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Making eco-friendly cleaning products is easy and inexpensive

Earth Day is just around the corner, which means the call to live a greener life is nearing a fever pitch.

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Like a lot of people, I want to be a good citizen of Mother Earth. I want to reduce my carbon footprint, recycle my aluminum, hang my laundry out to dry.

I do a lot of these things — and I'm willing to do more, to a point. It just a) can't cost too much money or b) take too much time. I don't have much of either to spare.

A recent e-mail in my in-box offered a "green" possibility that would fit both those parameters: DIY cleaning products.

"We all want our homes to be clean and sanitary for ourselves as well as our children and pets," it read. "Discover how we can do that without the use of harsh toxic chemicals."

My household includes three boys, a dog, a cat, a lizard and five chickens. We are a veritable germ farm, and I rely on the sinus-clearing aroma of bleach to help me judge when things are really clean.

That's not necessary, says Minta Meyer, a certified aromatherapist at Essential Elements in St. Petersburg.

Most of the cleaning products we use often — all-purpose spray, shower scrub, toilet cleaner — can be made from pantry staples and enhanced with essential oils.

"Most of the things we teach in our class, most people have in their cabinet," Meyer says. "You don't have to make a big investment."

Distilled white vinegar mixes with water to make a glass cleaner; baking soda, castile soap and a touch of vinegar work together in a shower scrub. ("Especially with soap scum, the vinegar really helps cut through," Meyer says.)

Adding essential oils to the mix helps to create a clean smell and has therapeutic benefits, Meyer says. Sweet orange, for example, is antiseptic and antifungal but it is also valued as an antidepressant.

"The plants that these oils are distilled from naturally develop defenses" to bacteria and fungus, Meyer says. "Then we use them in our showers."

With essential oils, you also can tailor the aroma of your cleaner and create a signature scent. "You can have fun with it," she says.

My first attempt at a DIY cleaning product — an all-purpose spray made from vinegar, water and a few drops of lemon and Siberian fir essential oils — met my "green" criteria. It was relatively cheap: The vinegar came from my pantry; the oils ranged from $8 (lemon) to $20 (fir). (Each bottle of oil should last months as only a few drops are used at a time.)

It also was quick to make (just measure and mix) but, more importantly, it worked.

I feel greener already.

B Buckberry Joyce is the lifestyles news editor. She can be reached at bbuckberry@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8113 .

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Oils for cleaning

A wide range of essential oils are good for use in cleaning products, says Minta Meyer, a certified aromatherapist at Essential Elements in St. Petersburg. In addition to their cleaning properties, the oils also provide therapeutic benefits, she says. At right are some of her recommendations, though part of the appeal of making your own cleaners is tailoring them to your preferences.

. Lemon (Citrus limon) works as a degreaser and kills bacteria. Use it as a disinfectant for cleaning cutting boards or in a diffuser to purify the air.

Therapeutic properties: Emotionally uplifting; stimulates white corpuscles that defend the body against infection.

Blends well with: Citrus, pine and eucalyptus oils.

. Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) has a clean, bright aroma and assists in fighting germs and infection by killing bacteria.

Therapeutic properties:
Antidepressant; calming effect.

Blends well with: Citrus oils, floral notes and base notes.

. Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) is fresh and works well as a degreaser and
astringent. It also assists in fighting germs.

Therapeutic properties: Helps prevent and alleviate depression.

Blends well with: Citrus oils, floral notes and base notes.

. Siberian fir (Abies sibirica) has a fresh pine scent many associate with
cleaning products. Use it to deodorize and refresh a room.

Therapeutic uses: Helps alleviate muscular pain and respiratory conditions; emotionally uplifting.

Blends well with: Juniper, cedarwood and citrus oils.

. Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) kills microorganisms and inhibits the growth of fungus. It's great for the shower or tub.

Therapeutic properties: Loosens mucus in the respiratory system, stimulates the immune system.

Blends well with: Antifungal oils
(geranium, rose, sandalwood, lemongrass).

Source: Essential Elements

if you go

Spring Cleaning Class

Learn to make your own cleaning products at Essential Elements,
3001 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Choose morning (9 a.m. to noon) or afternoon (1 to 4 p.m.) May 2. The cost is $75, which includes all supplies for class that makes three blends: hand soap, shower scrub
and all-purpose spray. Call (727) 327-1309 or e-mail essential.
elements@mac.com.

>>EASy

Glass cleaner/all-purpose spray

2 ounces distilled white vinegar

6 ounces water

10 drops lemon essential oil

10 drops Siberian fir essential oil

Measure and pour vinegar, water and oils into an 8-ounce spray bottle. Shake gently. For safety, label the bottle.

Source: Minta Meyer, Essential Elements, St. Petersburg

Making eco-friendly cleaning products is easy and inexpensive 04/16/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 22, 2011 5:11pm]

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