Spring is here and that means it’s time to start your spring cleaning routine! While cleaning your home can be like a breath of fresh air in early springtime, it can also be a major hazard to your health and the environment if you’re not careful. Many household cleaners contain toxic chemicals like alcohol, ammonia, bleach and formaldehyde that are hazardous to you and the environment. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean your house! Instead, be cautious of the products you purchase and always open a window when using cleaning products!
I will start by admitting nothing is completely safe for the environment. Almost anything we dump down the drain is going to cause problems, even if it is derived from plants and other natural substances. However, purchasing cleaners derived from natural ingredients are definitely safER for the earth than products containing chemicals like bleach and chlorine.
Like anything else… don’t take what manufacturers are telling you at face value. Always read the labels!! Words like “biodegradable” and “nontoxic” have no legal definition and oftentimes have little to no difference than their “non-biodegradable” counterparts. Make sure the ingredients are truly safer by flipping the bottle over and reading about what’s inside. And avoid anything with phosphates. Although phosphates biodegrade quickly, they can wreak havoc on marine life when they get into rivers and streams by causing algae blooms that block sunlight and restrict oxygen to the water.
Some of the greenest cleaners are the ones you can make at home on your own. Here are some do-it-yourself cleaners that work great:
- For counter tops, cupboards, and walls: dip a cloth in warm water, add a little dish soap and baking soda (the baking soda acts as a soft abrasive to remove tough spots and light scratches).
- Drain cleaners: Pour a half-cup of baking soda down the sink and add at least a cup of vinegar. Cover the drain and wait a few minutes, then rinse with a mixture of boiling water and salt.
- Glass Cleaner: from 2 tablespoons borax or washing soda and 3 cups water. Spray onto the glass using a pump sprayer.
- Window Cleaner: Mix two ounces of vinegar with a quart of water in a spray bottle.
- Air fresheners: First, get rid of the source of bad odors. Check refrigerators and trash cans for rotting foods; look under and around furniture for any items your pets may have unexpectedly left behind. Clear out cooking smells using the stove exhaust fan, then open windows and let fresh air in. Simmer a small amount of cinnamon, orange peel, and cloves on the stove to give your home a pleasant fragrance. Freshly cut flowers can also make a room smell like spring.
- Silver Polish: Put a sheet of aluminum foil into a plastic or glass bowl. Sprinkle the foil with salt and baking soda and fill the bowl with warm water. Soak your silver in the bowl and tarnish migrates to the foil. Dry and buff.
- Brass Cleaner: Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle it with salt and rub the lemon on the metal. Buff with a cloth.
- Rust Remover: Use vinegar to remove rust on nuts and bolts and other mineral deposits such as calcium deposits.
And while you’re packing up your winter clothes for storage and cleaning out your closets this spring, consider donating any unused items to those in need. Making room in your closet and throughout your home will make everything feel much more spacious and clean. But before you throw anything out, consider if anyone else could benefit from that item and donate to your local thrift shop. And don’t forget to properly dispose of any broken electronics and recyclables.