Sustaining Green: Clean outdoor gear the green way

Some cleaning supplies, like the ones pictured, can leave behind harmful residues and, when rinsed, these chemicals can find their way to drinking water. A better alternative is using biodegradable cleaners like lemon juice or vinegar.

Spring is upon us. And while many in Juneau may be dusting off outdoor gear, furniture and tools, few may stop and think about what their cleaning regime might be doing to the environment.

Too often people turn to harsh chemicals that, when washed away, can end up leaching into the surrounding ground and potentially the water supply. There are more environmentally friendly options available to get outdoor items prepped and ready for a summer outside in Southeast.

Although it may take a little more elbow grease to do it the green way, here are some tips for cleaning up.

- Head into the kitchen. People are often surprised to find they have some of the most versatile cleaning products in their cabinets and possibly even the refrigerators. Baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice are good cleansers to try on stubborn stains. Baking soda mixed with a little vinegar will create a foaming action that can help break through stains. Vinegar on its own is a natural deodorizer and can clean chrome and glass without leaving behind streaks. Baking soda mixed with a little water can be used as a scouring paste applied with a stiff-bristled brush, and it has even been shown to remove rust stains on some metal surfaces. The acidity of lemon juice can help cut through oily messes and gummy substances.
- Put some pressure behind the cleaning. Don't underestimate the power of plain water -- especially if it's being directed at dirt at a high velocity. Pressure washers are ideal for cleaning off mold, mildew and even leaf and bug stains from many surfaces, including concrete. Set the power washer at an acceptable spray size because, if it's too concentrated, the spray can cause other damage.
- Get steamed for cleaning. Steam is a popular and green method of cleaning indoor floors, counters and other surfaces. Steam can also be tried on outdoor items such as resin furniture or other materials to loosen debris, enabling the dirt to be wiped off with little elbow grease. Steam can also disinfect surfaces without the need for chemicals.
- Look for green cleaning products. For those who prefer the power of a spray-bottle, select products that have been approved for use by notable environmental agencies. These cleaning items will be free from damaging ingredients. Just be sure to check the ingredient list before making any purchases.
- Bleach it. Diluted bleach is one of the most effective cleaning and disinfecting combinations around. Because bleach is an organic chemical, it can be introduced back into the environment without doing much damage, provided it is substantially diluted. Check the color-fastness of the materials that will be cleaned in an inconspicuous spot prior to doing the whole surface.
- Cover it. Sometimes the stains are so set in that they are not able to be scoured clean. In such instances, consider the use of eco-friendly fabrics to cover tears, rips or thin areas of fabric. In addition, look for green paints that can be used to go over metal and even plastic items for a new look.

Regardless of the tools used to enjoy a season outside, getting those items ready in a way that helps the environment will leave everyone smiling - even Mother Nature.


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