Verda Vivo

Verda Vivo means “Green Life” in the universal language of Esperanto.

What’s in Your Drain Cleaner? June 10, 2009

bathroom sink
Image by santellij via Flickr

I have long hair so that means I frequently have to clean out the shower and bathroom sink drains. Otherwise I end up standing in a pool of water or brushing my teeth over a bowl full of standing water. As luck would have it, I ended up having to clean both drains within the last week.

I could use a  caustic liquid or solid drain cleaner such as Drano Crystals or Liquid Plumr and pour these chemicals down my drain:

  • Sodium hypochlorite – A chemical compound with the formula NaClO. Sodium hypochlorite solution, commonly known as bleach, is frequently used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent.
  • Sodium hydroxide – A strongly alkaline compound, NaOH, used in the manufacture of chemicals and soaps and in petroleum refining. Also called caustic soda or lye.
  • Sodium silicate – A white solid that is readily soluble in water, producing an alkaline solution. Can be dissolved in water to form a syrupy liquid.

According to the Material Safety Data Sheets on The Clorox Company’s website for both Drano Crystals and Professional Stength Liquid Plumr Clog Remover, the ingredients are corrosive to the eyes. Injures eyes, skin and mucous membranes on contact. Harmful if swallowed; nausea, vomiting, and burning sensation of the mouth and throat may occur. No adverse health effects are expected with recommended use. Especially if I don’t use them.

Or I could opt for an acid drain cleaner containing sulfuric acid and risk a chemical burn or damage to our plumbing. Acid chemical cleaners should be used as a last result and by a professional. Although available to the general public, there is decades-long debate about whether or not they should be. The recent death of a 22 month old toddler from drinking sulfuric acid drain cleaner should be enough to convince you that this chemical should not be in your house. It’s certainly not in mine.

Enzymatic biological drain cleaners, such as Earth Friendly Products’ Enzyme Drain Cleaner or Bi-O-Kleen’s BacOut are primarily for routine maintenance rather than clearing a completely clogged drain. Enzymatic drain cleaners react with organic material. They are non corrosive and contain bacterial cultures which break down fats and greasy deposits in the drainage system. These types of drain cleaners were originally used in septic tanks before their wider use as an effective and less environmentally damaging way of drain clearance or prevention from blockages. This might work (but maybe not for hair) and then again I don’t want to spend money unnecessarily.

My drain cleaner of choice is either a plunger for totally clogged drains (please consider having one specifically for toilets, the other only for sinks) or baking soda and vinegar for drains that are slow.

Since baking soda and vinegar isn’t going to dissolve a clump of hair, the first step is to clean the drain. For the bathroom sink, I first remove the drain stopper by disconnecting the pivot rod that sits behind the drain tail pipe under the sink. It usually comes out with a hank of hair and disgusting gunk clinging to it. Once I clean that off (with rubber gloves, of course!), I also remove the J-Trap, letting it drain into a bucket and then clean that out as well. I don’t remove the bucket until I put the J-Trap and pivot rod back together and test the connection by running water through the drain.

The shower stall drain is easier yet. Remove the drain cover by loosening the screw in the center or placing the flat end of a screwdriver under the edge of the drain cover and popping it off. There is my lovely long hair dangling from the drain cover loaded with soap and gunk. Once the drain cover is clean off, I scrape out any hair and gunk from the pipe itself.

Once the hair is removed, I pour 1/4 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup white vinegar. After the foaming reaction subsides, I follow it up by pouring boiling water slowly down the drain.

For more suggestions and an excellent video, click on Tips For Clogged Drains & Homemade Drain Cleaner Recipe.

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5 Ways to Clean Your Toilet Naturally April 7, 2009

Filed under: environment,green,home — Daryl Laux @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Image by live w mcs via Flickr

I don’t know about you but I hate cleaning the toilet. In the past, I’ve used all sorts of harsh chemicals, thinking it was necessary to get rid of, well, you know, germs.

Chemical companies have led us down a merry path. You really don’t need to pour caustic chemicals down the drain to get the job done. All you need is vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and/or borax. It’s cheaper, safer for the environment and safer for you and your children.

Below are 5 different natural recipes to clean your potty:

Vinegar howstuffworks Uses for Vinegar: Cleaning Your House

Pour white vinegar into the toilet and let it sit for 30 minutes. Next sprinkle baking soda on a toilet-bowl brush and scour any remaining stained areas. Flush.

Baking Soda eHow How to Clean Your Toilet Bowl Naturally

  1. Pour 1/2 box of baking soda into the toilet bowl.
  2. Let the baking soda stand overnight in the bowl. Try to do this the last thing before bed so you don’t accidentally flush the toilet before the baking soda has a chance to work.
  3. Flush the toilet several times in the morning.
  4. Run a brush around the bowl to fully remove any loosened grime.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  1. Pour the vinegar into the toilet bowl.
  2. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Return to the toilet, grab your toilet brush and dip it into the toilet.
  4. Take it out, and sprinkle some baking soda onto the brush.
  5. Scour the inside of the toilet with the brush repeating the sprinkle procedure until the baking soda is gone…..voila! Clean Toilet!

