Household cleaners, chemicals and other items frequently used around the home and in the garden can be expensive. In times of shortage, they may not even be available. Fortunately there are very inexpensive—even free—substitutes.
Even if the usual brand-name products are available in stores and you can afford them, consider the alternatives, because they're much healthier for you, your family, and the environment.
There are also things you can do to reduce the amount of water you need for your home, and to reduce your heating and cooling costs. The more you conserve, the more money you save.
The best way to dispose of all your organic kitchen waste is through composting. We provide basic instructions on how to compost.
We've also included links to excellent sites on home repair and maintenance. You'll find hundreds of useful articles and videos.
Air Fresheners Commercial air fresheners work by masking smells, coating nasal passages or using a nerve-deadening agent to chemically alter odors and diminish the sense of smell.
Open your windows. Have vases of freshly-cut flowers. Use small bowls of fragrant spices or dried flower petals. Set vinegar out in an open dish. Simmer cloves and cinnamon in boiling water. Grow house plants, which are an excellent means of air purification. Place open boxes of baking soda in your refrigerator, closet or garbage to help reduce odors at their source.
Better Basics for the Home
Simple solutions for less toxic living [book]
Naturally Clean Home, The
101 safe and easy herbal formulas for non-toxic cleansers [book]
Most cleansers are poisonous and/or can cause burns. Rinse container before disposing.
When cleaning your home, keep in mind that you don't have to replace grease and dirt with dozens of chemicals dangerous to your family and the overall environment. Most of your household cleaning needs can be met with six simple ingredients:
Instead rub area with 1/2 lemon dipped in borax, then rinse.
Instead use vinegar, salt and water mixture for surface cleaning. Baking soda and water for the bathroom.
Strong Mixture/Wax Stripper
Double the amounts of all above ingredients except water. Use gloves, and do not mix with other compounds, especially chlorine bleach. Never mix ammonia and bleach: an extremely toxic gas is produced.
1/2 cup borax in 1 gallon water
To fully clean and deodorize carpets, mix 2 parts cornmeal or cornstarch with 1 part borax. Sprinkle liberally, leave one hour, then vacuum. For tougher stains, repeatedly blot with vinegar in soapy water. For red wine spills, use salt or club soda, or blot with white wine and warm, soapy water. Quick deodorizing is easy if you sprinkle the carpet with baking soda, then vacuum. Always wear gloves and use ventilation.
Use dry bleach, borax or soda to whiten. Borax is a good grease cutter.
Set aside your dish detergent, and dissolve soap flakes in hot water. Add some vinegar or lemon to the water for tough grease.
Drain cleaners are poisonous, corrosive, and can cause serious burns. To dispose, wash down drain with lots of water or take to a hazardous waste collection site.
Your drains can be kept open, clean, and odor-free without the use of corrosive drain cleaners. Two simple rules:
Glass, Mirrors and Windows
Glass cleaners contain harmful chemical compounds and sometimes carcinogens. May cause birth defects. Rinse container before disposing.
Use washable, reusable cheesecloth rather than paper towels, or dry with loosely crumpled sheets of newspaper.
Laundry Phosphates are added to powdered laundry soaps as a water softener. Some brand-name detergents still use them. Use liquid laundry soap. None of them have phosphates.
The best alternative to detergents for cleaning your clothes is, naturally enough, soap. Despite the advantages of detergents, (the dictionary defines soap as "a biodegradable cleansing and emulsifying agent made by action of alkali on fat or fatty acids and consisting essentially of sodium or potassium salts of such acids" and detergent as "any of numerous non-biodegradable synthetic water-soluble or liquid organic preparations that are chemically different from soaps, but are able to emulsify oils, hold dirt in suspension, and act as wetting agents") soap has accomplished the task of getting garments white and bright for generations.
Try this recipe:
Too much chlorine in a stream can kill fish and other water life. Use chlorine bleach sparingly. Better yet, switch to a non-chlorine bleach such as borax.
