Friday, December 9, 2011

Vinegar Fridays: Book Review and Giveaway

Green is My New Favorite Color
I was very excited to receive a copy of Vinegar Fridays by Hana Haatainen Caye (aka Green Grandma) for review. Why am I so excited? Ever since Logan was born and I became a full-time mom, I have slowly gotten away from some conventional ways of cleaning and have switched to greener alternatives. Sometimes I look back and wish I had known about greener alternatives when Mia was a baby, but it is never too late to learn "new" things. While vinegar itself is not new, and the tips for using it have been known for generations, we have been bombarded by chemical cleaners in the past few decades. If you're like me, you have grown up using only commercial products for everything. Lately, we hear more and more news reports of things hurting our kids, so I am sure you will be glad to learn that there are simple, safe, and inexpensive solutions for cleaning practically everything! I never knew that vinegar has so many uses, and honestly, I had never used it all that much until last year when I began making my own cleaning solution. I am excited to be able to share some of Green Grandma's tips with you as well as point you toward a giveaway so you can get your own copy of this great little book.

Something for Everyone
Vinegar Fridays is a compilation of Green Grandma blog posts, organized into chapters of related items: cleaning in the kitchen, cleaning for other areas of the house, pest control, car care, kids, pets, health, beauty, and more. In the introduction, the author explains that her tips are "intended to change the way you traditionally do things -- and get you out of the habit of using chemicals and toxins in your everyday life." There is literally, something for everyone in this book. Several tips could easily fit into more than one chapter, so I found myself wishing there was an index for easy reference. Luckily, I had highlighted anything that I thought I might use (which means that my copy is full of neon yellow) and I found myself reading and rereading those highlighted sections this week, as I tried out as many tips as possible.

Why Vinegar? 
In chapter 2, Hana Haatainen Caye explains exactly what is in those commercial cleaning products and why you don't want them in your home.
    1. Floor and glass cleaners and furniture polishes contain ammonia, which "can cause skin rashes and eye, nose and lung irritation." (page 3)
    2. Toilet bowl cleaners, disinfectants, and laundry whiteners contain bleach, and when the American Association of Poison Control Centers' released its annual report for 2007, it showed that "over 14,000 children were poisoned by chlorine bleach." (page 3) When chlorine bleach is produced, mercury and dioxin, a carcinogen, are released. Bleach is also a skin irritant and can cause asthma attacks. Not to mention, that "when combined with ammonia, the result is a toxic gas!" (page 3)
    3. Formaldehyde can be found in several places in your home including your cabinets and carpet, as well as in disinfectants, furniture polish, and detergents. This can cause "nasal stuffiness, itchy eyes and nausea." (page 3)
    4. Glycols, found in degreasers, floor cleaners, and dry-cleaning solutions, can cause eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation.
    5. Many carpet and air deodorizers contain napthalene. Possible side effects of inhaling this include headaches, nausea, confusion.
    6. Petroleum distallates, found oven cleaners and pesticides can irritate the skin.
If you are feeling scared and overwhelmed by all of that, don't despair. The good news is that you can replace all of your dangerous commercial cleaning products with vinegar, which is cheaper and safer for your family and your home. Vinegar is an effective antiseptic, and it cleans and deodorizes. What more could you ask for from a cleaner?

Do Try This at Home
Someone's in the Kitchen with Vinegar
I definitely wanted to try a few tips from the book before reviewing it. As with everything, results vary. What works great for me, may be slightly different for you. Of course, this also means the ideas that didn't go so well for me, may have positive results for you. Really, you have nothing to lose by trying. My only major disappointment was using distilled white vinegar in the dishwasher (page 13). First, I tried making my own dishwasher detergent using Borax and Arm and Hammer Washing Soda. I expected this to work great since this is what I have been using to make laundry detergent for the past year. I was frustrated to find a cloudy film on all of the dishes, and that was even with using vinegar in the rinse compartment. I thought maybe I wasn't using enough vinegar, so I tried again, only the second time I used vinegar in the rinse compartment and our regular dishwasher detergent capsules. I still had very cloudy dishes, not spotty, but covered with a film. While I am sure it was harmless, it wasn't very appetizing, and Mia refused to drink from the cups that were cloudy. So, I wasn't interested in trying that again.

