Change The World Wednesday, Cleaning House

This week’s challenge from Reduce Footprints is a simple one it is:

This week test out eco-friendly cleaners.  You can buy “green” versions or better yet….make your own.  Use vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or search the internet for other natural, homemade options.  If you are currently using something which contains toxins (typically identified by a long list of ingredients on the label and warning about skin irritation, breathing problems, etc) consider switching to a safer version.   

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If you’ve already made the switch to safe cleaners, please share your tips, suggestions and recipes.

Guess which part of that challenge I will be sharing with you today?

Yes, I’ve already switched over to non-toxic cleaners and have been chemical free in my home for several years.  Before I share how I clean, I’d like to tell you a little about how I made the switch.

I had all the various cleaners, tub and tile, multi-purpose, kitchen cleaners, Lysol toilet bowl cleaner, etc.  It was so expensive to buy all these different cleaners and raising two boys on my own the money was needed in other ways, but it wasn’t the money which motivated me to change.

I never could use bleach as it irritated my lungs, so that was never in the house.  I did use a name brand laundry detergent (Era) which worked great as a stain remover/pre-treater so that was one product I didn’t need.

I was switching from a SAD diet to vegetarian diet at the time after being diagnosed with cancer, I was unable to undergo Chemotherapy due to my disability (long story) which meant I  had to find other ways to fight the cancer.  In cleaning up our diet, one day I stopped to look at what I was cleaning my bathroom with and wondered about all those ingredients on the label.

I knew from my studies in cosmetology that our skin is our biggest organ and will absorb everything it comes in contact with.  While I knew my cancer wasn’t related to these toxins I needed to cut my exposure to let my body heal.

I know a lot of people making the switch to natural cleaners use up what they have already, when running out of a product is when they will introduce the non-toxic cleaners into their routines, not me!

I asked my grandparents what they used to clean with before cleaners were available in the stores.  The two things that kept coming up were baking soda and white vinegar.  I stopped at the store and bought the largest container of each then went home, bagged up all the toxic cleaners in my home and delivered them to a friend who I knew would welcome them.   I had thought about simply tossing them out, but the concern of what these would do in the landfills when combined with everything else toxic had me worried.

I know giving them to someone else isn’t the best idea, I mean they are still finding their way into the waterways, but she would have bought them anyway, still does today, even adding to her supplies the now overly used antibacterial cleaners and soaps.  I can’t change others, only myself, so pass it on I did.

For the record, I did heal from my cancer without any pharmaceutical help and have been cancer free for 24 years.  The healing time took a while, from a cancer diagnosis to a clean bill of health took 3 years, but I came out of it a stronger person and my children never had to see a mother so sick she couldn’t take care of even herself.

Enough background, so how do I clean?

I don’t have any special recipes to share with you, I like life simple.  So here is how I clean:

Bathroom:

  1. Toilet bowl is cleaned with baking soda and white vinegar, I usually put it in at night then wipe clean in the morning.
  2. Tub:  I have a couple of ways in which I clean the tub.  When spraying my hair with vinegar I will spray the tile walls and then rinse before getting out.  For the tub itself, I tried baking soda, but for hard stains oxygen bleach works best.  I simply sprinkle a little on the floor of the tub then with a wet rag scrub and rinse.
  3. Toilet seat.  Okay I have a thing about sitting where other people sit.  To make sure I kill all germs I clean with white vinegar then spray lightly with hydrogen peroxide and let that dry.
  4. Bare floors are cleaned (I don’t have much so have no need for a mop) with a rag and a mixture of white vinegar and water, no rinsing needed!
  5. Vanity and sink are cleaned with baking soda and damp rag, the faucet is cleaned with white vinegar which leaves it shiny. I usually start with a white vinegar dampened rag to clean the faucet, then the door knobs, then into the bathroom to wipe down the other areas that would be “germier”.  This way I progress from the cleaner to the dirtier areas saving water from having to rinse as often.

Kitchen:

  1. The kitchen is pretty simple.  I can clean everything from the counter top to the dishes with baking soda.
  2. To shine the sink, faucet, wipe down the cabinets and pulls, and wash the mirror I switch back to the white vinegar
  3. To clean the trash can I fill with hot water and vinegar, let sit for a bit then wipe clean.

Carpet:

  1. Normal freshening I sprinkle baking soda over the carpet then vacuum.
  2. Spot cleaning:  hydrogen peroxide works wonderfully. Just soak the spot with a little peroxide then rub gently with a damp rag.  Clean and easy. I haven’t tried it yet, but I believe oxygen bleach would probably work as well.