Oven cleaners are poisonous and can cause serious burns. Spray cans are the most dangerous. Use up according to directions or take to hazardous waste collection site.
Combine strong version of all-purpose cleaner (recipe above) with baking soda: wear gloves when scrubbing.
An easier oven cleaner is ammonia:
Clean oven with baking or washing soda: mix 3 tbsp. soda with 1 cup warm water.
Pots and Pans
Most cleansers for pots and pans are toxic and caustic.
Borax with hot water.
Most rug cleaners are poisonous or aerosols, or both.
Rub lots of salt on red wine spills. Make solution of Borax and water, or use soap-based, non-aerosol rug shampoos.
Stain removers are poisonous. Most spot removers are solvent-based and may be carcinogenic. Use up according to directions, or take to hazardous waste collection site.
For immediate action, use cold water and Lifeline, or rubbing alcohol.
The following are alternatives to enzyme pre-soaks and bleach for tough stains. Test each of these on your fabric first. If it starts to discolor, neutralize the cleaning agent immediately. Acids (lemon juice and vinegar) neutralize alkalies (baking soda and ammonia), and alkalies neutralize acids. Wash after application.
Soak in cold water or remove with hydrogen peroxide. For a more stubborn stain, mix cornstarch, talcum powder, or cornmeal with water and apply the mixture. Allow to dry and brush away.
Rub with ice. Gum will flake off.
Mix egg yolk with lukewarm water and rub on stain.
Fruit and Wine
Immediately pour salt or hot water on the stain and soak in milk before washing.
Pour boiling water on stains and follow with dry baking soda. Or try ammonia and water.
Rub with solution of 2 T (30 ml) washing soda in 1 C (250 ml) warm water.
Soak in milk or remove with hydrogen peroxide.
Rub with cold cream or shortening and wash with washing soda.
Pour strong soap and salt on the spots and place in sunlight. Keep the spots moist, and repeat as often as necessary.
Saturate with sour milk (or lemon juice) and rub with salt. Place in direct sunlight until dry, then wash.
Boil scorched article in 1 C (250 ml) soap and 2 quarts (liters) milk.
Presoak in 3 T (45 ml) baking soda dissolved in warm water in either tub or washing machine.
Toilet cleaners can cause serious burns and are poisonous. One teaspoonful may be lethal to an adult. Use up according to directions, or wash down drain with lots of water. Rinse container before disposing.
Baking soda, toilet brush. Or mix hot water, few tablespoons Borax and 1/8 teaspoon Lifeline, use pumice. Clean toilets often and you won�t need strong chemicals.
Tub and Tile
Most commercial tile cleaners do more harm than good because many contain chlorine, a serious irritant to eyes, nose and skin, and one of the most dangerous chemicals found in municipal sewers.
For bathroom cleaning, use a firm-bristled brush with either baking soda and hot water, or the mild all-purpose cleaner. Or mix Borax and vegetable soap with hot water.
Most dyes are poisonous, especially to children. Don't use cooking utensils for dyeing. May be carcinogenic. Use up according to directions, or wrap tightly in plastic, place in a box, tape shut, and put in garbage.
Use vegetable dyes such as onion skins, teas, marigolds.
Mothballs contain poisonous chemical compounds. Use up according to directions, or take to hazardous waste collection site.
Use cedar chips, newspapers, dried lavender flowers or peppercorns. Wrap wool clothing in plastic bags during warm seasons.
Paints contain solvents and poisonous chemical compounds. Give away for use by others, or take to hazardous waste collection site.
Stop using enamel or oil-based paints. Instead use water-based and latex paints. Avoid aerosol sprays.
Lacquer, varnish, thinner, stripper
These materials are poisonous. Solvent-based. Some are flammable and carcinogenic. Use up according to directions or take to hazardous waste collection site.
None, except for stripper. Alternative to stripping is to sand off old finish in well-ventilated area. Keep used turpentine or brush cleaner in a closed jar until paint particles settle out. Then pour off the clear liquid and reuse. Keep paint sludge in a closed container.