You'll be sure to like this method of cleaning your microwave. "Put a microwave-safe bowl in the center of the oven with 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Cook on high for 90 seconds and let sit for a few minutes." Once the water has "cooled down a bit, just remove the bowl and wipe down the microwave with a damp cloth." (page 14) (Note: I used a microfiber towel that I got in a 24-pack at Sam's Club for about $12, and absolutely love.) This made cleaning the microwave super easy and I knew that the smells and any germs would be gone.

Remember when I mentioned that I started making my own cleaner about a year ago? One of the first things I tried was straight vinegar for cleaning the toilet. I didn't like it because of the smell. I have changed my viewpoint on this as I have been using green cleaners. Yes, vinegar has a smell, but it always goes away in a reasonable amount of time, and I much prefer the smell of vinegar to the smell of bleach. This is increased by the knowledge that vinegar is safe to touch and inhale and bleach is not. (And I do not like wearing gloves when I clean.) That said, I decided to give distilled white vinegar another shot at toilet cleaning. (page 10) A couple of nights ago, I poured a cup of distilled white vinegar into the toilet and went to bed. In the morning, I scrubbed it a little, and was pleased with the results. The toilet was clean, sanitized, and even a bit whiter. I am convinced that the vinegar made a dent in the orange streaks in the the toilet bowl, which are caused by the iron in our well water. Verdict: You won't find a better toilet cleaner; it's simple, safe, and effective.

Distilled white vinegar (1 tablespoon) also can be combined with water (1 cup) and baking soda (1 teaspoon) to make a fantastic room deodorizing spray. (page 19) Just mix in a spray bottle and use as needed. This is perfect for bathroom odors, including the ammonia smell coming from our small, open trash can where I keep Logan's used cloth diapers until I'm ready to wash them. I was curious if this would take away kitchen smell, too, like grease, and sure enough, it will. The plus is that I don't worry as much about where the spray lands because I know it is safer than the aerosol room spray I was using (as infrequently as possible because I was pretty sure it wasn't really a good thing, but I didn't know there was an alternative.) Now, I will never buy those sprays again.

I cleaned all of the bathroom mirrors with a 50/50 mix of distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. (page 11). Spraying the solution onto one of my microfiber cloths instead of directly on the mirror made for sparkling, clear mirrors that were totally streak-free. That was a first for me.

I was excited by that success so I decided to see what would happen if I took the same mixture sprayed on my microfiber towel and wiped down the chrome faucets, which always seem to have soap scum and mineral deposits on them. Wow! This was so quick to do, and it worked better than anything else I had tried before. I didn't even have to scrub them with a toothbrush.