Laundry:

  1. I have used a simple mixture recently that I have been quite happy with.  I have mixed oxygen bleach with baking soda, adding a small scoop to each load to wash.
  2. For fabric softener, which for a long time I didn’t use and put up with static…I now use a rag with is dampened with white vinegar and tossed in the dryer with the load of clothes.  It works well when I need it.
  3. To avoid using fabric softener, simply sort your clothes.  Natural fibers won’t need any. It’s the synthetic fabrics which get statically. I have eliminated the synthetic articles as I can, replacing them with natural cotton.

To Freshen a mattress: simply spray lightly with white vinegar and let dry then remake your bed!

As you can see, not only the cost of my cleaning supplies but also the need for storage space for all those cleaners has been reduced.  I no longer have to worry about where I store cleaners in case a little one or pet would get into them as well.

What do  you use to clean around your home?

81 thoughts on “Change The World Wednesday, Cleaning House

  1. I cleaned the kitchen floor with vinegar and water yesterday. I had tried it years ago, and others in the household complained about the smell and I never tried it again. But I love the clean feeling of the floor. No rinsing, and no residue! I’m sold. The floor was filthy with muddy paw prints. Spring and fall, that’s my interior decoration whether I like it or not!

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    • Jean, I spray my hair with vinegar, and comb through, to make sure all the baking soda is out, and yes I do rinse it out. Now that I am letting my hair grow out the vinegar will also serve the purpose of a conditioner and detangler.

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      • LOL. Oh, I just can’t keep up with you. Of course, to get the baking soda out! So baking soda and vinegar is like my shampoo and conditioner? You are speaking another language to me! I’m not ready to give up my Aussie products yet, but I’m enjoying the natural cleaning product challenge so far! I bought a generic oxy clean and vinegar and baking soda. Now, I saw Arm & Hammer baking soda cleaning product (dang, I was going to remember the name exactly for you). It says it is a multi-use cleaning product, but it was in the laundry isle by the oxy clean products. You don’t use that, right? You use just the baking soda.

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  2. Pingback: Spot On Stain Remover | wholeyjeans

  3. Pingback: SPOT ON CORRECTION: Stain Remover | wholeyjeans

  4. What a brilliant post. Your personal story was touching and inspiring, I’m so happy you could regain your health in this way. One of my mother’s friends had breast cancer a couple of years ago and she had to make rapid lifestyle adjustments too. She is healthy now and she says although it was awful, she actually gained a huge amount from getting through the experience.
    As for the actual cleaning tips, the list was very informative and thorough. I currently buy eco-friendly versions of the typical cleaning products, but this post has inspired me to try more simple measures. I had a preconception that making your own cleaning products would be quite time-consuming, but you seem to manage fine by using mostly baking soda and vinegar on their own. I’ve heard lemons are also a good cleaning tool? Anyway it doesn’t sound difficult at all. Thanks for sharing this list!

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    • Hi Tegan. I hate hearing that anyone else has had to go through the experience of having cancer, but I agree it’s with your mother’s friend. I learned so much and changed my perspective on so many things, for the better, that while I would like to say I wish I hadn’t gone through it, I would be a different person if I hadn’t.

      As for cleaning products, I did use some of the commercial green ones at first, but the cost was so prohibitive that I was always trying to figure out how to make the product last longer. Cleaning became more of a “let’s wipe with water today and do a good cleaning another day” to try to make them last.

      It is very easy to clean with just baking soda and vinegar. Give it a try, you might like it. I don’t use lemons often, but that’s more because it’s hard to keep them fresh. You could also add essential oils to the vinegar if you want, but it isn’t necessary. Also if you like air fresheners you could set a small bowl out with baking soda to absorb odors, adding a couple drops of your favorite essential oil will not only clean the air but add a lovely scent.

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  5. I make my own spray and wipe cleaner. Its just water, with a few drops of either peppermint or tea tree oil, and a few drops of Dr Bronners soap; peppermint or almond. I love it, it is so easy to make, cleans and smells better than the brought stuff and I know Im not wiping chemicals all over my surfaces. Oh and I make lemon dusters using old rags, rolled up with lemon peel and soaked in a mix of white vinegar and lemon oil… they make the house smell great too!!

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    • Janette, I’ve wanted to make citrus cleaners using white vinegar for a while now, but have to wait to find organic versions of either oranges or lemons as I won’t put the pesticide laden stuff in to spread around my house. Now that the weather is getting better I will be able to go into the city to find them. I was thinking of trying oranges but lemons sounds so good right now!