Avoid products containing pentachlorophenol. Apply less-toxic stains and finishes. Use decay-resistant wood. Minimize wood contact with soil and moisture. Follow product instructions precisely.
Flea collars and sprays poison your pet as well as the fleas you're after. Instead, gradually add brewer's yeast to your pet's diet.
May contain chlorine or be corrosive. Follow product instructions precisely. Clean out cabinets yearly. Flush small amounts down sink or toilet not in septic tanks.
Replace insecticides with used dishwater or bar soap and water; spray on leaves and rinse. Although time-consuming, the most effective remedy is removing the pests by hand. (For full information, see separate Pests listing)
Pool Acids and Chlorine Corrosive.
Follow product instructions precisely. Don't mix pool acids or chlorine with anything else as spontaneous combustion can result.
Alternatives: Upgrade your pool sanitization system to a salt system. With this easy maintenance system, you initially add cheap table salt to your pool, and a control panel and Salt Cell creates chlorine on demand for your pool. After the chlorine has done its sanitization work, it converts back into salt to be reused.
How does a salt water pool system work?
Most store-bought polishes contain poisonous solvents that are released into the air. One ounce may be lethal to an adult. Aerosol sprays are wasteful, and many contain gases harmful to the environment. Use up according to directions, or take to hazardous waste collection site.
Brass: Equal parts salt and flour, with a little vinegar.
Chrome: Rubbing alcohol, or a small amount of ammonia with hot water. Also try white flour in a dry rag. Or use dissolved baking soda.
Copper: Lemon juice and salt; hot vinegar and salt; or dissolved baking soda.
Floors: Melt 1/8 C (25 ml) paraffin in a double boiler. Add 1 quart (1 L) mineral oil and a few drops of lemon essence. Apply with a rag, allow to dry, and polish. Or: 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts olive or vegetable oil.
Furniture: Dissolve 1 t (5 ml) lemon oil in 1 pint (4/5 ml) mineral oil. Apply with a rag. Or: 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts olive or vegetable oil. Or: Mayonnaise, 2 parts vegetable oil and 1 part lemon or vinegar. To remove water marks, rub with toothpaste.
Avoid polishes containing trichloroethylene, methyl chloride or nitrobenzene.
Bring to boil in a large pan: 1 quart (1 liter) water; 1 T (15 ml) salt; 1 T (15 ml) baking soda, and a small piece of aluminum foil. Drop in silver, boil for 3 minutes, and polish with a soft cloth. Or: Polish with a paste of wood ash and water.
Get a free energy audit from your local energy company.
An "electricity usage monitor" that measures the amount of electricity consumed by household appliances—even when they're not actually being used but are simply plugged in. A great way to see where you can reduce your electricity consumption. [electronics]
Dryer: Line dry clothes (especially towels) whenever possible. Dry full loads.
Refrigerator/Freezer: Open doors only when necessary. Keep the coils (on the back or the bottom) clean.
Plant a tree.
For each tree in your yard, you'll save $100-$200 a year in heating, cooling, soil erosion and air pollution costs.
General Information (Thanks to the Seattle Tilth Association)
Compost is a dark, crumbly, and earthy-smelling form of decomposing organic matter. Composting is the most practical and convenient way to handle your yard wastes. It can be easier and cheaper than bagging these wastes. Compost also improves your soil and the plants growing in it. If you have a garden, a lawn, trees, shrubs, or even planter boxes, you have a use for compost.
You can compost any organic matter from your yard, and any kitchen scraps except meat, bones and fatty foods (such as cheese, salad dressing and leftover cooking oil.
The compost pile is really a teeming microbial farm. Bacteria start the process of decaying organic matter. They are the first to break down plant tissue and also the most numerous and effective composters. Fungi and protozoans soon join the bacteria and, somewhat later in the cycle, centipedes, millipedes, beetles and earthworms do their parts.
Anything growing in your yard is potential food for these tiny decomposers. Carbon and nitrogen, from the cells of dead plants and dead microbes, fuel their activity. The microorganisms use the carbon in leaves or woodier wastes as an energy source. Nitrogen provides the microbes with the raw element of proteins to build their bodies.