Next, I tackled the shower door. (page 10) It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but this turned out to be a sorely neglected feature of our master bathroom. To clean the shower door track, I poured undiluted white vinegar in it and let it soak for a few hours. When I went back, I rinsed with hot water and watched the gunk started pouring out. A little bit of scrubbing with an old toothbrush yielded a lot more gunk, hair, and orange iron build-up. It was pretty gross, but I feel better knowing I took care of that mess before it got any worse. And now that I know how easy it is to clean, I'm going on record to say that I have no excuse for ever again allowing it to get as disgusting as it was. To clean the shower door itself, I sprayed it with vinegar and then took my shower, allowing the steam to do the work for me. I wished I had a squeegee to wipe it down afterward. I'll have to add that to my shopping list. I did notice some film on the door when I went back later to check on it, so I sprayed more vinegar and gave it a light scrub with the toothbrush, followed by a hot water rinse. Problem solved. When I was scrubbing out the shower door track, I inadvertently discovered that the vinegar and toothbrush were taking off all that that build-up iron on the inside of the shower itself. You can't imagine how excited I was by this discovery! I have tried countless things to remove all that orange from our shower with little success, but all of a sudden it was just coming off and I was barely touching it. Needless to say, I tackled as much of the shower as I could with my little toothbrush and spray bottle of vinegar. (Note to self: I should probably add larger scrub brush to my shopping list to go along with that squeegee.) Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this one should tell the story of my rust removal pretty well.
{Vinegar + toothbrush = less orange shower. No elbow grease required.}
Around the House
For cleaning the mini-blinds, a most abhorrent chore, I used a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water in a small bowl. (page 7) I put on some inexpensive cloth gloves (the stretchy winter kind), dipped my fingers in the solution, and then slid them between the slats in the blinds. This was time-consuming, like any other method of cleaning blinds, but it worked, and as a bonus I didn't have to worry about Logan poisoning himself when he started sticking his face into the bowl.

By this point in my experiments, I am pretty sure that vinegar has magical powers. It's even giving me motivation to do chores that I let go longer than I should like dusting the wood furniture. (page 8) To do this, I made a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl. I dipped one of my microfiber towels into the liquid and then started wiping the furniture down. This is fantastic for so many reasons. The wood looked wonderful, clean and shiny. It seemed to get rid of the grime that was built up in little crevices that I can't tackle with a dry cloth alone. I had previously been using my home-made all-purpose cleaner, but it didn't work this well, although I felt safer using that than back in the days of using Endust. It evens smells nicer than aerosol sprays (as long as you don't mind the smell of salad dressing). Once again, when Logan wanted to "help" I had no reason to be concerned for him touching or possibly ingesting my cleaning solution.

The last of the household cleaning "miracles" was using vinegar as a carpet spot remover. Even if none of the other trials had been successful, I would be touting the powers of vinegar just for the fact that it did wonders for my carpet. As described on pages 48 and 49, I first used vinegar to eliminate a spot where (conveniently enough) the dog had just thrown up. There are a few steps to this but it's completely worth it. First, blot up liquid. Then, sprinkle baking soda over the spot and leave overnight. In the morning, vacuum up the baking soda. Then scrub with distilled white vinegar and follow that with water. I was incredibly amazed by how well this worked at eliminating the spot and the odor, especially considering that we have tried a few different products, mostly geared toward pet accidents, with little success. Don't tell her I told you this, but the following day, Mia urinated all over the carpet. (Moms of preschoolers know that they get so involved in playing that they forget to go.) Of course after sopping it up with my microfiber towel, I reached for the baking soda. In the morning, I was worried when I saw so much urine on the surface of the carpet, but now I realize that is the way it was supposed to be. The baking soda did a great job of drawing it out and the vinegar took care of the rest. Once I knew that this works on pet stains and kid messes, my next question was "how will it do at tackling set-in stains of unknown origins?" I am thrilled to say that it got rid of one, so I am planning to do the rest of my house as time allows. If only I had known about this sooner, it would have saved me a lot of frustration, time, and embarrassment. Since seeing is believing, I have included some before and after photos of my amazing carpet stain removal experiments.
{Urine Stain (aka "Pee Pee") -- with Baking Soda}
{Urine Stain (aka "Pee Pee") AFTER -- Can you say "Wow!"}

{Stain of Unknown Origin -- BEFORE}
{Stain of Unknown Origin -- AFTER}
I Feel Pretty
Okay, after all of that cleaning, this may come as a surprise, but vinegar is my new favorite beauty product. Earlier this week I posted about my experience with no 'pooing. My new method of hair washing without shampoo was inspired in part by Green Grandma herself, and involves, you guessed it, vinegar. I've been no 'pooing for 7 weeks now, and I have no plans to go back to shampoo. To read about my experience, see my post. For more information check out Green Grandma's post or chapter 11 of the book, Vinegar Fridays, which is devoted to the topic of no 'pooing.

