Locate the place of entry, squeeze a lemon onto it and leave the peel. Ants will also retreat from lines of talcum powder, chalk, damp coffee grounds, bone meal, charcoal dust and cayenne pepper.
Pour a small amount of beer into a wide-mouth jar. Cut the corner out of a plastic bag and attach the notched bag to the mouth of the jar with a rubber band. Flies will enter and be trapped. Change the beer when necessary.
Keep vulnerable clothes dry and well aired. Place cedar blocks or chips in storage areas. Camphor can be used, as it is the major, non-toxic ingredient of moth balls. To trap moths, mix 1 part molasses with 2 parts vinegar and place it in a yellow container.
Plug all small cracks along baseboards, walls and cupboards; and around pipes, sinks and bathtub fixtures. A light dust of borax around the fridge, stove and ductwork is effective in controlling cockroaches. For a trap, lightly grease the inner neck of a milk bottle and put a little stale beer or a raw potato in it.
Attach screens to doors and windows where flies usually enter your home. Close windows before the sun hits them. Use regular sticky flypaper to catch unwelcome flying guests. You can make your own with honey and yellow paper.
Stored Food Pests
Keep mites and moths out of your staples by drying the food in a warm oven (70ºF, 20ºC) for one hour or by freezing for 2-3 days. Always store foods in air-tight containers. Weevils' favorite foods are beans and grain. To keep them away, hang small cloth sacks of black pepper in your food bins or around your food storage areas.
Find out which non-chemical fertilizers aid in controlling insects, and how to fortify your plants with proper soil care. Pesticides carry the suffix "cides," which mean "killer". Natural pesticides are cheaper and safer for your family and are usually "pest-specific".
Learn to promote the population of beneficial pests such as lady bird beetles, bees, fly larvae, lace-wing larvae (aphid lions), praying mantis, dragon flies, predacious mites and thrips, spiders, toads, garter snakes and birds. Investigate "companion planting," which can provide a natural barrier to bugs.
All of these recipes can be used for indoor or outdoor plants.
Made from the skeletons of tiny organisms, this dust controls pests by causing dehydration and death. Can be used indoors and out. Please follow manufacturer's instructions carefully.
Mix 4 qts. water, 2 Tbsp. pressed garlic (do not use garlic powder, as it will burn the plants), 3 Tbsp. of diatomaceous earth (see above), and 1 tsp. rubbing alcohol. Can be frozen for later use.
Blend 2 or 3 very hot peppers, ½ onion and 1 clove garlic in water. Boil, steep for two days, and strain. This spray will not damage indoor or outdoor plants and can be frozen for future use.
Use only pure soap, as detergents will damage your plants. (Liquid soaps: 2 Tbsp. per qt. of water. Dry soaps: 4 Tbsp. per qt. of water.)
Be sure to rinse the plants with fresh water after pests have been controlled.
Tips for Other Products
There are some products that have few or no non-toxic alternatives. To protect the environment:
- Use the entire product according to the directions.
- Sell items at garage sales if in good condition and labeled.
- Give unused portion to others who can use them.
- Dispose of the remaining product properly
Eco-Friendly Cleaning Recipes
To get a home that is truly clean, rather than covered in toxic chemicals, try making your own non-toxic cleaners at home. It's easy! Basic ingredients found in your kitchen can be used to make non-toxic cleaners for your different cleaning needs.
Five basic ingredients serve as the building blocks for many safe home cleaning needs:
- Baking Soda - Cleans and deodorizes. Softens water to increase sudsing and cleaning power of soap. Good scouring powder.
- Borax - Cleans and deodorizes. Excellent disinfectant. Softens water. Available in laundry section of grocery store.
- Soap - Biodegrades safely and completely and is non-toxic. Available in grocery stores and health food stores. Sold as liquid, flakes, powder or in bars. Bars can be grated to dissolve more easily in hot water. Insist on soap without synthetic scents, colors or other additives.
- Washing Soda - Cuts grease and removes stains. Disinfects. Softens water. Available in laundry section of grocery store or in pure form from chemical supply houses as "sodium carbonate."
- White Vinegar or Lemon Juice - Cuts grease and freshens.
Learn more about eco-friendly cleaners, how to avoid falling for greenwashing claims on store-bought cleaning products and more on our Eco-Buzz Blog!