Everything organic has a ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C:N) in its tissues, ranging from 500:1 for sawdust, to 15:1 for table scraps. A C:N ratio of 30:1 is ideal for the activity of compost microbes. This balance can be achieved by mixing two parts grass clippings (which have a C:N ratio of 20:1) with one part fallen leaves (60:1) in your compost. Layering can be useful in arriving at these proportions, but a complete mixing of ingredients is preferable for the composting process. Other materials can also be used, such as weeds and garden wastes. Though the C:N ratio of 30:1 is ideal for a fast, hot compost, a higher ratio (i.e., 50:1) will be adequate for a slower compost.
The more surface area the microorganisms have to work on, the faster the materials are decomposed. It's like a block of ice in the sun—slow to melt when it's large, but very fast when broken into smaller pieces. Chop your garden wastes with a shovel or machete, or run them through a shredding machine or lawnmower, to speed their composting.
A large compost pile will insulate itself and hold the heat of microbial activity. Its center will be warmer than its edges. Piles smaller than 3 feet cubed (27 cu. ft.) will have trouble holding this heat, while piles larger than 5 feet cubed (125 cu. ft.) don't allow enough air to reach the microbes at the center. (These proportions are of importance only if your goal is a fast, hot compost.)
Moisture and Aeration
All life on Earth needs a certain amount of water and air to sustain itself. The microbes in the compost file are no different. They function best when the compost materials are about as moist as a wrung-out sponge, and are provided with many air passages. Extremes of sun or rain can adversely affect this moisture balance in your pile.
Time & Temperature
The faster the composting, the hotter the pile. If you use materials with a proper C:N ratio, provide a large amount of surface area and a big enough volume, you will have a hot, fast compost (hot enough to burn your hand!).
Troubleshooting Problem: The compost has a bad odor.
Solution: Not enough air. Turn it.
Problem: The center of the pile is dry.
Solution: Not enough water. Moisten materials while turning the pile.
Problem: The compost is damp and warm in the middle, but nowhere else.
Solution: Too small. Collect more material and mix the old ingredients into a new pile.
Problem: The heap is damp and sweet-smelling but still will not heat up.
Solution: Lack of nitrogen. Mix in a nitrogen source like fresh grass clippings, fresh manure, bloodmeal, or ammonium sulfate.
Composting - A Simple Guide To Doing It (Thanks to the Connecticut Fund for the Environment)
To work best, the compost should be damp but not soggy. If it is too wet or too dry, the composting process will slow down. Water it when the weather is dry, and cover it during heavy rains.
A well-tended compost pile has no offensive odors. If the pile begins to give off an unpleasant odor, try covering it to keep it drier.
To speed the decomposition process, you can turn the pile every few weeks during the summer with a shovel or a pitchfork. This allows oxygen to get into the compost. If steam rises when you turn the pile, don't be alarmed. This is evidence that the composting process is at work.
Chemical fertilizers are fast-acting, short-term boosters which may deplete the soil's growing capacity over time.
If you use fertilizers on your lawn, be careful to use no more than the correct amount. Excess can be washed into local water supplies. Reduce runoff with good grass cover, shrubs and trees.
Alternatives: Use natural fertilizers: peat moss, compost, blood and fish meal, or steer manure.
General Suggestions The following methods will assist in healthy gardening:
Find out which non-chemical fertilizers aid in controlling bugs, and how to fortify your plants with proper soil care. Pesticides carry the suffix "-cides," which means "killer." Natural pesticides are cheaper and safer for your family and are usually "pest-specific".
Learn to promote the population of beneficial pests such as lady bird beetles, bees, fly larvae, lace-wing larvae (aphid lions), praying mantis, dragon flies, predacious mites and thrips, spiders, toads, garter snakes, and birds. Investigate "companion planting," which can provide a natural barrier to bugs.
