The arrival of spring means many things to my family. It is time to get the compost and mulch out, time to order some new chicks, time to plant some early spring crops, time to fire up the lawn mower, and time to spring clean. I love to open the windows and let the warm air and sunlight into the house. However, all that sunlight shows me just how much dust and dirt has accumulated over the long winter.
Spring cleaning at our house has changed dramatically over the last five years. When I realized that I was giving my family and myself their seasonal “toxic” bath by using hazardous cleaning chemicals, I decided it was time for a change. Today, our home still gets the same heavy-duty spring clean, but without all of the nasty side effects of the toxic cleaners I once used. We save money and feel terrific about our new environmentally-friendly cleaning routine. I have always told people that once they go green they won’t go back.
Homemade Green Cleaning Supplies
The first step to “greening” up your cleaning regime is to switch to safe, toxic-free cleaners. While there are many safe and effective brands on the market, you will save a great deal of money if you make your own. Most of your home can be cleaned thoroughly with just a few ingredients. Here are some of my favorites.
I use this on my countertops, stove, fridge, floors and windows, and mirrors. To make this cleaner, add two cups of white vinegar to two cups of water, and then add in twenty drops of your favorite essential oil. The vinegar fights through grease and kills bacteria, leaving a sparkly finish while the oil gives it a pleasant scent.
I like to clean my sinks, tubs and shower with this creamy mixture. Mix two cups of baking soda with two-thirds of a cup of Castile soap, four teaspoons of vegetable glycerin, and eight drops of rosemary or lavender essential oil. This lovely smelling scrub gets its cleaning power from the baking soda and antibacterial power from the essential oils. For truly tough cleaning jobs, spray the surface with a little white vinegar before using the scrub.
To make all of your wood furniture sparkle, mix one-half cup of olive oil with a half a cup of white vinegar and add in thirty drops of lemon essential oil. Shake the mixture well and use a soft cloth to apply. Always clean wood with the grain and not against it.
Toilet Bowl Bubbler
To clean my toilets safely, I pour in a little baking soda followed by some white vinegar and let it sit for twenty minutes. This gets the bowl sparkly fresh every time.
This easy-to-make window cleaner uses one-quarter cup of vinegar and one quart of water. Spray it on windows and wipe with newspapers for a streak-free clean.
Place aromatherapy diffusers throughout your house to keep it smelling clean and fresh. You can also cut up some lemon peels and mix them with a little baking soda and put it into a plastic container with a lid. Place this air freshener anywhere that you need help with serious odors such as bathrooms or near litter boxes. Fill your home with houseplants such as rubber plants, English ivy, and lilies for a natural way of cleaning and refreshing the air.
Why Go Green?
Commercial cleaning manufacturers do their best to convince us that their products are safe; however, the truth is many contain highly dangerous chemicals. The soaps, detergents, scourers, polishes, bleaching agents, and sprays all promise a sparkling and fresh smelling home. What they don’t mention is that while they may kill germs, they often leave behind a toxic residue that can be harmful if injected, inhaled, or even touched. In the year 2010, the United States Poison Control Centers received nearly 206,636 calls from people who had suffered reactions to cleaning product exposure. Of these, 120,434 involved children under the age of six who had swallowed cleaning products. Some products cause immediate reactions such as skin or respiratory problems, chemical burns, and watery eyes while others are associated with long-term health problems such as cancer and hormonal imbalances. The most dangerous products are oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and drain cleaners. Not to mention, the fragrances that are added to cleaners and also to laundry detergents and softeners can cause headaches, sneezing, respiratory irritation, and watery eyes. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, over one-third of the substances that used in the fragrance industry are toxic.
As if the threats that these chemicals pose to human health are not enough, they also impact our environment. After we wash the products from our sinks, tubs, and toilets they are treated with other sewage and dumped into nearby waters. Pollutants act as super fertilizer, causing an overgrowth in algae that disrupts the aquatic balance and takes oxygen from fish and other organisms. Research has also discovered that other cleaning residues cause hormonal changes in aquatic life, such as male fish that develop female egg pouches. Petroleum-based cleaners contribute to the depletion of this non-renewable resource, and millions of cleaning containers, not able to be recycled, are dumped in landfills each year.
Don't Forget to De-clutter
Spring is a perfect time to de-clutter. And this doesn't require any cleaning products at all. Go through your kitchen cupboards and drawers, as well as closets, to see what you can toss. Don't hang on to things that are broken or you do not use frequently. Reusing or recycling items keeps them out of the landfill, so consider having a yard sale or giving some things to charity if you have no use for them.