How to reduce Household Hazardous Waste

An extension of safe disposal is to look at products which are potentially safer for both the user and the environment. Some common household products are listed below with ideas on how to use them. Please note that all goods whether occurring naturally or manufactured must be used as directed and can be a poison if ingested.

Australian Green Home and Garden Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet Source: Stewart Robin, Australian Green Home and Garden, Black Inc, Melbourne, 2003

While advertisers would have us believe that we need to live in a sterile environment, the use of harsh chemicals to achieve this has a detrimental effect not only on the environment, but also on our health.  Their toxic vapours irritate delicate eye, nose and lung tissue, and contribute to poor quality indoor air.  Over-use can also lead to more childhood eczema, hay fever and asthma due to an under-stimulated, weakened immune system.  The thing to remember is that our households need to be clean not sterile; the whole point is not to eradicate germs, but to reduce them to a level where they won’t cause illness.

Green cleaning costs a lot less than using chemical cleaners.  You can introduce green cleaning in a number of ways: you can gradually incorporate it as your existing products run out, you can make a quick definite changeover, or you can do a combination of both.  Most products have a wide variety of uses.
  • Bicarb Soda (sodium bicarbonate, baking soda) will remove stains, absorb unpleasant smells, soften water, polish, relieve itching, act as a toothpaste and deodorant, and is also used in cooking.
  • Borax is a stain remover, grease solvent, natural deodorant, fabric and water softener, soap booster, bleach, disinfectant, and it controls insects.  NB Borax is poisonous when swallowed, and can also enter the body through broken skin.  Care must be taken in its use and storage.
  • Eucalyptus Oil is an antiseptic, disinfectant, and deodorant. It freshens a load of washing and removes grease, gum and stubborn stains from clothes.  It will lift tar and adhesive material from paintwork and dogs’ paws, is used in wool washes and is useful as an insect repellent.  NB Although natural in origin, eucalyptus oil contains ingredients that are highly toxic when swallowed.  Keep out of reach of children.
  • Fly Swats: Use fly swats instead of the pest strips, aerosol sprays and insect bombs. 
  • Laundry and Kitchen Detergents: Biodegradable If you are going to use commercial cleaners, there are two things to look for:
    • Low phosphate, or
    • phosphate-free
  • Lemon Juice is a food, mild bleach, deodorant, and cleaning and polishing agent.  It will also soften stains and repel insects.
  • Pure Soap is unlikely to cause skin irritations or allergies.  It causes grease, food residue, bacteria and all other forms of dirt to disperse in water.  It can be used in the bathroom, laundry and kitchen, and also makes a useful garden spray.
  • White Vinegar neutralises grease and soap residues, is an anti-mould agent, mild disinfectant, a bleach and a deodorant.  It is a good general purpose cleaner.

Warm soapy water is an effective way of cleaning all surfaces.

Vinegar can be used full strength or diluted.  For a general purpose cleaner add 1 cup of vinegar to 4 litres of hot water.  You can put diluted or undiluted vinegar in a spray bottle and use throughout the home: kitchen benches, tabletops, windows, floors, bathroom surfaces, the toilet and in the rinse water for your clothes (instead of commercial fabric softener) and dishes.

Lemon juice is used in the same way as vinegar.

Bicarb soda is useful as a powder, paste (mixed with water or vinegar) or dissolved in hot water.  To remove mould, dissolve 3 tablespoons of bicarb soda in 2 litres of hot water.

Borax is effective as a powder, paste (mixed with water or vinegar) or dissolved in hot water.  For cleaning dirty surfaces, dissolve 4 tablespoons of borax in 4 litres of hot water.  For a general purpose solution to help remove stains on clothing, fabrics or carpet, use 1 tablespoon of borax for every 4 litres of hot water.

Pure soap can be used for washing dishes (using a soap shaker is ideal) and for washing clothes.

For further information read Australian Green Home and Garden by Robin Stewart.

Thanks to the Western Metropolitan Regional Council Earth Carers for supplying the above information.
Last Updated: 16 Oct 2017
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