Spraying Tobacco Water: Place a large handful of tobacco into 4 quarts (4 L) of warm water. Let stand for 24 hours. Dilute and apply with a spray bottle. This tobacco water is poisonous to humans--use caution when handling.
Hot Peppers: Blend 2 or 3 very hot peppers, 1/2 onion and 1 clove garlic in water, boil, steep for two days, and strain. This spray will not damage indoor or outdoor plants and can be frozen for future use
Garlic: Mix 4 Q (4L) water, 2 T (30 ml) garlic juice (do not use garlic powder, as it will burn the plants), 32 grams of diatomaceous earth (see below), and 1 t (5 ml) rubbing alcohol. Can be frozen for later use.
Soap Use only pure soap, as detergents will damage your plants.
Liquid soaps: 2 T (30 ml) per quart (liter) of water.
Dry soaps: 50 grams per quart (liter) of water
Barriers Collars: To stop hatching larvae from burrowing into the soil surrounding your plants, use "collars" made of stiff paper, heavy plastic or tar paper. Cut a piece a foot square and fit snugly around the stem of the plant on top of the soil. Use a paper clip to hold it in place.
Netting: Fine netting such as cheese cloth, placed over the bed, will protect seedlings from chewing insects, keep cats and birds away, and prevent flying insects from laying eggs.
Bio-degradable pest-control substances Pyrethrum Dust: Very effective against soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, with a low toxicity to mammals. Avoid inhaling.
Diatomaceous Earth: Made from the skeletons of tiny organisms, this dust controls pests by causing dehydration and death. Can be used indoors and out. Please follow manufacturer's instructions carefully.
Insecticidal Soap: This soap is available in gardening, hardware, and drug stores.
Outdoor Pests Ants: Plant onions near beans to repel ants.
Beetles, bugs and caterpillars: Pick large insects off plants, drop in can of soapy water.
Cabbage worms: Plant rosemary, thyme or hyssop. Cover plants with cheesecloth to keep adult butterflies from laying eggs; or sprinkle rye flour over and around plants when covered with dew.
Caterpillars: Paint around tree trunks with "stickum", a mixture of 1 1/2 cups rosin (from athletic supply store), 1 cup linseed oil, and 1 Tbsp. melted paraffin. Or buy Tanglefoot® at a garden store.
Coddling moths (apple worms): Hang bright red plastic apples coated with "stickum".
Cucumber beetles: Plant tansy to repel beetles.
Cutworms, cabbage loopers, tent caterpillars, gypsy moths: Buy Bacillus thuringiensis (BT®) bacterial spray at a garden store. Smash egg masses of gypsy moths. Sink bottomless paper cups around seedlings to block cutworms.
Flea beetles: Plant catnip in border to repel them.
Harlequin bugs: Plant radishes, turnips or mustard around cabbage to attract them.
Japanese beetles: Plant repellant herbs (garlic, rue, tansy) near roses and raspberries. Plant soybeans, zinnias or white rose near other crops to attract them. Buy beetle traps or "milky spore disease" (Doom®) from garden stores (takes 2-3 years for full effect).
Maggots: Radishes lure them away from sprouting corn and cabbage.
Mealy bugs, aphids, thrips, lice, red spider mites: Spray plants with soapy water, rinse off dead bugs. Swab mealies with rubbing alcohol. Order green lacewing adults and larvae; "defatted" ladybug adults and larvae from garden store.
Mexican bean beetles: Plant potatoes nearby to lure them away; rosemary/summer savory repels them.
Millipedes, wireworms: Punch holes in sides/bottom of tall can; bury upright in garden border; fill with carrot/potato peelings; empty weekly.
Moles, Mice: Plant an herb called "mole plant" to repel them.
Mosquitoes: Drain stagnant water to kill larvae ("wrigglers"), or pour a film of salad oil on water surface.
Nematodes: Marigolds give off chemicals which repel them.
Onion flies: Plant onion "sets", not seeds.
Pickleworms: Plant bush squash near cantaloupes and cucumbers. Worms gather on squash for easy killing.