      One of these days I will probably break down and get some essential oils, I know it would smell wonderful to clean with. I just keep telling myself it’s something I don’t need and put it off.

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  6. Excellent tips! I haven’t tried the oxygen bleach yet but I’m going to get some. I know that using vinegar, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide gets everything clean and kills bacteria but … it’s those stains. Perhaps Oxygen Bleach will help. Question … do you think oxygen bleach would work on mold/mildew stains. The windows in our apartment (very inefficient kind) have stains around them and vinegar doesn’t get rid of it. Maybe oxygen bleach?

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    • hi,
      if the stains on your window (or elsewhere) are positioned such that you can sprinkle Baking soda on them…try this
      Sprinkle on, leave, after few days vacuum off.
      Repeat. Repeat. etc till stains are gone.

      we had a ferocious stain on a carpet (off white). did this, and it took a month or two, but disappeared completely.

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      • Unfortunately, it’s at the top, just above the window. But maybe I could make a paste with baking soda & hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for awhile. :-)

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        • Hi,
          I thnk making a paste would work, but please try water/distilled water / instead of Peroxide.

          I am not sure, but, peroxide just may make it worse long term… I think peroxide is great for stains, per se, and to disinfect and to clean (I use it all the time, great),
          however, Peroxide when it breaks down, produces oxygen, I believe,
          and this would “feed” any mould.

          I was listening to a program on the Radio (t.v. ? cant recal which), the person said that mould / fungus cannot live without oxygen and wet/dampness. She was saying this regards a shower, but same principal anywhere.

          Also, for example, I heard on another program, re floor drains that occassionaly get mould or fungus or some kind of buildup, it will be killed off with bleach. However, if you only leave it at that you just provide a nice clean surface for the spores to reproduce on.. they suggested bleach and then coat with something oily like pinesol.

          Back to the baking soda, really, not sure why it has worked so well for me,but ….maybe it is the dehydrating effect…eliminates moisture and oxygen, so to speak..

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          • Excellent … I’ll try the paste with water. Hadn’t thought about the drying effect but yes, seems like that might work. I’ll try it! :-)

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    • I’m not sure if oxygen bleach will work on mold or mildew stains. I know once mold gets in fabric I just have to kiss it good bye as it seems to destroy the fibers, but I’m guessing you are talking about painted wood, maybe? If so, then I would suggest a mixture of vinegar and peroxide to clean the area then prime to seal it and paint over it.

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  7. I love not having to buy all those cleaners and I love that I don’t expose my kids to all the harsh stuff. I have been putting apple cider vinegar in my dishwasher and it does an amazing job. Just this morning, I got my crockpot out and it smelled like roast, I added a little apple cider vinegar to the water to rinse it and now the odor is gone.
    My only thing I have trouble with is bugs. I don’t like commercial sprays, but I am not sure what to use. We live in the country and tend to get “invaded” at certain times of the year. Any suggestions?

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    • I never heard of apple cider vinegar in the dishwasher, I’ll pass that tip on thanks, Dianna.

      As for bugs, here’s one I learned living in the southwestern states. Mix a little boric acid and sugar. Then put it along the crevices, even all along the floor where the wall and floor meet, and across the thresholds of doorways entering the house. Ants won’t cross it, cockroaches will eat it and because of static will take it back to the nest which kills them all off. It works on many other bugs, with the exception of spiders. Sorry no brilliant idea to share with you there.

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    • Dianna,
      Hi… re your dishwasher…. do you mean you just wash with apple cider?

      re bugs, (and I know this works)
      so years ago we lived in an area that seemed to get a lot of bugs in the house, do to being very close to huge natural parks, and are also now living in similar situation..
      back then (and now) on occassion heard the neigbours talking about invasions, and even saw some myself when i would stop off.

      by accident read about this (also supposed to work to keep fleas out of one’s home, if one has dogs, and we had a huge hairy dog, and no problem, so maybe yes too)

      take large quantities of salt and put in blender till very fine.
      or (as I did)
      take Baking Soda
      sprinkle all over the carpet (and couch if dog is to be on it), and cracks – baseboards etc, and beat it in thoroughly with a broom…Once it is beaten in, the vaccuum really wont suck it all out. If washing carpet, let dry well and re apply. If you have any little corners etc, do same.

