MARQUETTE - When Lynnea McFadden's husband had an allergic reaction to a laundry detergent they were using, they started looking into making their own natural cleaning solutions.
"There are very common alternatives: alcohol, ammonia, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice," said McFadden, who is the environmental educator for the Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program in Marquette.
McFadden has been hosting workshops on alternative homemade cleaning products and pesticides in an effort to educate the public on healthy and eco-friendly alternatives.
Lynnea McFadden, environmental educator for the Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program in Marquette, mixes an eco-friendly soft scrubbing kitchen cleaner as part of her workshop on alternative home cleaners. (Journal photo by Miriam Moeller)
"I think people realize more and more we have to be stewards of the land," she said. "I think we're going to see more of a pull toward environmentally friendly goods."
In her workshops, McFadden educates people on how homemade alternative cleaning and pesticide products compare to other cleaning products, and she demonstrates how to "brew" the stuff.
"Some potential problems with industrial-type cleaners are they may contain phosphates, which can hurt water systems and produce algae blooms and fish kills," she said. "Some have different levels of toxicity, causing allergic reactions or skin irritations."
One of McFadden's favorite homemade cleaning products is called "soft scrubber." She uses cup of baking soda and mixes it with a vegetable oil-based soap such as castile soap into a paste. The paste is supposed to be applied to the dirty area with a damp sponge and wiped clean.
"The baking soda is a mild abrasive and the castile soap acts like a degreaser," McFadden said. "They are all natural or biodegradable materials, so there won't be any harmful chemical additives in our water systems or it won't remain as a residue in the environment."
McFadden added that she uses the solution in the kitchen and that it works great.
"I was initially hesitant that it wouldn't work as well, but it works even better sometimes," she said. "It's cheaper, healthier."
As far as alternative pesticides, one of McFadden's favorites is the hot pepper mix.
"The easiest one that I used is six jalapeno peppers, two cups of water and blend it in your blender for two minutes," she said. "Let it sit for 24 hours and then strain it through a cheese cloth or old T-shirt. Put on leaves, tomato plants, broccoli. It's a scent and taste deterrent to deer, mice and rabbits, and I guess insects do not like it either."
McFadden added that more and more people are using what is called integrated pest management to control bugs.
"They use predators to prey on the problem bugs in the garden," she said. "Using lady bugs to eat the aphids - it's natural pest control."
McFadden said she believes in a growing "green" products movement because "all of us are seeing the effects of what we did 50 or 60 years ago. We have to be made accountable for our actions."