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 Less Toxic Alternatives

Air Fresheners/Deodorizers

  • Leave open boxes of baking soda in refrigerator, closets and bathrooms.
  • Saturate cottonball with pure vanilla; place on a saucer in refrigerator or car.
  • Set out white vinegar in open dishes to destroy odors.
  • Set out potpourri in open dishes.
  • Simmer cinnamon and cloves.
  • Burn scented candles.
  • To clean garbage disposals, grind used lemons in the disposal or pour in baking soda.
  • For carpets, mix 1 part borax to 2 parts cornmeal; sprinkle liberally on carpet and vacuum after an hour.
  • Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of cat box before adding kitty litter.
  • Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of garbage cans to control odors.


  • Mix vinegar with salt and water for a good surface cleaner.
  • Dissolve baking soda in water for a general cleaner.
  • For washing dishes by hand, use ½ cup baking soda with a mild dishwashing liquid to help cut grease and food.
  • For automatic dishwashers, choose a detergent with the lowest phosphate content listed on the package.
  • Wash painted wood with 1 teaspoon of sodium carbonate, or washing soda, in a gallon of hot water.
  • Rinse with clear water.
  • Clean coffee pot surfaces with a mixture of warm water and baking soda or vinegar. Clean the interior of coffee pots with white vinegar according to manufacturers directions.
  • Use a non-chlorinated scouring powder with a nylon scouring pad or powder with a nylon scouring pad or fine steel wool as a kitchen degreaser.
  • Always use mild, biodegradable detergents.
  • Look for naturally-derived or glycerin-based soaps.
  • As a disinfectant, use ½ cup borax in a gallon of hot water.
  • To inhibit mold and mildew, do not rinse off borax mixture.

Glass Cleaners

  • Combine a quart of water with ¼ to ½ cup of white vinegar, 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or 1 to 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol; spray on surfaces and wipe clean with soft, lint-free cloth.

Oven Cleaners

  • Use a non-aerosol oven cleaner that does not contain lye.
  • Sprinkle salt on spills when they are warm, then scrub.
  • Mix 2 tablespoons liquid soap, 2 teaspoons borax and a quart of warm water; leave on oven for 20 minutes then scrub with fine steel wool or a non-chlorinated scouring powder.
  • Scrub spots with a baking soda, salt and water paste.
  • Mix 3 tablespoons of washing soda with a quart of warm water.
  • Dip a wet sponge in baking soda to clean glass oven doors.
  • Prevent spills by using oven liners (such as foil), or trays.

Mildew Cleaners

  • Scrub mildew spots with baking soda or borax, or sponge with white vinegar.
  • Scrub area with a paste of lemon juice or white vinegar and salt.
  • To clean mildew from shower curtain, machine wash with ½ cup soap and ½ cup baking soda; add a cup white vinegar to rinse cycle.

Upholstery, Rug & Carpet Cleaners

  • Use a non-aerosol, soap-based cleaner.
  • Clean spills immediately with club soda.
    Mix a quart of water, a teaspoon mild liquid soap, a teaspoon borax or TSP (trisodium phosphate) product and a squeeze of lemon juice or splash or vinegar; apply with a damp cloth or sponge and rub gently; wipe with a clean cloth and allow to dry.
  • To clean red wine spills, rub a thick layer of salt on the spill, then sponge up after the spill has been absorbed.

Scouring Powders

  • Use baking soda or salt.
  • Use a non-chlorinated commercial scouring powder.

Toilet Bowl Cleaners

  • Scrub with a solution of ½ cup borax in a gallon of water for cleaning and disinfecting.
  • Clean frequently with a solution of baking soda and water; sprinkle baking soda around the rim; scrub with toilet brush as needed.

Tub/Tile Cleaners

  • Use a non-chlorinated scouring powder or baking soda.
  • To clean grout, combine 3 cups of baking soda and a cup of warm water and scrub into the grout; rinse well with water.
  • Use ½ cup of borax to a gallon of hot water for cleaning and as a disinfectant.

Drain Openers

  • To unclog a drain, pour ¼ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup of white vinegar. Let sit for a few minutes, then pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain to flush.
  • Pour ¼ cup of salt down the drain followed by boiling water, to help keep drains unclogged.
  • Pouring boiling water down the drain once a week can keep it from getting blocked.
  • To prevent clogged drains, always use a drain strainer.
  • Use a mechanical snake or plunger to unclog the drain.

Laundry Products

Chlorine Bleach

  • Use non-chlorine dry bleach or washing soda to whiten clothes.
  • Use ½ cup borax per load of laundry to whiten and brighten colors and to remove spots.
  • Reduce bleach in half and add ¼ to ½ cup baking soda per load.