Recipes for Non-toxic Alternatives
1 tsp. liquid soap (castile, peppermint)
1 tsp. borax
Squeeze of lemon
1 qt. warm water
¼ c. baking soda
½ c. borax
½ c. vinegar
1 gal. water
For surfaces that need scouring, try moist salt or baking soda and a green scouring pad.
2 tsp. vinegar
1 qt. warm water
2 tbsp. borax
3 c. water
Rub dry with newspaper to avoid streaking.
¼ c. borax
½ gal. hot water
Mix together: ¼ c. baking soda
2 tbsp. salt
Hot water, as needed to make a paste.
Let paste sit for 5 minutes. Caution: Keep off wires/heating elements.
2 tbsp. liquid soap (castile, peppermint)
2 tsp. borax
1 qt. warm water
Spray on oven and wait 20 minutes, then clean. For tough stains, scrub with very fine steel wool and baking soda.
Pour together: ½ c. borax in drain followed by
2 c. boiling water
¼ c baking soda down the drain, followed by
½ c. vinegar
Cover drain and let sit for 15 minutes. Follow with 2 qts. boiling water.
Use a plumber's "snake" and boiling water.
Pour: ¼ c. baking soda into bowl and drizzle with vinegar.
Let sit for ½ hour. Scrub and flush. Add borax for stains.
Commercial fresheners work by masking smells, coating nasal passages and deadening nerves to diminish sense of smell. Instead:
- Find source of odors and eliminate them;
- Keep house and closets clean and well-ventilated;
- Grow lots of house plants;
- Simmer: Cinnamon sticks, Orange peel, cloves and water
To absorb odors, place 2 to 4 tbsp. baking soda or vinegar in small bowls in refrigerator and around the house and pour ½ cup baking soda in the bottom of trash cans.
Mix together: ¼ c. vinegar
1 gal. warm water
Mix together: ½ c. baking soda
2-3 tbsp. liquid soap (castile, peppermint)
Grind ice and lemon or orange juice in the disposal.
Dissolve together: ½ c, vinegar
½ c. borax in warm water.
Apply with sponge or spray bottle.
Sprinkle corn meal, baking soda or cornstarch on dry rugs and vacuum. Use club soda or soap-based rug shampoo.
Mix together : ¼ c. vegetable oil-based liquid soap
3 tbsp. (or more) water
Whip ingredients in bowl with egg beater. Rub foam into problem areas of the rug. Rinse well with water.
Mix together : ½ c. white vinegar
1 gal warm water
Polishing with skim milk after floor is dry will make the floor glow!
- Rub toothpaste on wood furniture to remove water marks.
- Polish wood with 2 tsp. lemon oil and 1 pint mineral oil in spray bottle. Spray, rub in and wipe clean.
- Mix two parts olive oil to one part lemon juice. After rubbing the mixture in, let stand for several hours and then polish with a soft, dry cloth.
- Melt 1 tbsp. carnauba wax into two pints mineral oil. Use sparingly and rub hard.
Soak: 1 qt. warm water
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
small piece of aluminum foil
Rub toothpaste on silver, let it dry and rinse off.
Rub lightly with fine table salt wetted with vinegar and lemon juice.
Rubbing alcohol, or a small amount of ammonia with hot water. Also try white flour in a damp rag.
Equal parts salt and flour, with a little vinegar.
- Use wheat pastes, glue sticks or double-sided tape instead of petroleum-based glues or spray fixatives.
- Use water-based, unscented, non-toxic markers.
- Use water-based, non-toxic paints and inks which also reduce the need for solvent cleanup.
- Feed your pet one tablet (or 1 tbsp.) brewers yeast daily to give the skin a scent that fleas avoid.
- Place cedar chips around bedding area.
- Comb with flea comb.
When making the initial switch from a detergent to a soap laundry cleaner, wash items once with washing soda only. This will eliminate detergent residues that might otherwise react with soap to cause a yellowing of fabrics.
- Add 1/3 cup washing soda (sodium carbonate) to water as machine is filling. Add clothes. Add 1 ½ cups of soap. If the water is hard, add another ¼ cup soda or ¼ cup vinegar during the first rinse.
- Add 1/3 cup washing soda to water before placing clothes in machine and substitute soap flakes or powder for detergent. Add ½ cup borax for additional cleaning power.
Soak heavily soiled items in warm water with ½ cup washing soda for 30 minutes. Rub soiled areas with liquid soap.
