There is hardly a corner of our world that is unpolluted by man-made chemicals.

A good place to start to eliminate this problem is at home, especially when spring-cleaning. Many chemical contaminants are acutely toxic. Their effects may lead to a bird's death. But even at low levels they can affect biological functions by disrupting the endocrine or hormone system. As a result, few chicks hatch because embryos fail to develop properly and babies can be deformed. Also, young birds may mature slowly and their parents may reject them. Often contaminants interfere with the chick's ability to fight infection making them susceptible to disease.

So now that the bad is stated, let's try to get to the good of cleaning safely. Using non-toxic cleaners is a good way to insure the safety of your feathered friends.

All Purpose Cleaners
Grapefruit seed extract is a relatively new disinfectant that kills staph, strep, candida, salmonella, and e-coli microorganisms. Add 20 drops of grapefruit seed extract to a 32-ounce spray bottle filled with water. Use on all surfaces around the house. Grapefruit seed extract is hard to find, but the health food stores can order it for you.

We use a lot of vinegar, water, and Pink Solution throughout our home in different solutions. We use a light solution for spritzing cupboards and washing them down. Use heavier solutions for the heavier jobs and straight on for those nasty places that are left.

Baking soda with water is a good all-purpose cleaner (1/4 cup baking soda to 1 quart water). Sprinkle baking soda on surfaces to be cleaned or make a paste with baking soda and a small amount of liquid soap. Scrub with a damp nylon scrubbing pad, soft cloth, sponge, fine steel wool or my favourite is home-made scrubbies.

White distilled vinegar diluted in water removes baking soda residue. Dry with a soft cotton cloth. Recycled cotton clothing serves as a good cleaning and drying cloth.

Vegetable-based liquid soap diluted in water makes a good all-purpose cleaner.

Add 1 cup of soap flakes to 1 quart of boiling water to make soap jelly. Stir until dissolved. Pour into jar and let cool. Mix with water as needed.

Multi chemical sprays and solutions are not necessary to clean appliances and surfaces in the kitchen.

Mix a small amount of liquid soap with water in a spray bottle. Mist surfaces and clean with a sponge or cloth. Wipe dry.

For stains on counters, squeeze fresh lemon juice on the stain and allow it to stand for 45 minutes. Sprinkle on baking soda and rub with a sponge or soft cloth.

Burned or baked on food in cookware - 2 tablespoons liquid dishwashing detergent and 3 teaspoons baking soda. Add ingredients to enough water to cover the burned on food; boil for 15 to 20 minutes and wash normally. Or sprinkle cookware liberally with baking soda and add just enough water to moisten. Let stand for 3 hours and lift the burned food out of the pan.

Stained cookware - use steel wool or scrubbie and solution of lemon juice and baking soda. Cover the discoloration for 30 minutes; then scrub and rinse clean. Also you can use pink solution for this job as well as all of the above jobs.

Ovens - for lightly soiled ovens, make a thick paste of water and baking soda or Pink Solution straight on with use of a scrubbie or nylon scrubbing pad. If the oven is greasy, add a small amount of liquid soap. To remove spots, use very fine steel wool, which can also be used for the toughest spots as well. Commercial oven cleaners are available that are non-toxic and do not contain lye, but read the label carefully.

To clean underneath the refrigerator, tie a sock around the end of a yardstick. When one side is dirty, turn the sock inside out and repeat. This is a good way to use those socks with holes in them.

To clean the sink, shower, tub and tile grout, soak with diluted liquid soap, sprinkle on baking soda, scrub with a nylon scrubbing pad and rinse. For this job I use Pink Solution with a scrubbie.

Use a stiff tooth brush or scrub brush for tiles. If any residue occurs, rinse with vinegar and cold water. Remember always rinsing with cold water removes soap faster. For a serious soap scum, use very fine steel wool. Rinse with cold water and, if necessary, add vinegar to rinse. Buff dry.

To disinfect bathroom surfaces, spray with a solution of one quart of water and 20 drops of grapefruit seed extract.

Mildew remover - spray mildew with hydrogen peroxide and open windows.

Prevention: Keep surfaces dry. Bacteria, viruses, mildew, and mold cannot live without dampness. Wipe down surfaces with white vinegar after cleaning. It prevents the growth of mold and mildew.

Lime deposit remover: spray a solution of 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons salt, and 1 cup water on lime deposits and let stand overnight. Rinse with cold water.

Vinyl Floors
Fill a bucket with a gallon of warm water and add cup of white vinegar. To cut grease on vinyl floors, dilute a small amount of liquid soap with water. To remove black heel marks on floors, rub with a pencil or typewriter eraser. To prevent water spots, dry with a cloth after mopping.

Products like 'Carpet Fresh' have been linked to bird deaths. The producers of 'Carpet Fresh' say it is safe for animals, but they admit that birds have a complicated immune system and because they are different from dogs and cats that it may be harmful re: their site.

For spills, immediately blot with a clean cloth or paper towel.

For most spots, mix liquid soap with water in a spray bottle. Spray lightly and blot with a cloth or towel.