Slugs, snails: Metaldehyde for snail bait has caused numerous poisonings of humans and animals, especially when formulated to make it more palatable for snails. Can cause convulsions, and skin and stomach irritations.
Hand picking snails at night when they come out to feed can be very effective. Hunt them under boards or other cool spots where they hide during the day. Lay cabbage leaves or boards between rows; snails will hide underneath during day; collect and destroy. Collect snails early in the year (February) before the breeding season to reduce your work for the rest of the year. After collecting, kill them with salt or soapy water, or eat them!
Snails can be trapped with beer or vinegar (you can also add yeast) in a jar lid or saucer sunk into the ground.
Plant onions and marigolds to repel them. Or spray wormwood tea on plants as a repellent.
Surround your garden bed with diatomaceous earth, ashes, cinders, sand, or a 3-inch vertical strip of aluminum screen, with the top two wires removed and the vertical wires bent outward.
Sowbugs, earwigs: Remove their hiding places—piles of plant material, boards, bricks, large rocks.
Tomato worms: Plant asparagus, marigolds or borage near tomatoes to repel them. Dill attracts them.
Termites: Various termite chemicals have been linked to nervous system damage, stomach cancer, behavioral change, and respiratory damage. They are acutely toxic to bees, birds, mammals, and aquatic life.
Clean up wood debris and cardboard boxes from under the house. Eliminate all direct contacts between wood and soil. Inspect for termite tunnels and knock them down before they reach wood. Professionals can dig up termite nests and remove infestations in the wood.
Other possibilities: the Electrogun electrocutes termites; liquid nitrogen freezes them, tenting houses and filling with hot air kills many insects.
Whiteflies (on houseplants): Hang yellow strips of cardboard coated with "stickum" or buy Tack Trap® at a garden store.
Repellents Insect repellents are poisonous. One teaspoonful may be lethal to an adult. Use up according to directions, or take to hazardous waste collection site.
Screens. Protective clothing. Use brewers yeast tablets, vitamin B or eucalyptus leaves as flea repellent. Rub vinegar on skin. Burn citronella candles or incense as mosquito repellant.
Rodents Rodent bait is lethal to humans and pets in minute quantities, even one lick. Use up according to directions or take to hazardous waste collection site.
Alternatives: Traps. Cats.
Indoor Pests Ants: Clean up food and liquid spills, store food in airtight containers, store garbage in sealed containers, and empty regularly. When ants invade, wipe them up with a sponge, including the chemical trail they leave, with a weak bleach solution. Follow their trailer back to the place of entrance and either seal permanently with caulk or temporarily with "tanglefoot" or "stickem" from a nursery.
Other remedies: Squeeze a lemon at the place of entry and leave the peel. Ants will also retreat from lines of talcum powder, chalk, damp coffee grounds, cinnamon, diluted clove oil, cream of tartar, paprika, dried peppermint, bone meal, charcoal dust, red chili powder and cayenne pepper.
Cockroaches: Use the same food and garbage procedures as with ants. Fix leaky faucets. Don't leave pet food or water out overnight. Plug all small cracks along baseboards, wall shelves, and cupboards, and around pipes, sinks, and bathtub fixtures. Remove newspaper stacks, boxes, shelf paper, or other hiding places. Block entryways with weatherstripping devices, repair screens and broken windows. Look for egg cases on grocery bags, boxes, and used furniture before bringing them into the house.
Place bay leaves around cracks in room. A light dust of borax around the fridge, stove and ductwork is effective in controlling cockroaches. So is a mixture of equal parts baking soda/powdered sugar, or oatmeal flour/plaster of paris, or chopped bay leaves/cucumber skins. For a trap, lightly grease the inner neck of a milk bottle and put a little stale beer or a raw potato in it.
Fruit Flies: Pour a small amount of beer into a wide-mouth jar. Cut the corner out of a plastic bag and attach the bag to the jar with a rubber band. Flies will enter and be trapped. Change the beer when necessary.