Borax and Lemon JuiceeHow How to make Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaners

  1. Pour 1 cup of Borax into a small bowl.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of lemon juice over the Borax and gently stir with a spoon into a paste.
  3. Flush the toilet to wet the sides, then rub the paste onto the toilet with a sponge.
  4. Let it sit for 2 hours before scrubbing thoroughly. This is great for removing a stubborn stain, like a toilet bowl ring.

Borax and VinegareHow How to make Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaners

  1. Flush the toilet to wet the sides of the bowl.
  2. Sprinkle a cup of Borax around the rim and sides of toilet.
  3. Spray 1/2 cup of vinegar over the Borax.
  4. Allow to sit for several hours or overnight.
  5. Scrub thoroughly with a toilet brush until the bowl gleams.

Sometimes, hard water just leaves a stubborn ring that no amount of scrubbing or rubbing can eliminate. That’s when I grab a pumice stone and rub lightly on the stain.

Related Post: Flapper Failure Flushes Dollars Down the Toilet

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DIY Green Cleaners February 9, 2009

Filed under: green,home — Daryl Laux @ 8:05 am
Tags: , , , ,
Using vinegar for a natural clean
Image by elycefeliz via Flickr

Cleaning products are very expensive. They are also hazardous and create a waste problem as well. One way to decrease the amount of hazardous waste in our environment is to use non or low-toxic alternatives instead. Here are some inexpensive and easy ideas for replacing common hazardous products.

Do not use a vinegar-based cleaner on stone or marble surface as it will etch the surface.

Soft Scrub Bathroom Tub, Tile and Sink Cleaner

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • liquid castile soap

Mix the baking soda with enough liquid castile soap to make a cleansing liquid. Apply the cleanser and scrub with a clean damp rag. Use this to clean bathroom tubs, tile and sinks – even shiny fiberglass and glossy tiles. Rinse well when you are done. It washes off easily and will not leave any grit behind.

Window and Mirror Cleaner – Vinegar Based


Mix in a spray bottle:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water

You can use this spray to clean your countertops, stove top, as well as the windows and the mirrors. Vinegar is acidic and it will cut grease, dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits. It leaves no residue, is a natural deodorizer and kills mold and mildew too.

For outdoor windows wash with warm water with a few drops of liquid castile soap in it. Rinse well and squeegee dry.

Window and Mirror Cleaner – Rubbing Alcohol Based

Mix in a spray bottle:

  • 1 cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar

Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) evaporates, and leaves no residue. It provides the base for an evaporating glass cleaner that stands strong next to any commercial glass cleaning product. You can use this window cleaning spray recipe to clean not only windows and glass, but mirrors, shine your chrome fixtures, and even on stainless steel.

Toil Bowl Cleaner

  • baking soda
  • liquid castile soap

Sprinkle baking soda inside the bowl as you would any scouring powder. Squeeze a couple of drops of soap in also. Scrub with a toilet bowl brush and finish outside surfaces with a clean damp rag sprinkled with baking soda.

Ceramic, Linoleum and No-Wax Wood Floors


  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 3-4 drops liquid castile soap

Pour into a quart bottle and use to damp mop your floors. The vinegar odor goes away once the floor dries. If you use a bucket, use 1 cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water.

All-Purpose Cleaner

Mix in a spray bottle:

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons borax
  • 1/2 teaspoon  liquid castile soap
  • 2 cups hot water

This is a great grease cutter.

Drain Cleaner

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • boiling water

This will free minor clogs and help prevent future clogs. Pour the baking soda down the drain, followed by the white vinegar. Cover tightly and let it fizz to break up the clog. Flush with a teakettle full of boiling water. Repeat if needed. If the clog is stubborn, use a plunger. If very stubborn, use a mechanical snake.

Chemical Free Oven Cleaner

  • 5 tablespoons baking soda
  • 3 drops liquid castile soap
  • 4 tablespoons white vinegar

Mix the above ingredients into a thick paste. Use a sponge to apply the oven cleaner to the inside of the oven and then scrub with a scouring pad. Rinse thoroughly and wipe the oven clean. A spatula or bread knife is effective to get under large food deposits. This recipe requires “elbow grease”, but isn’t toxic. Spot clean your oven regularly; dirty ovens are less energy-efficient. Do not use this cleaner on self cleaning ovens.


Related Posts:

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Clean Ceramic Tile Floors, Naturally April 13, 2008

Yesterday, I cleaned the black ceramic tiles in our new home. I know what you’re thinking. Sure, ceramic tiles are a great floor choice for Arizona. They feel cool underfoot and don’t trap sand and grit like carpet. Bonus, no carpet off-gassing. But black?! And textured to boot. Why didn’t I just get dirt colored tiles? Oh yes, that’s right, because they look gorgeous.  

