The Healthy Home Blog – Garage, Yard & Basement
Welcome back to the Healthy Home Blog. Today’s edition features the space in your garage,
yard & basement. Things can get pretty grubby and greasy in these areas. We’ll discuss ways
to keep these areas clean and as healthy as possible for you and your family. Let’s start in the
The garage, for many, serves as a storage space for various items as well as a place to park
vehicles. Some folks store maintenance items for their cars, tools, cleaning items & lawn care
equipment. Some garages feature a beer fridge or extra freezer. It’s a multi-purpose space that
is limited only by the imagination, (man cave, anyone?!)
For those who store their vehicles in the garage (cars, motorcycles, ATV’s, golf carts,
lawnmowers), we know the mess that an oil leak or spill can bring to the paved garage floor or
driveway. It’s slick, fetid, messy and unsightly. There are a few of environmentally friendly ways
to clean oil spills up.
Enzymatic cleaners use the power of enzymes, (proteins that act as biological catalysts
(biocatalysts)), to break down the outer layer of fat molecules to dissolve the spills. These
cleaners require no scrubbing. The powdered enzyme cleaner (i.e. SpillFix), is sprinkled on top
of the spill, water is sprinkled on top (with some brands) and it works its magic. It takes some
time depending on the product & nature of the spill – up to a couple of weeks. The enzyme
cleaner is then swept up and disposed of. Enzymatic cleaners are more environmentally friendly
than kitty litter or harsh chemical soaps. Another area for use for enzymatic cleaners is by the
grill on your deck or patio where greasy food stains may occur.
Bio-remediation is the use of microorganisms to clean contaminants. Unlike soaps, de-greasers,
emulsifiers or enzymes that just break apart contaminants, Microbial formulas eat the
contamination, converting it into carbon dioxide and water. The product ‘ACT Concrete Cleaner’
claims that it absorbs carbon dioxide and water from the atmosphere and the microorganisms
convert it back into oxygen and water. This allows everything to evaporate, removing
contaminants, while leaving no residual substances. No need to sweep or scrub it away. Read
the product label for specific directions & applications – many of these products work on
plastics, metals, rocks, granite & more – not just on concrete.
Both of the products above are safe to use around plants, pets & people.
Another option is D.E. – Diatomaceous Earth. It is a silica-rich, grey-white fine powder that is
derived from the shells of fossilized diatoms – an ancient algae. It is very dry and chalk-like in its
consistency. DE is a versatile tool in your kit for around the house and it is useful for soaking up
spills of many types including motor oil. It holds twice its weight in liquid. Sprinkle a thick layer of
DE on the oil spill. Wait for 2-24 hours depending on the size and nature of the spill then sweep
it up and dispose. DE may not remove discoloration so some scrubbing with dish soap and
water may be in order but DE is very effective for soaking up the oil. DE is also safe to use
around pets, plants, animals & people but know that it has a very drying, absorbent effect.
If you are feeling adventurous you can make your own enzyme-microbial cleaner to try on oil
spills. It’s good for general household cleaning, as well. Keep in mind that it is inexpensive to
make but takes several weeks for the fermentation process.
Many people store cleaning and auto maintenance supplies in the garage or basement. Many of
these are toxic and should be stored away from curious little hands and pets. Cleaning agents,
motor oils, anti-freeze, dirty towels, etc. should be placed in a cabinet or storage unit to protect
children and pets.
Dogs & cats are especially vulnerable to anti-freeze as it has a sweet taste to them. Anti-freeze
spills must be cleaned up as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of a family pet ingesting
the toxin. Make sure your vehicle isn’t leaking anti-freeze from the radiator. It is estimated that
up to 90,000 animals are poisoned each year by the toxic agent ethylene glycol, the main
ingredient in anti-freeze. It takes as little as 1 tablespoon to cause acute kidney failure in dogs.
About 5 tablespoons can kill a medium sized dog, and just 1 teaspoon can be fatal to a cat. The
prognosis for pets that ingest antifreeze depends on how quickly your pet receives veterinary
attention. Store antifreeze out of reach from children and pets! Also know that the main
ingredient in antifreeze, ethylene glycol, is also found in windshield wiper de-icing solutions,
motor oils, hydraulic brake fluid, developing solutions used in photography, certain paints,
solvents, and other industrial products. Best to keep all of these items out of reach.
Speaking of paints – You can also use the solutions mentioned earlier for cleaning up oil spills
to clean up certain types of spilled paints! Read package instructions for specifics. Whether you
spill paint on carpet, hardwood, cement or Trex, what’s good for the oil spills can also help clean
up paints. Again, read the package instructions for further details.
Many families store lawn & garden products in their garages & basements. One that has
become infamous in recent years is the product called “Round-Up”. It’s used to kill weeds (an
herbicide) and was developed in 1974. The ingredient in question in this product is called
glyphosate. It’s used on commercial crops as well – especially genetically modified crops (GMO,
i.e. soybeans, corn, cotton, oats). After many years of its wide-spread use, the parent company
of the product (Monsanto) has been sued because the product is a known carcinogen.
Monsanto was recently purchased by the Bayer Corporation and Bayer has paid out billions in
settlement dollars to those harmed by the product.
