Greener Pastures: Vail readers’ green cleaning questions answered |

Greener Pastures: Vail readers’ green cleaning questions answered

Special to the DailyCassie Pence

VAIL, Colorado

1. After emitting a horrid burnt rubber smell, our vacuum appears to have died. Do you have any recommendations?

– Lauren, Massachusetts

Captain Vac’s hands will only use a Miele. Made in Germany, it is the Mercedes Benz of vacuums. It’s powerful and moves around tight spots with ease. Pair a Miele with a HEPA filter and you have one powerful cleaning machine. HEPA filters trap small pollutants, allergens, dust and other particles. So it actually cleans the air while you’re vacuuming. People with allergies or weak immune systems will greatly benefit from using a Miele outfitted with a HEPA filter.

2. I want to make the switch from cleaning with paper towels to rags. What’s your advice?

– Emily, Indiana

You will be doing the entire planet a favor if you make the switch. According to Green Seal, 40 percent of trash in U.S. landfills consists of paper products, and 30 percent of the timber consumed in the U.S. is used to make paper products. And I won’t even get started about the negative effects that bleached paper towels have on the wildlife and our water source.

That said, once yo

u go rags, you’ll never go back. Take those towels from college, old T-shirts, or hit your local Salvation Army, and cut the fabric into squares. Size depends on personal preference. I like my rags big, so I can cover a larger area when cleaning.

Use rags for every type of clean, from dusting to windows to bathroom floors. Simply spray cleansers directly on the rag, or on the surface, and wipe away. When a rag looks dirty, it’s time to grab a clean one. We use about three rags for one bathroom, but once it hits the toilet, it’s done. Keep a canvas bag full of clean rags underneath sinks for easy access. Keep a “dirty” bag in your laundry room for easy washing.

3. What’s a natural way to remove ink stains?

– Jan, Georgia

According to Annie Berthoud-Bond (a green cleaning goddess), soak ink stains in lemon juice or milk. Or make a paste of sodium perborate and water, then rub the stain.

4. I’m making the switch to all organic products, but what do I do with my old toxic products?

– Laura, New York

This is an extremely tough question, and there really isn’t a great answer. My best advice is to call your local waste-management company and ask where you can dispose of these toxic products. You don’t want to flush them down the drain. And you could always use the products up ” unless of course it’s really old like some spray-on adhesive glue from elementary school. Most of the damage caused by chemical-based products are from long-term use. So if you’ve committed yourself to a green life after you finish that bottle of Dawn dish soap, you and the environment will probably survive.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is married to the superhero of green cleaning Captain Vacuum, AKA Tim Szurgot. Together they own Organic Housekeepers, a cleaning company that uses strictly organic, natural and nontoxic cleaning products. Contact her at

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