Whether you look forward to – or dread – the annual rite of spring cleaning, this year I challenge you to think about the task ahead as a way to energize your home, making it a place that nurtures you and your family, body and soul. It’s time to cut the cobwebs, purge the junk, and get ready for a happy and healthy spring! Here are tips and four spring green cleaning recipes you can make with things you probably already have!
Did you know the EPA ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five threats to human health? Indoor air pollution is associated with numerous ailments including asthma, headaches, chemical hypersensitivity, and even cancer. This is especially alarming for those of us living
in the Deep South, where we keep our windows closed and air conditioners cranking all summer long. What can you do?
First, get rid of any cleaning products with labels reading “warning,” “danger,” or “poison.” Next, rid your home of anything containing alcohol, ammonia, chlorine, formaldehyde, acids, or lye.
According to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), when it comes to household chemicals, the frustrating reality is that in Georgia, reuse and recycling options are extremely limited. Businesses have strict guidelines for disposal; however, state and federal laws provide an exemption for residents – you can legally throw this material in the garbage. However, the material must be a solid. (Combining it with sawdust or kitty litter works well.) You can also allow certain products to evaporate before disposal. This works best for thin, flammable liquids such as gasoline and paint thinner. Work outside, and keep it blocked from access by children and animals. Once evaporated, triple-wrap the empty container in plastic and place it in the garbage.
While many commercial cleaning products are touted as being “green,” you can oftentimes do one better – make your own cleaning products at home. The following DIY cleaning products are made with common non-toxic ingredients.
All Purpose Cleaner
- 8 parts water
- 2 parts white vinegar
- 2 drops liquid dish soap
- 2-3 drops essential oil (optional)
Mix ingredients in a spray bottle and clean away! It’s great for use in bathrooms or kitchen. For nastier jobs, such as countertops after you’ve handled raw meat, cleaning the inside of refrigerator or sink, or toilet bowls, use straight white vinegar and hot water, followed with a squirt of hydrogen peroxide. (Do a spot test first to make certain the surface doesn’t discolor or otherwise react.)
Carpets: If you don’t have a bagless vacuum or one with a HEPA filter, as much as 70% of dirt is coming back out of the bag. Try to vacuum regularly: weekly for all carpets in the house, and daily for high traffic areas. Also, if possible, ditch carpeting for area rugs.
Tile: Place 1 cup baking soda in a bowl; slowly pour in liquid soap, stirring until mixture looks like frosting. Add optional essential oils. Scoop onto a sponge, scrub, and rinse.
Wood: Use ¼ cup vinegar per 1 quart of water.
Marble or granite: Use plain hot water.
Linoleum: Use hot water and a little dish soap.
- 2 cups hot water
- 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
- 1 teaspoon borax
Mix the ingredients, spray on a spill, let sit for 20 minutes, and wipe off with a clean cloth. For handling an extra-greasy mess, wipe off as much loose goop as possible with crumpled newspaper first, then use the spray.
Did you know? The EPA ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top five threats to human health. Indoor air pollution is associated with numerous ailments including asthma, headaches, chemical hypersensitivity, and even cancer.
- ¼ cup vinegar
- ½ teaspoon liquid soap (optional)
- 2 cups water
Put all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to blend. To use the cleaner, spray onto the glass and scrub as needed with a kitchen sponge. Squeegee off. Use a cotton cleaning cloth to dry off the blade of the squeegee between swipes.
Lemon Oil Duster
- 10 drops pure lemon oil
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- A few drops olive oil
- Spray mixture on dusty surfaces and wipe with a clean, recycled flannel cotton cloth.
Open Those Windows!
Remember that stat about indoor air pollution? Open your windows for at least five minutes a day to significantly decrease concentrations of indoor air pollutants. During the hottest months, do this at night. You only need to open them an inch.
Scoop out ashes for the garden. Also, have chimney professionally cleaned.
Replace furnace/AC filter. Inspect every month for dirt. The EPA does not have a blanket recommendation for duct cleaning; however, they say you might consider having it done if you see mold inside heating/cooling system, if ducts are infested with vermin, or if ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris that is released into the home through registers.
Leave an open box of baking soda in rooms. Use lavender sachets in closets and drawers.
Indoor plants can increase oxygen levels, suppress mold and bacteria, and have been shown to improve your overall mood. Great easy-to-care-for plants that have been shown to reduce indoor air pollution include: aloe vera, ficus ‘Amstel King’, rubber plant, spider plant, snake plant, peace lily, and weeping fig.
Make It a Habit
Finish your spring cleaning by purging your home of clothes and other goods no longer in use. If items are still in good usable condition, consider donating to your favorite charity or thrift store. Toss the rest.
Continue your efforts for a clean and green 2016 by creating a chart of daily/weekly/monthly housekeeping duties for the whole family. Divide and conquer: 10 to 15 minutes a day is all it takes to reap the benefits of a happy and healthy household.