Greening Your Cleaning

Summer is just around the corner. Have you finished your spring cleaning yet? Spring is a time for the birds to start singing, the sun to start shining and time for our windows to finally open up and air out our musty homes! Spring cleaning was always one of my mother’s favorite things to do at this time of the year, second to spending time in the garden. Growing up, once it was time to open our windows and air out the house, it was also time to scrub the house from top to bottom! Clean for my family meant the strong smell of lemon cleanser and Clorox bleach. What we did not realize, was that these strong “clean” smells are really toxic chemicals that could be causing harm to our health, and the health of our environment. Indoor air quality can be two to five times worse than outdoor air quality, and most people spend about 90% of their time inside! We have turned to conventional cleaning products because they got the job done, and made all the dirt, grease and dust disappear. Unfortunately, the products themselves don’t disappear. They linger in the air, or can flow into the municipal groundwater and waste stream. Thankfully, removing these toxins is relatively easy! Even though I have long moved out of Mom’s house, I still get the urge to clean my place from top to bottom every spring. The difference is now I know to switch my products to more natural, environmentally safe ones, and encourage my mom, and others, to do the same.

Most of these natural, environmentally friendly products can be made in your own kitchen, with three very common ingredients – vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. Mixing these ingredients in different combinations can give you your very own cleaners, making spring cleaning much safer and inexpensive. White vinegar naturally cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax buildup. It is safe on most surfaces and has the added bonus of being incredibly cheap! You may be thinking, but Fia, I don’t like the smell of vinegar. Don’t worry! It disappears once it dries. Lemon juice is another natural substance that can be used to clean your home. It dissolves soap scum and hard water deposits. It can also be used to clean and shine brass and copper, or mixed with olive oil it can act as a furniture polish. I like to take the lemon peels (or peels from oranges) and put them down the garbage disposal to freshen the drain and the kitchen!   Lastly, baking soda can be used to scrub surfaces in the same way as commercial abrasive cleansers and can also be a great deodorizer.

If spring cleaning is common in your household, try mixing a few of these natural ingredients to create your own safe, healthy and inexpensive cleaning products! To get you started, here is a simple recipe for an all purpose cleaner:

Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc. A great resource to check out is a book called Greening Your Cleaning by Deirdre Imus. It is filled with all kinds of information and tips!

Green up your cleaning and improve your health, as well as your relationship with the environment! Help prevent those toxic cleaning chemicals from being released into the air, or rinsed down the drain into our water supply. Using natural products also prevents the production household cleaners which depletes resources, creates threats to land and arrives at stores in fossil-fuel generated plastic packaging. By using healthy, natural products, you are being a better steward for yourself, and the environment!


Green Living, by E/The Environmental Magazine

Ready, Set, Green: Eight Weeks to Modern Eco-Living, by Graham Hill & Meaghan O’Neill