      Having done this for years now, where ever I have lived, (often in areas said to have problems) I can tell you it worked for us. Once in while I have found a dead bug, but that is it. I think what happens is a) they crawl in and eat and it dehydrates them b) any who lay eggs in it – it dehydrates the eggs

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      • Thanks for the great bug tip Lynn! I will be sure to try that.
        The apple cider vinegar can be used alone (it cleans & disinfects) or added to your dishwasher cleaner. The reason i ever tried it was I saw it on a tv show (they used just the cider vinegar) and then I thought about the directions we had to clean our cast iron (dutch oven). The directions stated to use a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to clean and disinfect the cast iron. We have been doing that to our dutch oven for years.

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  8. Microfibre cloths make a huge impact – and work really well on tough grease I find. Shame they can get a bit sodden and take a while to try but otherwise, they’ve been a worthwhile investment.

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    • I was given a few one year for a present and love them. I also use the microfiber cloths to clean dust when sanding off the furniture works great and leaves the piece ready to finish. Then just wash the cloth and it’s ready for the next job.

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  9. Like you Lois, I’ve had cancer but I had chemotherapy, enough chemicals to last my body a lifetime I hope! I try to avoid using chemicals in our home and here are a few things I use:
    Floor cleaner: Hot water, wool wash soap, eucalyptus oil ( I don’t measure just splash a bit in).
    Shower and basins, sinks: Vinegar and Bicarb soda.
    Mould: Oil of cloves, wash and put in the sun to dry
    Grubby painted doorframes etc: A microfibre cloth and a splash of Eucalyptus Oil in the hot water.
    Eucalyptus oil is also good at getting sticky residue off things like jars etc

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      • Wool wash soap is what I use for washing woollens. I think there are several brands but I like earth choice Wool and Delicates. It does contain some Eucalyptus oil though!! But it’s safe to use for grey water and comes in a 100% recycled bottle and is Australian made and owned. Looking at the label I see it contains some Sodium Laureth Sulphate which is not supposed to be good but also Gylcerin, Sodium Bicarbonate and eek! I always thought cocamide DEA was made from coconuts but I just read it has been possibly linked to cancer!! It’s very confusing trying to be green, who and what do you believe!!!

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        • Jen, I am so sorry I asked! I wasn’t sure if it was a commercial detergent or something you made yourself. I am sorry that in answering my question it caused you to realize your product isn’t as green as you thought. Being that you have been supporting an Australian company, maybe you could contact them and express your desire for them to eliminate the questionable ingredients??

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  10. Another way of using fewer cleaning products whether they be green or not, is to wipe down or clean something every day. Often just a wet rag will be enough. That way you get rid of any dirt before it builds up. Of course, you will still have to clean and sanitize sometimes, but not nearly as much.

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  11. Oh, here is an idea / use I bet none of you have thought of / none of you will believe!!!

    I used to use Head and Shoulders Shampoo very occassionally, as I seemed to get a build up on my scalp, and it seemed to work. (not really dandruff, more of a build up)…I was never happy about using this, as I always felt it had fairly strong chemicals in it…

    About a year ago, I had an inspiration, and wet my hair down, then poured salt on my scalp/palms. Gave it a good scrub (not too hard), rinsed well/ proceeded with cream rinse whatever.

    To this day I have continued with this routine Salt Scrub, and still works great/no ill effects.

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      • Do you just use baking soda? or is there some type of soap/shampoo involved? I think your hair is short (?), mine is very long. Would be interested to hear if it is just baking soda for shampoo.

        re the vinegar..myself I tried that on and off over the years, but I did find it would sting, and for some reason never got on to it.

        no idea why I suddenly tried the salt scrub, but after over a year, am still pretty happy with it.

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        • I mix a tablespoon of baking soda with warm water and wash my hair, rinse then spray with white vinegar and comb through to ensure all the baking soda is rinsed out. You could also use apple cider vinegar or lemon juice for the rinse. If you do a search on “no Poo” you will find many variations of how to use the baking soda to wash your hair.

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  12. Well, unfortunately I still use way too much “regular” stuff, but over the years have worked at slowly whittling it down. I do use a lot of Baking Soda and Vinegar. Also Peroxide and Salt. Peroxide works very well on almost any hard surface (for all I know might work well on carpets etc too)… At the wholesale store, get a pack of four bottles for good price. Have been keeping an eye out for gallon jugs, as figure that would be even cheaper (farm supply store etc), so far no luck. As for Salt, if I have a stain on Stainless, it works well to rub a little salt — gets rid of stain.

    I am a long ways from “there”, however, certainly moving in right direction.

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    • Lynn, you are definitely moving in the right direction. Salt will also work on baked on food stains in the oven. I will have to try salt on the stainless items in my kitchen, if they need brightening I usually use vinegar. I keep salt on hand to add to baking soda to brush my teeth and one container lasts forever!