If vinegar is good for hair, it must be good for nails, too since they're made of the same stuff, right? After soaking my feet in a bowl of water mixed with 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar, I polished my toe nails. I was hoping that the soak would smooth out my cracked heels like it did for Green Grandma (page 23), but I must have set my expectations a bit high. My feet were soft, but I still had dry, cracked heels. Oh well, I figured, and decided to try out the nail polish since she said it would go on smoother and last longer after an application of vinegar. (page 26) (Honestly, I didn't expect the foot soak to be a miracle cure, so I wasn't terribly disappointed.) Verdict: the polish did go on more smoothly, and as far as I can tell it lasts longer (no chips yet, and it's been a few days). So, this was a success.

I really wanted the acne remedy to work. In fact, I think this is the first thing I actually tried from the book. (pages 26-27) In a plastic container with a lid, I mixed 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water. I apply this morning and night after I wash my face. I decided this is healthier (and cheaper) than the store-bought astringent containing things I cannot even pronounce. Right away, I was sure it was working. I remain optimistic despite getting two new breakouts. It certainly isn't any less effective than the store-bought stuff, because I was getting zits while using that, too.

I haven't used face masks in awhile. As any mom will tell you, we don't spend as much time or money on ourselves as we did in the BC era (Before Children), so that seemed like an obvious extra to cut out of the beauty regimen. However, after trying Martha Washington's Vinegar Facial Mask, (page 25) I am planning to make this a weekly me-time ritual. It's easy to make up; there are only 3 ingredients. Combine 1 egg, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, apply to your face, and wait 20 minutes before rinsing with warm water. I know that this improved my skin because my husband commented on it both the evening that I did the mask and the morning after. My skin was fresh and glowing, and I swear it even felt tighter, at least temporarily. This will definitely give you some exfoliation, just not in a harsh way like those scrubs do.

High Hopes
There are many, many more tips and tricks contained in the book, Vinegar Fridays. I am sure it will take me a few months (or even years) to get through them all. The good thing is that I have this guide to refer to whenever the need arises, and I have high hopes that vinegar will get the job done. I've compiled the following list of tips I am sure to use in the near future:
  • removing crayon from the wall (page 8)
  • hiding scratches in wood furniture (page 9)
  • cleaning the grime off cupboard doors (page 13)
  • unstopping clogged sinks (page 15)
  • getting garlic or onion smell off of hands (page 20)
  • eliminating odors after carsickness (page 21)
  • for minor cuts and scrapes (page 24)
  • wart removal (page 26)
  • relief for aches and pains (page 33)
  • to soothe coughs/congestion (page 34)
  • to prevent ear infection (page 35)
  • relief from nausea and vomiting (page 36)
  • sunburn relief (page 43)
  • treatment for itchy skin-- caused by bug bites or poison ivy, sumac, etc. (page 44)
  • gum removal (page 45)
  • cleaning toys (page 46)
  • all natural flea-bath and preventive -- To keep in mind for when it gets warmer (page 47)
  • cure for pet's hot spots (page 48)
  • keeping rabbits out of the garden (page 51)
  • getting rid of ants --This will have to wait until next summer. (page 54)
  • laundry stains and other woes (pages 60-61)
Two Ways to Get Vinegar Fridays
Want more great ideas that will save you money while making your home clean and healthy? Buy the book, Vinegar Fridays by Green Grandma, Hana Haatainen Caye. Or win a copy of Vinegar Fridays by doing the following:
  1. Like Green Grandma on Facebook.
  2. Post a comment on the Facebook page letting her know I sent you. Simple, huh?
The deadline for this giveaway is Wednesday, December 14, 2011. One winner will be randomly selected by Green Grandma. The winner will be announced on this blog.

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