I had already thoroughly cleaned the floors several days prior with a commercial “green” solution. Once I did that, I noticed footprints everywhere after a day. That tells me there was residue on the tiles attracting dirt like crazy. No thanks. After I vacuumed, I whipped up a solution of my own in a quart squirt bottle:

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 3-4 drops Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap

I used a Starfiber StarMop and rinsed out the microfiber pad regularly, which is why I wouldn’t use a disposable mop like Swiffer. I’d throw away about 8 pads every time I clean the floor! Makes me wonder why you’d want to continue to “clean” your house with a dirty pad once you’re halfway through your kitchen. Ummm, yuck.

I thought my floors might smell a bit like Lemon Pledge afterwards. Nope, they just smelled clean. And looked clean. And today, no footprints. Sweet!


Since this post I’ve tweaked my recipe for floor and window cleaning. Here’s the new recipe:

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 3-4 drops Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap

Related Post: The Disposable Mop Wars 

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What’s in Your Glass Cleaner? March 17, 2008

Most glass cleaners contain chemicals that are regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because they are considered a hazardous substance (as in your health), a hazardous waste or a pollutant in the environment. And don’t kid yourself, that blue color is not natural and neither is the fragrance. Here’s some of the ingredients you may be getting in your glass cleaner:

  • 2-Butoxyethanol (Americas Home Value, Champion Sprayon, Easy Off, Glass Plus, NuArc, SOS, Sparkle, SprayPAK, Sprayway, Windex, Zep) – People exposed to high levels of 2-butoxyethanol for several hours have reported nose and eye irritation, headaches, vomiting and a metallic taste in their mouths. In addition to inhaling 2-butoxyethanol vapor, research has shown that skin can also absorb 2-butoxyethanol vapor from the air, making skin a major pathway of exposure to this chemical. Not regulated by the U.S. EPA.
  • Ammonia (Safeway, SOS) – Strong irritant to eyes, skin, respiratory tract. Pungent odor. Liquid produces severe burns. Inhalation of high concentrations causes violent coughing, severe lung irritation, and pulmonary edema. Death can result if rapid escape is not possible. Swallowing liquid is corrosive to mouth, throat, stomach.
  • Ammonium hydroxide (Americas Home Value, Champion Sprayon, Crystal Care, PAR) – Strong irritant to eyes, skin, respiratory tract.
  • Ethanol/SD Alcohol 40 (Glass Mates, Glass Plus) -Volatile. The substance irritates the eyes. Inhalation of high concentration of vapour may cause irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract. The substance may cause effects on the central nervous system.
  • Ethylene glycol n-hexyl ether (Windex) – The substance irritates the eyes and the respiratory tract. The substance may cause effects on the kidneys and central nervous system , resulting in renal failure and brain injury. Exposure could cause lowering of consciousness
  • Isobutane (Americas Home Value, Champion Sprayon, Glass Plus, SprayPAK, Sprayway, Zep) – Highly volative, colorless gas with a gasoline-like or natural gas odor. Rapid evaporation of the liquid may cause frostbite. The substance may cause effects on the cardiovascular system, resulting in impaired functions and respiratory failure. Exposure at high level may result in death.
  • Isopropanol or Isopropyl alcohol (Cinch, Concentrated Glass Cleaner, Crystal Care, Easy Off, Glass Plus, SOS, Windex, Zep) – Colorless, volatile organic compound (VOC) that can be irritating to breathe.
  • Monoethanolamine (MEA) (Cinch) – The substance is corrosive to the respiratory tract the skin and the eyes. Corrosive on ingestion. The vapour is irritating to the eyes the skin and the respiratory tract The substance may cause effects on the central nervous system Exposure could cause lowering of consciousness.
  • Propane (Americas Home Value, Champion Sprayon, Glass Plus, NuArc, SprayPAC, Sprayway, Zep) – Highly volatile compound. Monitoring data indicates that it is a widely occurring atmospheric pollutant.

Ready for a greener alternative? For commercially available products, see The Green Guide’s Product Comparisons of Glass Cleaners. It’s a comprehensive evaluation of 17 alternatives. Now magazine tested a small number of glass cleaners with an equally small number of testers. My favorite is Holy Cow Glass Cleaner. I recently had the occasion to clean just about every glass object in my house and found it didn’t streak or run and was pleasant smelling to boot.

For a homemade alternative, here are several recipes from which to choose:

1. Glass Cleaner – The Green Guide

  • 1/4 cup vinegar or 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cups water

Fill a clean spray bottle with water and either white vinegar or lemon juice. Rub with a lint-free cloth.

2. Glass Cleaner– Washington Toxics Coalition

  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 quart warm water (4 cups)
  • 1-2 drops of liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s)

Mix ingredients in a spray bottle and use on glass surfaces. Rub with a lint-free cloth.

3. Glass Cleaner – Manderson’s Bubble

  • 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide (normal over-the-counter 3% stuff)
  • 1-2 drops liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s)
  • 1 quart water (4 cups)


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