After being cooped up in a stuffy house all winter long, it’s finally time to fling open the windows, shoo away the cobwebs, and take on your annual spring cleaning. But often, the chemicals found in conventional cleaning products can be more dangerous than the dirt they’re intended to clean. And the way we clean (with lots of disposable paper towels) isn’t exactly earth-friendly. Thankfully, there are many alternatives available that can help you make your home squeaky clean—and green.
Green cleaning products
The last thing you want to do is dump toxic chemicals into the environment in the name of cleaning, right? These days, you don’t have to make a special trip to the natural foods store to seek out environmentally-sensitive cleaning products. Seventh Generation, Method and Biokleen are three companies that make full lines of household cleaners, and you can find them in just about every store. These products work just as well as their conventional counterparts. Or you can stock your natural cleaning kit with homemade cleaners—making them yourself is super easy.
The basic supplies you’ll need to make your own green cleaners include:
Distilled white vinegar (sold in the cooking section of most supermarkets)
Borax (sold in a box in the laundry aisle)
Liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner's brand, found in most natural foods stores)
Essential oils (super concentrated natural plant oils found in natural foods stores, usually in the cosmetics section)
Microfiber cleaning cloths
Here are a few basic “recipes” and techniques to get you started:
Glass: Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Spray on glass and wipe clean with old newspaper or a lint-free cloth.
Countertops and bathroom tile: Mix 2 parts vinegar and 1 part baking soda with 4 parts water. Apply with a sponge, scour, and wipe away.
Floors: Mix 4 cups of white distilled vinegar with about a gallon of hot water. If desired, add a few drops of pure peppermint or lemon oil for a pleasant scent. After damp mopping the floors, the smell of vinegar will dissipate quickly, leaving behind only the scent of the oil.
Wood furniture: Mix equal parts of lemon juice and olive and oil. Apply a small amount to a cloth, and rub onto the furniture in long, even strokes.
Toilet bowl cleaner: Sprinkle a toilet brush with baking soda and scrub away! Occasionally disinfect your toilet by scrubbing with borax instead. Wipe the outside of the toilet clean with straight vinegar.
Disinfectant: Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, 3 cups hot water, and 1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use a spray bottle. Wipe clean.
Mold and mildew: Wipe with straight vinegar.
Air freshener: Sprinkle essential oil on a cotton ball, and stash it in a corner of the room. If you have kids, make sure it is out of their reach as essential oils are very strong and could irritate their skin. Lavender is a relaxing scent that is great for bedrooms, and cinnamon, clove, and citrus oils are great for the rest of the house. You can stash a few in the car too—try peppermint, which may help you to stay alert.