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Is yours a healthy home

If you intend to put your house on the market, it’s vital that potential buyers are greeted with sparkling, grime-free rooms that have instant clean appeal. However, you don’t always need to use powerful chemicals to achieve this, as there are also lots of ‘green’ cleaning tricks you can use that are just as effective as proprietary brands.

These are the basic cleaning products you need in your kitchen cupboard: Scouring powder ‘ for tough jobs, but don’t use on worn enamel and plastic or anything else that can be abraded. Cream cleaner ‘ for delicate surfaces like plastic or resurfaced baths. Liquid bleach ‘ for toilet bowls and drains. Furniture polish ‘ pick one that pentrates the wood and avoid silicone-based sprays. Washing up liquid ‘ buy concentrated and use (in lots of hot water) for cleaning floors and walls as well as dishes. Liquid carpet shampoo spray ‘ to banish small marks as soon as they appear. Spot stain remover ‘ there’s one for almost every type of stain, from red wine to curry, blood and egg. Metal polish to suit the metal you want to clean, such as brass, copper or silver.

Green alternatives
Most of the ‘natural’ cleaners below can already be found in our homes and many give just as good a result as chemical-based products.

Here are some quick household tips:

Tackle corrosion on metal by rubbing with a paste made either with lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda, or lemon juice and salt. Silver is easily scratched, so never use harsh abrasives. Instead, apply a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water. Rub, rinse and polish dry with a soft cloth. Alternatively, coat the silver with toothpaste, run under warm water, work into a foam, and rinse off. For stubborn stains, work in the paste with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Keep copper saucepans clean by rubbing with lemon juice, or salt and lemon juice if tarnished. Or cover the object in brown sauce, leave overnight, rinse and wipe dry. Rub scratches on wooden surfaces with the cut side of a walnut or a Brazil nut ‘ good for darker woods. Denture cleaning tablets will remove that yellow tinge from stored cotton bedding, banish tea rings from mugs and get scum stains out of vases. Popped down the loo overnight they will give you a sparkling pan; and dissolved in a kettle they will remove any limescale. Lift grease-based stains out of carpets with a squirt of shaving foam. Alternatively, use baking (bicarbonate of) soda to absorb grease from butter and margarine stains from carpet and other non-washable surfaces, and brush or vacuum the next day. Nail varnish remover dissolves most general-purpose household glue and inks but be careful as it can dissolve synthetic fabrics. Remove chewing gum and candlewax by popping the item in a plastic bag and putting it in the freezer. Once frozen, simply crack and peel the gum or wax off. For big items, apply ice cubes wrapped in plastic until the gum freezes. Use eucalyptus oil to remove tar from clothing and canvas shoes, making sure to apply from underneath.
Soda or fizzy bottled water is great for lifting stains such as red wine from carpet. It’s also good for getting rid of the stale smell of smoke from ashtrays. Pour a little in the ashtray, leave soaking overnight and the bubbles will have released the sticky ash by the time you wak up in the morning. To get rid of ugly perspiration stains from clothes, soften with glycerine before applying a spot of stain remover. Then, throw it in the washing machine. Use white vinegar to lighten coloured stains, such as ketchup or curry. Use it diluted with water to clean hard surfaces and windows. For slow-running drains, sprinkle half a pot of bicarbonate of soda down the plug hole and wash down with a cupful of vinegar. Watch the foam rise ‘ it will carry on down the plug hole. Rinse with warm water. For smelly drains, try mix washing soda crystals with very hot water and pour the mixture down the plug hole.

Cleaning your home

Carpets and rugs
Dust and grit from shoes get into the pile and tears fibres, so vacuum once to twice a week. Use a gentler suction on rugs than you would on fitted carpet and vacuum under the rug too. Be careful of the fringes, as they are easily broken off. Give your carpet a deep steam clean every five to 10 years. If your rug is old, valuable and/or Oriental, go to a specialist cleaner. Do move rugs around so they wear evenly, and keep out of strong sunlight.

Send lined curtains to the dry cleaners because the lining may shrink. Curtains that are washable ‘ unlined designs, voiles, muslins and cottons, plus some synthetics ‘ should be done so according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Wash cloth shower curtains in the washing machine but scrub down vinyl with hot, soapy water and hang up to dry.

To remove dust from Venetian blinds, vacuum the closed slats each month with the upholstery brush fitting. Rub sticky stains with a damp cloth. Dusty metal blinds should be vacuumed in the same way, but place a cloth between the blind and the window frame when holding it steady so it doesn’t mark paintwork. Wash greasy metal blinds in the bath with hot water and detergent. Dry each slat with a soft cloth.

Polish wood with a good wax to provide a protective coating, fill tiny scratches and give a soft shine. Most sprays contain silicone which gives a hard, bright shine that may build up, causing a bloom that’s hard to remove. Apply polish, using a duster for flat surfaces or a hogshair brush. Buff off with a clean duster or brush.

Don’t let the wax dry for too long or it may streak. Dust wooden furniture once a week. Buff lightly to bring up the shine. Wipe sticky surfaces with a barely damp cloth, and wipe up spills immediately. Use tablemats to protect wooden tables from hot plates and coasters for glasses, cups and vases of flowers.

A few drops of baby oil on a piece of soft kitchen roll rubbed around your stainless steel will bring it up like new. Dust old metal with a soft cloth and flick dust out of the crevices with a small brush. Rubber gloves tarnish silver, so wear plastic or cotton gloves instead.

If you change the covers weekly and use a top sheet, a duvet will, barring accidents, only need to be washed annually. Hollowfibre can be washed in a domestic machine, but bulkier down or feather duvets will need to be taken to the launderette or dry cleaner. In the morning, pull back your duvet for half an hour to air your bed.

Ann Maurice says…
We are made acutely aware on a daily basis of the dangers of chemicals in our homes. We’re also offered more options today than ever before to go ‘natural’. So why aren’t all of us doing it’ What’s our excuse’

I don’t claim to be a purist, but I do pay attention when I’m shopping for the home, and when given the choice will look for a greener alternative ‘ in a recent design project, I used bamboo (which is a sustainable substance) for floors and cabinetry, chemical-free decking, low-voltage lighting, and ‘low-flow’ bathroom fittings. These few choices made a huge difference.

Use my tips below to create a healthy home:

Read labels on all products that you buy. Avoid chlorine, ammonia, methylene chloride, phenol, nitrobenzene, formaldehyde, cresol, naphthalene, ethanol, xylene, nitrous oxide. If it sounds toxic, it usually is. Choose unscented, hypoallergenic products. Don’t use insect repellents, pesticides or moth balls, as they are designed to attack living cells. Install a water filtration system in your kitchen.
Purchase upholstered furniture and bedding with natural bating.

We have a responsibility to provide a healthy planet for future generations. Training ourselves to lose some of our old habits will make a big difference collectively.

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