The best course of action is to simply not purchase or use it. If you do have some in your
garage or basement, be sure it’s stored properly. Direct ingestion of this product is fatal. There
are alternatives to this chemical weed killer that are simple & effective. The first is as easy as it
gets – boiling hot water! Simply boil water on the stove and pour it directly on the weeds or run
water through your coffee pot to make the hot water. Watch the weeds in the cracks of your
sidewalk or driveway easily & safely wilt away. For larger applications, consider this recipe from
DIY Weed Killer Recipe
For the recipe, you’ll need:
1 gallon white vinegar
2 cups Epsom salt
1/4 cup Dish soap (Dr. Bronner’s castile soap can also be used for a more
To make the DIY weed killer, combine the ingredients in the order listed in a large
garden sprayer. Replace the lid on the sprayer, and gently swirl around the
ingredients. Pump up your sprayer and wet the weeds with your DIY weed killer
solution. You should be able to see a difference within 8 hours of spraying the DIY
We’ve covered a bit about herbicides, now let’s talk about insecticides. Many people
store these products in their garage or basement. Pesky ants, cockroaches, hornets
and others lurking in areas you’d rather they not be! Products like Raid brand may
be effective but they also present a risk to family health including pets. Not only do
the active ingredients cause concern but also the adjuvants (ingredients that boost
the active ingredients effectiveness) are shown to cause harm. Cancer, decreased
fertility, lower birth weight & increased risk of heart attack and stroke are
associated with chemical pesticide exposure. Many pesticides that have been banned or
are being phased out in the EU, Brazil and China, are still widely used in the USA, according to
a study published in the open access journal Environmental Health.
Let’s talk about a few of all-natural, indoor pesticide solutions: Neem oil or Neem Leaf, Bay
Leaf, Cayenne Pepper and Essential Oils. Neem oil is prized in the East for its many uses. Add
neem oil, water and natural castile soap to a spray bottle and swirl around to mix. Spray this
mixture wherever pests may enter your home. This mixture will repel them. You can also use
whole Neem leaf or Bay leaf for this purpose. Place the leaves wherever pests may enter your
domain. Cayenne pepper is great to sprinkle in areas you wish to repel pests. It works like a
charm in the garden, too. Sprinkle Cayenne pepper in areas where squirrels want to dig up
freshly planted flower bulbs. They will stay clear away! Essential oils have taken the spotlight in
recent years in wellness circles and for good reason. These concentrated substances derived
from plants, fruits and other sources work wonders – even chasing away pests of all sorts.
Germanium, Calendula, Citronella, Clove, Orange & Mint are just a few that are effective to
keep pests away in the home and yard. Not only do essential oils keep the pests away, they
also provide pleasing scents. Essential oils diluted with carrier oils like sesame or olive oil can
be applied directly to the skin to repel ticks, mosquitoes and more.
Now how about in the fruit/vegetable & flower gardens? Pests like rabbits, squirrels, aphids,
slugs, fruit flies and more are always on the lookout for some good eats – at your expense! You
put the hard work in and want to reap the benefit of your labor. As mentioned above, cayenne
pepper sprinkled around freshly planted flower bulbs keeps squirrels from digging them up for a
tasty snack. Garlic is also good to sprinkle around freshly planted bulbs. Planting ample
amounts of garlic in the garden will keep away pests of all types. Although many humans enjoy
the taste of garlic, animals and insects do not like it. To keep creepy crawlies of all sorts out of
the garden, try diatomaceous earth (DE). Comprised mostly of silica, this dry, chalk-like
substance can be sprinkled around fruits, vegetables and flowers to keep the bugs from
attaining their snacking goals. DE penetrates their exoskeletons and dehydrates them to death.
Sprinkling DE in areas inside the home where pests may enter will stop them in their tracks, too.
How about those opportunistic slugs and snails that enjoy your lovingly planted flowers? Did you
know that placing a small amount of beer in a dixie cup or shot glass in your garden areas will
attract snails and slugs? They’ll crawl in and have their last supper. Surrounding your garden
perimeter with copper wire or copper tape will keep slugs and snails from trespassing, too.
Neem oil, derived from the evergreen plant indigenous to India, is a useful ally in the garden.
Neem oil has an adverse effect on over 200 species of plant-feeding insects including mealy
bugs, aphids, cabbage worms, thrips, white flies, mites, fungus gnats, mushroom flies, locusts,
beet armyworms, the Japanese beetle and other leaf-feeding beetles. It’s easy to create a
Neem solution at home. Try this formula from the Green and Vibrant website:
Basic Neem Oil Insecticide Spray
For making 1l of a basic, mild 0.5% neem oil spray, you will need:
1-quart (1l) of warm water
1 teaspoon (5ml) of neem oil.
⅓ tsp (1-2ml) of mild liquid soap, insecticidal soap or another mild detergent. Liquid
castile soap works well, too.
Mix water and soap in a closed bottle and shake well so the soap is fully dissolved.
Add the neem oil, and shake again.
The concentration of 0.5-1% is the most common for general and regular garden
use, although you can experiment with 2% sprays if you think you need a stronger
How to Use Neem Oil Spray:
Always test the neem oil spray on a limited area before applying it generously. This
cannot be overstated. Spray your solution on the affected plant leaves, but only on
one limited part of the plant at first so you can watch for any adverse effects for a
day. If the plant seems to take the spray well after 24 hours, you can proceed to
spray the entire affected area. You can use the neem oil spray when you need it or
regularly – once per week is a good measure. Using the spray regularly will make it
a preventive solution, which is especially useful if you know you have an upcoming
pest infestation in your area.
Now you are armed with natural, earth-friendly solutions to keep your garage,
basement and yard safer and healthier for you and your family. The suggestions
above are, of course, a small sample of solutions available. Consider signing up for
email updates or Facebook groups that encourage natural solutions for healthier
living. Every little improvement you incorporate into your daily living makes a