EcoWaste Coalition Recommends “Ligtas Linis Tips” for Non-Toxic Spring Cleaning

Even as most Filipino families are busy cleaning their households in anticipation of the coming year, a toxic watchdog urged the public to use safer alternatives to avoid health risks due to cleaning chemicals.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a group campaigning for chemical safety, issued its “Ligtas Linis Tips” as Filipino families spruce up their homes as the final New Year countdown gets underway.

“Ushering in the New Year via a toxics-free household is an excellent place to start. We can get rid of dust and dirt, foul smell and pests using alternative products and practices that will not cause toxic harm,” said retired chemist Sonia Mendoza of the EcoWaste Coalition and Mother Earth Foundation.

“Chemical-based cleaning products may make our homes look clean on the surface, but look closer and you will find that these items are hiding insidious effects,” she warned.

“Many of these products contain very hard to pronounce toxic chemicals, which are often not even indicated in the labels or hidden in generic terms such as fragrance,” she added.

Known or suspected carcinogens, endocrine disrupters or reproductive toxins commonly found in cleaning agents include ethylene glycol butyl ether, ethoxylated nonylphenol, methylene chloride, naphthalene, paradichlorobenzene, silica, toluene, trisodium nitrilotriacetate and xylene, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Is your family’s health really worth the risk of using these noxious products?” asked Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

Instead of using cleaners containing harmful chemicals, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends a set of “Ligtas Cleaning Tips” consisting of helpful pointers from our “lolas” and cleaning substitutes commonly found in the garden or the kitchen such as sabila (aloe vera), is-is, tanglad (lemograss) and bay leaves, sukang puti (white vinegar), kalamansi juice, and baking soda.

“Our grandparents had the right idea when they came up with these traditional, but eco-friendly, homemade cleaning agents and recipes. It’s time for us to rediscover these fabulous cleaning secrets ,” said Lucero.

“By adopting these cleaning tips, we can cut indoor air pollution as well as reduce human exposure to toxins that can trigger or aggravate diseases, while saving hard-earned money, too.” Lucero 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. Metal 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 bay or 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.
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.