Tips for Eco-Friendly Plants, Shades and Cleaners
by Avery Mack
Key elements like low-flow faucets and showerheads, VOC-free paint, sustainable flooring and nonporous countertops form the foundation of an eco-friendly bathroom. Now let’s take a look at the softer side of green.
Start by considering the use of honeycomb window shades and double-glazed windows to keep this most intimate room comfortable year-round and reduce utility bills. Periodically letting in fresh air helps keep the room dry and reduces growth of mold, mildew and bacteria.
While the kitchen harbors the most germs in the house, the bathroom is a close second. Instead of harsh chemical cleansers, try white vinegar, a safe and economical alternative. Its acidity is effective in killing most germs. Madeleine Somerville, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, author of All You Need Is Less, uses heated vinegar misted on the shower door to remove soap scum. To achieve a shiny tub, she advises mixing one-quarter cup of baking soda, one tablespoon natural dishwashing soap and enough water to make a paste. The baking soda also freshens the drain when the tub is rinsed. Rings staining the toilet bowl can be scrubbed away with a pumice stone.
“Cleaning faucet aerators and exhaust vents on a regular basis extends equipment life, maintains efficiency and prevents minor plumbing problems,” advises Keita Turner, a New York City area interior designer. Turner has also installed dual-flush toilets that necessitate less water and upkeep.
Bathroom odors are another concern. A few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball placed inside the toilet paper roll freshens the air every time the roll turns—without the plastic waste byproduct from store-bought brands.
Baking soda removes odors in the bath like it does in the fridge. Upgrade from a simple bowlful by designing a mini-Zen meditation spot using a flat, open wooden box and a doll house-sized rake. Adding a smooth rock or two for texture heightens visual appeal.
Green plants can chip in by absorbing odors, as well. Many, like the Boston fern, thrive in shower steam. Flowering plants add an inviting touch. Be sure to choose child- and pet-safe greenery.
Even quick water-saving showers eventually result in towels and washcloths destined for the laundry. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute suggests that towels can be used up to four times before washing if they are hung to dry between showers, reducing both water and energy usage.
To avoid spreading germs, personalize towels and washcloths for each child by color or marking with an initial or colored dot. Organic cotton towels are eco-friendly, comfy and widely available, as are organic cotton bath mats. For the crafty, make a mat from recycled towels or upgrade to a foot-massaging mat made from recycled wine corks.
On special occasions when a soothing bath is called for, add a whimsical touch with Mr. Green, the world’s first rubber duck made in the U.S. from environmentally friendly, recycled and recyclable material. “Recycled materials call for different sculpting and molds, so designing Mr. Green was the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” says Craig Wolfe, president of CelebriDucks, in San Rafael, California. It’s a fun way to remind kids about going green while they spend a few extra minutes getting clean.
To indulge in post-shower personal pampering, consider health-enhancing coconut oil for head-to-toe moisturizing. As a hair treatment, coconut oil blocks protein loss and reduces frizz. Make a home exfoliating sugar scrub by combining one-half cup of virgin coconut oil, one cup of organic sugar and 20 drops of lime or another essential oil to gently scrub away dry winter skin. Dry skin and ragged cuticles also benefit from whipped coconut oil. Its antifungal properties help keep toenails healthy and sandal-ready.
Goat’s milk soap can reduce symptoms of dry skin, eczema and psoriasis. Its alpha-hydroxy acids remove dead skin cells. Add honey as a natural anti-bacterial boost. Mixing in colloidal oatmeal produces a gentle exfoliator.
Let the next upgrade of our bathroom be of a more personal nature aligned with our core values of being good to our family and our home planet.
Avery Mack is a freelance writer in St. Louis, MO. Connect via AveryMack@mindspring.com.
- Never clean with sponges—they merely move the germs around; use a washable cloth wipe instead.
- Turkish cotton towels dry faster than the Egyptian variety.
- Always put the upper toilet lid down. Testing by scientists at Leeds University found airborne germs 10 inches above and around the commode.
- Low-flow toilets use as little as 1.6 gallons per flush compared to older styles that use five to seven gallons. The average person flushes five times a day.
- A bath averages 35 to 50 gallons of water versus a 10-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead maxing out at about 25 gallons. Better yet, take quicker showers and turn off the water while lathering and shaving.
- Conventional showerheads run at five gallons per minute (gpm) compared with low-flow at 2.5 gpm. Conventional faucets can flow at three gpm versus low-flow faucets at half that rate.
For a personalized water footprint calculation, visit Tinyurl.com/PersonalWaterUse.
Primary Source: GraceLinks.org
Recommended House Plants
Plants on the counter or windowsill add green to the room and serve as air purifiers.
Aloe—the gel inside the leaves can also soothe shaving nicks
Boston fern—can be challenging to grow, but absorbs humidity and moisture
English ivy—can reduce airborne fecal matter particles
Eucalyptus—adds its own fresh aroma
Heart leaf philodendron—cleans the air; poisonous if eaten by kids or pets
Peace lily—cleans the air; poisonous to pets, especially cats
Snake plant—needs little light or water; cleans the air of chemicals used in personal products
Primary Source: ThisOldHouse.com
Freshen drains and keep oils and lotions from clogging bathroom pipes by pouring one cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by a cup of hot, white vinegar. After it foams, wait five minutes and then flush with hot water.
Mix two tablespoons of salt with one teaspoon of white vinegar to form a paste effective for cleaning chrome faucets.
Scrub chrome with a cut lemon to remove hard water stains.
Use lemon juice and an old toothbrush to scrub grout.
Periodically douse the toilet with a half-cup of lemon juice and swish with a toilet bowl brush to keep it fresh.
Add a few tablespoons of lemon juice into a spray bottle filled with water to clean windows and mirrors.
Primary Source: BroccoliCupcake.com