air.
7. In a pot over low heat, simmer slices of calamansi or lemon or any citrus in season such as dalandan to rid the air of a stale smell.
8. Leave 2 tablespoons baking soda on a dish to keep obnoxious odors away.
9. Create potpourri from available herbs, spices and indigenous flowers to serve as air freshener.

III. Floor Cleaning:

1. Sweep the floor with “walis tambo” (broom). Save electricity; use the vacuum cleaner sparingly.
2. Do not hose down the garage, sidewalk or street. Conserve water; use the “walis tingting” (broomstick).
3. For tile and linoleum floors, combine ½ to 1 cup vinegar and 1 gallon hot water. Apply on the floor and mop clean.
4. Polish wooden floors with banana leaves. They will turn up shiny, but minus the turpentine smell.
5. To remove stubborn stains from the floor, mix 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water, apply, let stand, scrub and wipe clean.

IV. Kitchen Cleaning:

1. Soak fruits and vegetables thoroughly in a basin to remove chemical residues and use the wastewater to water plants.
2. Use “hugas bigas” (rice water) to clean soiled plates and glasses before washing them with soap and water. It will make the tableware, especially the glasses, shinier.
3. To remove the “tutong” (burnt or hardened food) from cookware, sprinkle the bottom of the pot or pan with baking soda, add hot water, soak for a few hours as necessary, wash and rinse well.
4. Scrub burned pots and pans with “is-is” leaves to remove the “uling” (char),
5. To remove grease and grime from pots and pans, make a paste of 3 tablespoons baking soda, water and a dash of salt. Dip a sponge into the paste, rub onto greasy parts, leave paste dry and then rinse with hot water.
6. To clear a clogged drain, pour baking soda and then add boiling water. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse with warm water. For normal cleaning of basin and drain, use full-strength vinegar.
7. Place an open box of baking soda (or a few pieces of charcoal) in the refrigerator to eliminate odors.
8. To neutralize unpleasant cooking odors resulting from frying fish or cooking “bagoong” (shrimp or fish paste), boil a cup or two of vinegar in a small pot. The vinegar will absorb the odors.

V. Toilet and Bathroom Cleaning:

1. To clean tiles, scrub the surface with “kamias” (ginger lily) or pineapple peels as substitutes for chlorine-based cleaners.
2. To clean tiles, simply sprinkle baking soda on the surface, rub with a wet sponge and rinse well with warm water. Or mix ½ teaspoon washing soda, ¼ to ½ teaspoon liquid soap, 3 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 cups hot water in a spray bottle or pail, apply and wipe clean.
3. For toilet bowls, sprinkle baking soda in and around the bowl (or pour ¼ cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar into the bowl). Let sit for a few minutes, scrub or brush clean, then flush.

VI. Laundry Cleaning:

1. Choose an eco-friendly laundry detergent.
2. Replace half of each measure of laundry detergent with baking soda to keep clothing fresh.
3. To remove stains, pre-treat stains with baking soda paste, or pre-soak clothes in laundry soap with calamansi.
4. White vinegar from your kitchen is a good substitute for fabric conditioner and a boon to allergy-prone skin. Add a cup to your last rinse, and don’t worry about the sour smell — it evaporates rapidly as your clothes dry, leaving them soft and fresh.

VII. Metals Cleaning:

1. To clean off tarnish, coat and rub silver with toothpaste, rinse with warm water and dry with soft cloth.
2. Put foil in the bottom of a pan. Add water enough to cover the silver. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, add the silver pieces and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the pan, rinse well and dry.
3. To polish chrome and other metals, sprinkle flour on the surface and rub clean.

VIII. Glass Cleaning:

1. To polish glass windows, rub them clean with damp newspaper.
2. For stubborn dirt, mix one part vinegar and one part water, apply or spray on the glass and wipe until dry and shiny.

IX. Garden Cleaning:

1. Don’t burn fallen leaves, dried twigs and other yard discards. Compost them!
2. Avoid insecticides, herbicides and pesticides to deal with garden pests and weeds.
3. Log on to http://ecologycenter.org/factsheets/#pest for fact sheets on non-toxic pest and weed control.

X. Dealing with Household Pests:

1. To drive cockroaches away, put some raw pandan leaves in cupboards.
2. To make a cockroach trap, half fill a bottle with a sweet drink and add a tablespoon of oil. The sweet drink will attract cockroaches into the bottle, and the oil will prevent them from climbing out. Bury the dead cockroaches afterwards.
3. To repel ants, crumble dry bay leaves in doorways and window sills; or mash chili in water, or mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part water and apply to counter tops; or squeeze calamansi juice into the hole or crack where ants come from.
4. For houseflies, scratch the skin of an orange or other citrus fruit and leave out or hang with a cluster of cloves.
5. To drive mosquitoes away, plant malvarosa, marigold, basil or “tanglad” (lemon grass) or citronella around the house, or hang some “tanglad” on windows and doors.
6. Refrain from using mosquito coil or chemical spray and opt for mosquito net (kulambo) instead.
7. For rats, put fresh or dried mint leaves or moisten small balls of cotton wool with clove oil in closets and cupboards to repel rats.
8. For more information, please refer to “Debug Your Home the Natural Way: A Quick Guide to Safer Pest Control at Home” at www.panap.net