Do It Yourself

Do-it-yourself household green cleaning tips are cost-saving and planet-saving

2013-02-28T00:00:00Z 2013-02-28T23:39:14Z Do-it-yourself household green cleaning tips are cost-saving and planet-savingBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Heloise, the "Queen of Cleaning," is feeling especially "green conscious" this week.

"As we're doing this phone interview, I'm baking a cake at the same time," said the syndicated advice columnist, talking by telephone from her home in Texas.

"Three of my office staff have March birthdays, and so I've made a cake in the shape of a shamrock, and added some drops of green coloring. So yes, I'm really all about being green right now."

The undisputed "Sherlock Holmes of Household Hints," Heloise, is not only an internationally King Features syndicated newspaper columnist, featured in The Times seven days a week, she's also a contributing editor for Good Housekeeping magazine.

Heloise, (who legally changed her given name to Poncé Kiah Marchelle Heloise Cruse Evans...Phew!) is heralded my many as "America's No. 1 lifestyle manager" and a "hintologist extraordinaire."

She just celebrated the 35th anniversary since she took over her mother's column after she died at age 58 in 1977. The original Heloise founded the column, which was first called "The Reader's Exchange" and then "Hints with Eloise," the latter including her mother's real name before she legally changed it.

Today, Heloise has not only surpassed her mother's age, but she's also included in more than 450 newspapers, and 20 books, while managing her popular web site heloise.com.

She happily works from her home office in San Antonio, Texas, which is complete with a radio studio and her own "cleaning lab and staff offices," just 180 feet away from the comfort of her own living room.

The subject of do-it-yourself green cleaning isn't a new subject for Heloise or even her late mother.

"The idea of mixing your own cleaning solutions, and using favorite key ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, salt and rubbing alcohol is not a break-through of just the past couple decades," Heloise said.

"It's what our parents and grandparents and aunts were doing a century ago, not only to save money, but because they didn't have all the options of today's commercial brands of cleaning products."

This week, Heloise said she's been testing out homemade window cleaning solutions on her large living room picture window, which she dedicates as her "glass cleaning test zone."

"I'm varying my amounts of vinegar and rubbing alcohol that I'm adding to my water in each spray bottle to figure out just the right formula," she said.

Most recently, Heloise has been on a campaign to also educate readers about both success and concerns with the advent of "concentrated cleaners" for everything from laundry detergent to dish washing cleanser.

"You know those smaller bottles now being sold in stores, often with the word 'ultra' or 'concentrated' on the label? They are great in concept, but now that they've been around a few years, we're also finding they can be part of a new problem," she said.

"Consumers are so used to just pouring in unmeasured amounts, they often end up using way more than they should, so even more of what's trying to be prevented from going into our environment is being sent down the drain."

Heloise also reminds others to read all of the label on products and not just be wooed by large enticing print.

"So often, there's all of these fancy promises and wording on the label and then when you read to fine print about what's contained inside, you find out it's those same basic green ingredients you could whip together in your home, such as the standards like baking soda and vinegar."

For readers who have complained of "sewer smells" in homes closed up during the long winter months, Heloise has discovered adding a little table salt to a mixture of baking soda and vinegar poured into drains and waiting 20 minutes before a water flush, keeps "P" pipes clean and working again to "trap and prevent" sewer gases from escaping.

Neighbors Diana Welch and Melissa Lyons of Valparaiso said they not only faithfully read Heloise and her column advice each day in The Times, but also defer to Pinterest to share ideas for green cleaning and gather new cleaning inspiration.

"My favorite green do-it-yourself trick is using vinegar heated in the microwave and then added to my spray pump to clean my bathroom tub and shower curtain to get rid of mineral and soap build-up," Welch said.

"I have very hard water where I live and this does the trick."

Lyons said she's been researching and studying what new lines of green products are now available to help with what she calls "the green fight for cleaning."

Kiss My Face offers a line of new and improved products called Peace Soap, a simple castile soap formulated with 100 percent natural ingredients including olive, coconut and jojoba oils. The simple formulation is biodegradable, environmentally friendly with a strong cleaning ability without parabens, SLS or phthalates and no animal ingredients or testing. Sold in a pump dispenser bottle, the packaging is intended to ward against "using too much," just as Heloise warns.

The line was created by Bob MacLeod and Steve Byckiewicz, two long time vegetarians who were searching for healthy care alternatives, so they founded Kiss My Face on a 200 acre organic farm in New York's Hudson River Valley. The line now offers everything from moisturizers and liquid soaps to even shave creams and toothpaste.

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