College students – you don’t need expensive cleaning products and insect repellent for your dorm rooms. And you don’t need to jeopardize student health with many toxic ingredients found in traditional cleansers. Instead, you can make your own green cleaning solutions out of safe ingredients for an environmentally friendly clean. Here are some do-it-yourself tips for college dorms.
“Cleaning products are bad for your health and bad for the environment! The formaldehyde used in many household & personal cleaners can lead to respiratory issues, heart palpations and even cause skin irritations,” according to “Green Your Dorm Room,” from Bentley University in Massachusetts. In addition, household cleaners and laundry soap have phosphates that get into rivers and lakes, cause rapid growth of algae, pollute natural settings and cause damage to wildlife.
Kathy Straub, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, recommends: “Only buy products labeled as nontoxic, biodegradable, dye free, chlorine free, phosphate free, nonpetroleum based, vegetable based, or fragrance free,” in “5 Unique Ways to Go Green if You’re Living in a Dorm,” reported by Zach Miners posted in US News and World Report, January 28, 2010.
You can easily find eco-friendly cleaning solutions. Various companies sell green cleaning products, including:
- Seventh Generation reduces environmental impact with natural fragrances.
- Mrs. Meyers uses plant-derived ingredients and essential oils.
- Method uses people- and animal-safe ingredients and sustainable materials.
- Ecover products are made from sustainable plant-based ingredients.
Make your own cleaners
You can make effective cleaning solutions from common and safe products. “Green Cleaning: Do-it-Yourself Safe Cleaning Solutions,” from Keene State College in New Hampshire offers some easy recipes to make common cleaners:
Stain remover – Salt and juice of a lemon or lime. Sprinkle surface with salt and squeeze lemon or lime juice over the area. Let sit and rub out. This can even remove rust if allowed to sit a few hours.
Mold and mildew – Equal parts vinegar and water. Spray and wipe clean.
Toilet bowl cleaner – Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the bowl and then a handful of baking soda. Let it bubble for 10-15 minutes and then scrub normally. That night add two 1000 mg vitamin C tablets into the bowl. In the morning scrub it one more time for a nice shine.
Baking soda – As an odor eliminator, open a box and leave on a shelf in your dorm near your dirty laundry, and put a box in your fridge. For a scouring powder, sprinkle baking soda on bathroom tile and scrub with a warm wet cloth. Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet, wait a few minutes, and then vacuum it up for a sweet-smelling rug.
Natural insect repellent – To repel ants that are hunting for your pizza crumbs, put slices of cucumber near cracks or windows where ants can come in. Use lemon peel as a substitute for mothballs. Use essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus oil, citronella oil, mint, rose geranium and lavender to repel indoor pests.
Green cleaning tips for the laundry
For the laundry, Project Green Dorm’s Clean Tips & Resources suggests:
• Ditch the bleach. Chlorine can irritate the nose, throat and skin. Try using a cup of white vinegar added to wash to keep fabrics bright or chlorine-free bleach as a greener alternative. You can also use lemon juice and hot water or hang whites to dry in the sun to make them brighter.
• No more dryer sheets. Conventional dryer sheets are full of cancer-causing chemicals and neurotoxins such as toluene and styrene. Option: toss a sachet of dried organic lavender in the dryer for a healthy, sweet scent.
Storing, labeling and mixing cleaners
Don’t keep your cleaning solutions near food or food containers. Keep out of the reach of pets and young children.
Never mix bleach and an acid-based cleaner such as ammonia or vinegar – this will create a chemical reaction that releases toxic chlorine gas that can burn your eyes, throat and lungs, leading to death.
Never reuse a cleaner container or spray bottle for any other purpose. Discard empty containers in the trash or recycle bin. Don’t pour cleaners down the sink; wait for a toxic materials collection day at the dump.
What’s your tip for green cleaning your dorm? Share your ideas in the comments!