For grease, cover with baking soda. Allow the grease to be absorbed by the baking soda before vacuuming.

For odours, sprinkle carpet with plan baking soda. Let sit for 15 minutes, then vacuum.

Carpet shampoos may contain toxic ingredients such as ammonia and perchlorethylene, a known carcinogen. Plant-based cleaning products such as citrus cleaners are preferable. Use a steam-cleaning machine with 10 to 15 drops of grapefruit seed extract per gallon of water. Many hospitals are now starting to use this extract or products made from this extract for carpet cleaning.

Wood Furniture
Use a soft cloth or sponge moistened with water and a little all-purpose cleaner or even a plain damp cloth to clean finished furniture.

To remove water stains on wood furniture, bad white toothpaste onto stain. Allow the paste to dry and then gently buff off with a soft cloth.

To dust, wipe along the grain with a soft cloth.

To clean most spills and fingerprints, rub with a soft cloth, lightly moistened with water. Buff immediately with a soft dry cloth.

A furniture polish: mix cup linseed oil, cup vinegar and 1/3 cup lemon juice. Rub into wood with a soft cloth.

Another furniture polish: mix 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice. Apply mixture to furniture with a soft cloth and wipe it dry.

Nicks and scratches: can be covered by mixing granular instant coffee with a little water and applying with a clean, cotton cloth.

A solution of lemon juice and warm water to clean glass-top tables will make them sparkle. Dry them with a linen towel and then go over them with a crumpled newspaper to remove all lint and make the glass shine.

Use your hair-dryer on the cool setting to dust pleated lampshades and other hard to reach areas. Also ok for vertical blinds.

Window and glass cleaner: 1 gallon water, 1 cup white vinegar. Apply with cloth or spray bottle and clean with a linen cloth. Make sure your bird is secured when cleaning windows so that they do not fly out while you are cleaning.

For extra sparkle, polish clean windows with a crumpled piece of newspaper when nearly dry. Or crumple up black and white newspaper and dip in white vinegar. Wipe the glass until almost dry, then shine with dry newspaper. The drawback to this method is that newspaper print may rub off on the wood surrounding the glass. Best used for inner portions of large expanses of glass.

When polishing windows use up and down strokes on one side of the window and side-to-side strokes on the other to tell which side has streaks.

Lemon juice removes greasy fingerprints on windows.

Cage cleaning
There are 3 main ingredients for cage cleaning - soap, water, and elbow grease. Very little elbow grease is needed if cages are wiped down daily and cleaned well once a week. This method is best to preserve the finish on cages.

Grapefruit seed extract is a good anti-bacterial cleaner for cages. It can be added to a spray bottle and used for pre-soaking the cage and on a sponge to wipe down the cage. Also, Quescell D is good and we also use Pink Solution.

To catch droppings you can use newspaper rather than bedding which can hold moisture and rust out cage bottoms. We use another product from bed o cob to pine shavings, but you must have a grate in your cage so that the birds are not able to get to this.

If you use detergent in the washer, eliminate soap residue by adding 1 cup of white vinegar to the final rinse.

Laundry starch: dissolve 1-tablespoon cornstarch in 1 pink cold water. Place in a spray bottle. Shake before using.

Chrome cleaner: mix cup baking soda with enough water to make a paste. Rub on, rinse with water, dry.

Drain cleaner: when hair and debris clog drains, make a solution of equal parts of baking soda, vinegar and salt. Place in the drain and let it foam for 15 to 20 minutes. Then rinse with boiling water.

Air fresheners
There have been numerous reports of serious toxicity and even death of parrots exposed to "essential oils" so their use around birds should be avoided. Scented candles should not be used in the air space of parrots. Unscented beeswax candles that contain no chemical additives are safe. See Beeswax Candles on this website.

Air fresheners are dangerous to parrots. Rather than freshen the air, they contaminate it with a synthetic fragrance, coat nasal passages with an undetectable oil film, or diminish your sense of smell with a nerve-deadening agent, which can also cause liver and nerve damage. The only way to really freshen the air is to open windows and to circulate fresh air with a fan, but make sure your bird is secured in a cage and does not fly into the fan.

Natural air fresheners
  • Set out a dish of cut lemons or baking soda to absorb odours.
  • Simmer (on the stovetop or in a slow cooker) water, slices of ginger, and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice, vanilla, and almond extracts. This also increases humidity in dry heated homes during winter. Never use Teflon or other non-stick cookware or kettles for simmering.
  • Stick whole cloves into an orange, grapefruit or lemon and place near heater or cold air return vent.
  • Decorative containers of cloves and cinnamon sticks can be set in areas where fragrance will be appreciated.
  • Fill a saucer with vanilla extract and place near the air intake register of heating system.
  • Fill a spray bottle with a pint of water and a tablespoon of vanilla extract. Use as a room freshener spray to eliminate cooking and pet odours.
  • To keep pet areas fragrant, keep an open box of baking soda, a bowl of charcoal, or cotton balls dipped in vanilla extract nearby and out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Many plants are said to be indoor air fresheners, but you have to check to see if the plants you have in your house are toxic or not.