  • Use a synthetic detergent without adding fabric softeners or bleach.
  • Use products that contain washing soda. Washing soda brightens fabrics and costs less than bleach.

Fabric Softener

  • To freshen and soften clothes, add a cup of vinegar or ¼ cup baking soda during final rinse.
  • To reduce "static cling" in synthetics due to tumble drying, dampen hands when folding.
  • Use non-perfumed fabric softener sheets rather than liquid fabric softeners.


  • Soak heavily soiled items in warm water with ½ cup washing soda for 30 minutes.
  • Rub soiled areas with mild liquid soap.

Spray Starch

  • For regular fabrics, dissolve 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a pint of cold water; store in a spray bottle.
  • For delicate fabrics, dissolve a packaged unflavored gelatin in 2 cups hot water; store in a spray bottle. To test solution, tip corner of fabric into solution; if fabric becomes very sticky when dry, add more water.


Floor Polish/Wax

  • To clean vinyl floors, combing ¼ cup TSP, ¼ cup borax or ½ cup white vinegar with a gallon warm water and apply with mop to remove dull greasy film. 
  • To clean wood floors, damp mop with a mild vegetable oil soap; dry immediately.
  • For painted or finished wood floors, combine a teaspoon of washing soda and a gallon of hot water; wash floors with a rag dampened with mixture; dry immediately.
  • Wood floors sealed with polyurethane can be cleaned with ¼ cup white vinegar added to a gallon of water; dry immediately.

Furniture Polish

  • Polish unfinished wood with mineral oil.
  • To clean and polish finished wood: (1) Use a mild vegetable oil soap. (2) Combine 1 part lemon juice with 2 parts vegetable or olive oil and polish with a clean, soft cloth.
  • Wash painted wood with a teaspoon of washing soda in a gallon of hot water; rinse with clear water.

Metal Polishes

  • To polish brass: (1) Use Worcestershire sauce or scrub with toothpaste. (2) Pour on tomato ketchup, let sit and wipe dry. (3) Use water in which onions have been boiled.
  • To polish brass and copper, use a lemon juice and salt paste.
  • To polish silver: (1) Soak silver about 5 minutes in a quart of warm water containing a tablespoon of baking soda, a tablespoon of salt and a piece of aluminum foil. (2) Rub with toothpaste or baking soda and a soft cloth, rinse and polish dry.
  • To polish chrome: (1) Wipe with apple cider vinegar, rinse with water, then dry. (2) Shine chrome fixtures with baby oil and a soft cloth, a piece of aluminum foil (shiny side out), or newspapers.

Shoe Polish

  • Avoid products containing trichloroethylene, methyle chloride, nitrobenzene and mineral spirits.
  • For leather shoes: (1) Apply olive oil, walnut oil or beeswax to shoes then buff with a chamois cloth. (2) Polish black or tan leather shoes with lemon juice then buff with a clean cloth. (3) To clean leather, rub equal parts of white vinegar and linseed oil into leather; buff with soft cloth.
  • To shine and protect patent leather shoes, rub with a dab or petroleum jelly.
  • To clean dirt marks from suede, rub with an art-gum eraser then buff lightly with sandpaper or an emery board.

Spot & Stain Remover

  • To remove blood stains: (1) Immediately clean stain with cold water; dry with towel; repeat if needed. (2) Rub with cornstarch or cornmeal and water paste; let dry in sun; brush off. (3) If stain persists after cleaning with soda or cold water then pour hydrogen peroxide directly on stain; rinse with water; wash as usual or apply mixture of ¼ cup borax and 2 cups water; rinse and wash.
  • To remove chocolate or coffee stains, soak in cold water, rub with soap and a mild borax solution, rinse, then wash in the hottest water the fabric will stand.
  • To remove grease: (1) Apply paste of cornstarch and water; let dry then brush off. (2) Cover with baking soda or cornmeal; let dry and brush off. (3)Sponge spot on suede with a cloth dipped in white vinegar; dry, brush off. (4) Scrub spot with toothpaste.
  • To remove ballpoint ink, sponge with rubbing alcohol, rub with soap, rinse and wash.
  • To remove lipstick, rub with cold cream or shortening to dissolve color; rinse area with solution of washing soda and warm water to remove grease; wash in soapy water as hot as fabric will stand.
  • To remove perspiration stains, sponge stain with a weak solution of white vinegar or lemon juice and water.
  • To remove rust stains from clothing, moisten spot with lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and expose to sunlight. To remove rust stains from white washables, cover the stains with cream of tartar, gather up the ends of the article so that the powder stays on the spot, dip the whole thing in hot water for 5 minutes, then wash as usual.

Links to related websites

City of Round Rock | 221 East Main Street, Round Rock, Texas 78664 | Phone: (512) 218-5400
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