Add 1 cup vinegar or ¼ cup baking soda during final rinse. To reduce static cling in tumble-dried synthetics, dampen hands when folding or line dry instead.
Dissolve 2 Tbsp. cornstarch in 1 pint cold water in a spray bottle. Shake before each use. For delicate fabrics, dissolve 1 package unflavored gelatin to 2 cups of hot water. Dip a corner of the fabric into the solution to test; if fabric becomes sticky when dry, add more water.
Buy items you can wash or clean on your own. Most dry cleaning solvents, such as perchloroethylene are toxic. If you must dry clean, air clothing out thoroughly before bringing indoors. Many garments whose labels specify "dry clean only" can be safely hand-washed using mild soap.
Here are alternatives to enzyme pre-soaks and bleach for tough stains. Test each of the following remedies on a corner of your fabric first. Wash after application.
Rub with solution of 2 tbsp. washing soda in 1 cup warm water.
Immediately pour salt or hot water on the stain and soak in milk before washing.
Soak in milk or remove with hydrogen peroxide.
Mix egg yolk with luke-warm water and rub on stain.
Rub with cold cream or shortening and wash with washing soda.
Pour strong soap and salt on the spots and place in sunlight. Keep the spots moist, and repeat as often as necessary.
Pre-soak in 3 tbsp. baking soda dissolved in warm water in either a diaper bucket or washing machine.
Pour boiling water on stains and follow with dry baking soda. Also try ammonia and water.
Soak in cold water or remove with hydrogen peroxide. For a more stubborn stain, mix cornstarch, talcum powder or cornmeal with water and apply to stain. Allow to dry and brush away.
Rub with ice. Gum will flake off.
Saturate with sour milk (or lemon juice) and rub with salt. Place in direct sunlight until dry, then wash.
Boil scorched article in 1 cup soap and 2 qts. milk.
Many products found in your kitchen, bathroom, garage or garden shed are potentially hazardous substances. Because of their chemical nature they can poison, corrode, explode or burst into flame when handled improperly. When discarded, they are household hazardous wastes.
Motor oil, paints, pesticides, antifreeze, wood preservatives, batteries and many household cleaners contain solvents, petroleum products, heavy metals or other toxic chemicals. When these products are dumped in the trash or poured down the drain, their hazardous chemicals can injure people or contaminate drinking water sources.
DO NOT dispose of hazardous waste in the trash, down the drain, onto the ground or on the street. All of these methods may result in health and/or environmental problems.
DO NOT store corrosives, flammables and poisons together. Separate these containers.
DO NOT repackage chemical products in containers that are normally used for products or soft drinks. Children have died from drinking chemicals stored in soft drink bottles.
The National Institute of Health provides health and safety information on common household chemicals. Learn more about what's under your sink or in your garage!
Residents and businesses may drop off hazardous waste at the Boulder County Hazardous Materials Management (HMM) Facility located at 1901 63rd St., west (behind) of the Boulder County Recycling Center. Open Wednesday – Saturday, 8:30 am –4 pm. Free for residents. Businesses must call and set up an appointment. Visit the HMM Facility’s website or call 720.564.2251 for more information.
Before you buy a product, read the label carefully. Make sure you know what you are purchasing.
- Choose products with child-resistant packaging.
- Buy only the amount you need. Reduce or eliminate the disposal problem.
- Select the least toxic products available. Choose non-toxic alternatives when you can.
- Use multi-purpose products whenever available.
- Store all toxic products away from children and pets in safe, tight containers.
- Follow label directions. Use only what is needed. Twice as much does not mean twice the results.
- Never mix different products. Explosive or poisonous chemical reactions may occur.
- Always store leftovers in the original container with the original label.
- Never eat, drink or smoke when handling hazardous materials.
Synthetic detergents cause more poisonings than any other household product. Even phosphate-free, biodegradable laundry detergent contributes to water pollution.
Baking soda and water is safer cleaner than diluted bleach. Use borax or soda to whiten. Borax is a good grease cutter.
Use ammonia only when other cleansers won't do the trick. Ammonia cuts heavy grease and grime but can be dangerous. Fumes irritate eyes and lungs and can be harmful to people with respiratory problems. Always provide good ventilation. Never mix ammonia with bleach or commercial cleansers - deadly fumes may form.