Flies: Sunny windows are flies' most common entrance into your home, so close windows before the sun hits them. Use regular sticky flypaper to catch unwelcome flying guests. You can make your own with honey and yellow paper. Stick cloves in an orange.
Moths: Keep vulnerable clothes dry and well aired. Camphor can be used, as it is the major, non-toxic ingredient of moth balls. To trap moths, mix 1 part molasses with 2 parts vinegar and place it in a yellow container. Clean regularly.
House Plant Pests: Hot-pepper spray will also help to control pests on the leaves. So will soap and water, but be sure to rinse the plants with fresh water afterwards.
Silverfish: Traps can be made with a mixture of 1 part molasses to 2 parts vinegar. Place near cracks and holes where pests live. Silverfish can be repelled by treating baseboards, table legs, and cracks in cupboards with a mixture of borax and sugar (or honey).
Spiders: Under ideal conditions, do not destroy spiders because they help control pests.
Stored Food Pests: Keep mites and moths out of your staples by drying the food in a warm oven (70F, 20 C) for one hour or by freezing for 2-3 days. Always store foods in air tight containers. Weevils' favorite foods are beans and grains; to keep them away, hang small cloth sacks of black pepper in your food bins or around your food storage area. A few soapberries per bushel of stored wheat will also drive out weevils.
Ticks and Fleas: Pyrethrins are low toxicity, low persistence, made from an African chrysanthemum, but can cause allergic dermatitis or asthma-like symptoms, especially for those allergic to ragweed. More serious: toxic ingredients labeled "inert" can be added to formulations, and synthetic pyrethrins or pyrethroids may cause cancer. Methoprene seems to be low toxicity, but other ingredients may be added.
Comb pet with a fine-toothed flea comb, bathe pet regularly (you can use Safer Agro-Chem's flea soap); have pets sleep in one area where bedding can be washed. Vacuum frequently, especially in cracks and corners with a special attachment, to remove fleas and eggs. Remove the vacuum bag outdoors, burn or seal in a plastic bag, and throw away. (Fleas can hatch in the bag, then escape.)
With large flea populations, shampoo thick rugs, and overwater yards to drown fleas. As a detection method or to catch the stray flea (especially if you are extra-sensitive or allergic) put on flea booties which you make out of white flannel or even white athletic socks. Fleas jump on as you walk around the room and get tangled up. As a last resort, use methoprene to stunt larval growth, and/or pyrethrins to kill adults.
Organic remedy: If your pets are infested, wash them well with soap and water, dry them thoroughly, and use this herbal rinse:
Hot showers cost you money, both for the water and the energy you use to heat it. A reduced-flow showerhead will give you a full-force shower, yet save water and money.
Faucet flow restrictors
Flow restrictors decrease the amount of water faucet flow. Combined with an aerator, you'll still have plenty of force.
Displacement bags for less water per flush
Toilets are the largest water-wasters in your home. Five to seven gallons of water are lost with every flush. A one-gallon plastic displacement bag in the toilet tank can save hundreds of gallons of water a month and cut down on your water bill. (Don't use bricks. They just cause problems.)
Tablets for detecting toilet tank leaks
Toilet leaks can easily waste over 100 gallons of water a day--often without making a sound. Dissolving tablets indicate leaks, which when fixed could save huge quantities of water and as much as $100/year on your water bill.
Indoor Water Conservation
EnviroLink is a non-profit organization... a grassroots online community that unites hundreds of organizations and volunteers around the world with millions of people in more than 150 countries. EnviroLink is dedicated to providing comprehensive, up-to-date environmental information and news.
Home Repair You'll save a lot of money if you can do home repairs and maintenance yourself. These sites should help.
Online home improvement, remodeling and repair articles and videos
Clear instructions on how to do (just about) everything
How Stuff Works
Learn how just about anything works
Thousands of pages of home repair tips and guidance
Includes a series of comprehensive repair guides for consumer electronics equipment and other household devices. Also a variety of documents from other sources on electronics troubleshooting, repair, and other related topics. Highly recommended.