The transition from wiping salt-encrusted snow to grass-flecked mud off our floors means acknowledging the long-awaited change in weather. While we’re happy to wave goodbye to backbreaking shoveling and let in some much-needed fresh air, there is one little catch: spring comes hand-in-hand with full-on cleaning.
Yes, it’s time to stop procrastinating, drag our butts off the couch and embark on our annual home cleansing.
However, before you reach for that chlorine-laden disinfectant, take heed. Though many people associate the smell of bleach with cleanliness, imagining the germs to be equally repelled by that powerful odor, don’t let your olfactory programming deceive you. That would-be reassuring whiff is actually laden with toxins.
An emerging body of compelling research suggests the chlorine in bleach and its carcinogenic by-products are adversely affecting our health, as are many of the unsafe chemicals found in conventional cleaning products.
10 All-natural Cleaning Tips for a Green Spring Clean
Fortunately, these insidious solutions aren’t the only means to an immaculate home… it is, in fact, easy being green. The road to healthy housecleaning (regardless of the time of year) starts here.
Revive your munchkin’s dingy whites by adding 1/2 cup lemon juice to the rinse cycle of a regular-sized load of white or “bleachable-safe” clothes.
While you’re at it, tackle tough spots on polyester and cotton with a stain-fighting mixture that’s equal parts lemon juice and cream of tartar. Rub in the solution (after testing on a small patch), and let it soak in for 1/2 hour. Wash as normal.
Alternatively, whiten clothes with baking soda or vinegar. Add a 1/2 cup of vinegar and a 1/2 cup of baking soda to your wash. Your garments will be whiter and brighter than ever and stains will disappear. Presoaking whites in a solution of 1 cup vinegar and 6 cups warm water overnight will also do the trick.
Tiles and Mirrors
Get your mirrors and tiles sparkling and streak-free using none other than shaving cream. Not only does the frothy soap clean your mirrors, but it also prevents fog-up after your shower.
As far as the shower itself goes, just spray the shaving cream over the tiles, and let it soak for a few minutes. Then scrub with either an old cleaning toothbrush (for stubborn grout) or a nailbrush for bathtub tiles.
Shower or Dehumidifier
Noticed some mold buildup on your shower nozzle, or in your dehumidifier? Forget the ammonia-white vinegar and perhaps some grapefruit seed extract is all you need.
Vinegar is 90 percent effective at fighting mold and instantly kills bacteria. Either soak a sponge in the stuff or transfer the salad dressing staple to a spray bottle and soak the affected area.
Another neat trick is to fill a baggie with vinegar, place it over your shower head, secure it with a rubber band and allow the nozzle to marinate.
Can’t stand the smell? Tone down the scent of the vinegar and create a killer anti-fungal solution by adding a few drops of grapefruit seed extract.
Deodorize the House
Lemons not only deodorize the house with a zesty fragrance, but they also dissolve dirt and act as an antibacterial solution, thanks to a high level of citric acid.
Do away with bothersome (and unsanitary) buildup in your microwave by slicing a lemon and dropping the pieces into a hot water vessel-a breakfast bowl or teacup will do.
Turn the microwave on high for 1 minute and immediately give it a couple swipes with a wet sponge. If only everything in life could be this easy.
Give your beloved wooden decor a well-deserved spruce. Mix a pint of mineral oil with one tablespoon of lemon juice, pour in a spray bottle, and polish away. A 1:1 blend of olive oil and white vinegar also works.
One caveat: Remember to polish thoroughly, or the subject of conversation at your next dinner party will be the best non-toxic oil stain remover.
When it comes to your toilet bowl, you want to be especially sure that even sans chemicals you’ve purged those lingering germs. To that end, dump 1 cup of borax and 1/4 cup of white vinegar into the bowl. Let sit overnight. In the morning, scrub thoroughly and flush.
Keep in mind: Borax is a natural mineral, but it’s still quite toxic, so make sure no children or pets attempt to drink from (hey, you never know) the loo whilst your cleaning cocktail is doing its job.
Give your floors a break from their rough-and-tumble lifestyle by treating them to a gentle yet effective sponge bath.
For linoleum and no-wax floors, make a powerful cleaner using 1/4-cup washing soda, 1 tablespoon of liquid soap, 6 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1/4 cup white vinegar, and two gallons of hot water.
For wood floors, a simple cup of vinegar in a bucket of hot water will suffice.
The so-called “Queen of Green Cleaning,” Annie B. Bond, recommends the following treatment for pesky plumbing: Pour a cup of washing soda over the drain area and let it sit for a while to work its way down to the clog.
Once the clog is loosened, pour a mixture of 1 cup salt, 1 cup baking soda, and 1/4 cup cream of tartar down the drain, followed by two cups of boiling water. If need be, wait at least one minute, then repeat.
Washing soda is more alkaline than baking soda, with a pH of 11. You never want to use washing soda if a commercial acid drain cleaner has recently been used in the drain, as they will strongly react with each other.
You also shouldn’t overuse washing soda if you have PVC pipes, as the caustic nature of washing soda can slowly damage the plastic.
Tea tree oil is the MacGyver of beauty products. It’s great for gargling when you’re sick, it’ll clear your acne spots in no time, banish fungus-caused dandruff and makes an unbeatable, earthy all-over toner when combined with witch hazel, rosewater, peppermint, patchouli, and sage.
The same properties that help the essential oil combat fungi and viruses in and on your skin, scalp and throat also make it a handy household cleaner.
Whip up your own all-purpose, all-natural disinfectant using 2 teaspoons tea tree oil, 2 cups of water and a spray bottle. Simply combine the liquids in the vessel and go to town on dirty surfaces and commonly handled items.
This recipe also works on mold and mildew, just be sure to let the sprayed surface stand for a few hours before wiping.
Dust and Grime
Now that you’ve forsaken Mr. Clean, to whom do you turn? Mr. Plant-based-liquid-soap, that’s who.
For an everyday alternative to the drugstore staples, combine 1/2 teaspoon of washing soda (sodium carbonate), 2 teaspoons of borax, 1/2 teaspoon of plant-based liquid soap, and two cups of hot water in a spray bottle; shake well and you’re well-equipped to bust dust and grime wherever you may find them.
Note: If you’ve got young children or a pet in the house, you may want to omit the borax, which, again, though “green,” isn’t by any means edible.