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    • Thanks for the link, Jean. I hadn’t thought about making my own, but looking at that it would be just as easy to add hydrogen peroxide to the water with the baking soda. For the moment I have been buying Seventh Generation oxi-clean, but it’s expensive. I’ll let you know how I like adding peroxide to the wash instead and on my tub.

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      • Oh! I didn’t know you could buy it. I had never heard of it before, so I just looked it up and figured it was something you could make. Is it available in the regular grocery store, or would it be in a whole foods type market?

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        • I used the term oxygen bleach because that is technically what it is. It is sold under the name of Oxi-clean and a few others Seventh Generation’s is called Naturtal oxy stain remover and all that I know of are in a powder form. They are sold in every grocery store, Walmart, and the whole food stores, I think even a few of the drug stores carry it in their laundry aisle.

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  13. I started making homemade cleaners about 15 years ago when I saw a program on TV that said most of the commercially available stuff is just made from water, bleach & detergent anyhow. My first concoctions weren’t all that “green” but they’ve gotten more so over the years. My main motivation is my cats, because anything that gets on their paws inevitably ends up in their mouths. And I’ve got one now who LOVES to lick any wet surface that he comes in contact with.

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  14. Great information Lois! One thing I’d like to query is why Americans more than anyone seem to use the dryer the same amount as the washer? In Ireland where I’m from, it’s the normal thing to use a clothes line, even though my country is always wet! This is why I could never understand why Americans use the dryer when ye seem to have more dry days than us Irish do! Could you enlighten me? I hope I don’t come off as rude or anything, I’m just genuinely curious. :)

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    • Eimear, you are any thing but rude. The dryer was one of those things that became a status symbol. The older generations used a clothing line and even hung clothes around the house. My great-grandmother would hang her clothes outside in winter for them to freeze then bring them back inside. By my mother’s generation they wanted all the better things life could give them and more time, they wanted to do things differently from their parents and hanging clothes outside was one they didn’t want to do. Now it’s just one of those things that are taken for granted as being needed like a car or television. For me, I have to use the dryer here because we don’t have any where to hang clothes outside. I plan to fix that real soon and hope management doesn’t complain.

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      • Thank you for that answer Lois, it’s interesting to learn about different cultures. I know my brother and his wife lived in San Francisco a number of years ago and were not allowed use a clothes line by their council or whoever is in charge there, which seems a little daft to me considering the exceptionally good weather they get in California! It’s funny how different things can be across the world – most people are generally horrified here if a person uses a dryer instead of a clothes line!

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        • It’s all about appearances, clothes hanging outside “ruin the ascetics”. Where I live, the apartments that face the street are told they can’t have a grill outside, or even chairs to sit on, but where I am the apartment faces away and I am permitted to do more and have things outside. It is crazy.

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    • I think Lois hit the nail on the head… status symbol that quickly became “the norm.” But I have a question for you Eimear… don’t know if you’ll have the answer or not. A few years ago my 40 year old washing machine finally died, and I ended up buying a brand new fancy schmancy high efficiency washer. In general, it’s a great machine, but it leaves incredible amounts of lint on my clothing. I did some research and found that this is partly attributable to the fact that the new machines use less water, but it’s also because the manufacturers stopped putting lint filters in new washing machines because the assumption was that everybody would put the clothes in the dryer anyhow, and that would take care of the lint. Sooo… I still line dry my clothes most of the time, but now I have to spend an extra hour with the lint brush after they dry. (Having 4 cats doesn’t help in this department!)

      Anyhow, I was wondering if European washing machines still have lint filters or if they just stopped putting them in the American ones. Do you know?

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      • That’s so frustrating! We got our washing machine in 2007 and it definitely has lint filters – I very rarely see a piece of lint on my clothing. Whether newer models have filters or not I’m not quite sure, but I would imagine they do. Dryers just aren’t that common in my area of the world at least.

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      • My one year old LG washer must have a lint filter, as like the Irish, Australian norms are also towards line drying. I’ve not noticed any lint even when washing towels with clothes. Interesting. Never considered or knew about the changes to filters in washing machines in dryer loving places

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  15. You can not beat White Vinegar and Baking Soda, my Gran swore by it.. I use some Ecover products which can be bought in Health Food stores, and online.. Vinegar and Newspaper to clean windows.. …. You are an INSPIRATION! in more ways than one my friend…

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  16. I love my white vinegar and baking soda. I have used both for many years now, a few tricks I learned when I owned a carpet cleaning business with the ex. Amazing how much better those two cleaners do then most ‘store bought’ stuff.

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