Today is Earth Day and Good Friday! So let’s celebrate… with Spring Cleaning? May not sound like the glorious day off you imagined, but after a long winter, it's time for spring-cleaning, and what better day then Earth Day. But what cleaning products will you use? Look around your house…go ahead, I will wait…
What did you find? Bleach, Ka-Boom, The Works, Lysol, Comet, Pledge, Pine Sol? The ever-expanding arsenal of home cleaning products includes several dangerous weapons, loaded with strong, artificial colors and fragrances and harsh cleansing agents like bleach, ammonia and acids. Did you know that if you use two cleaning products in the same small space- i.e. your bathroom- you might just kill yourself? That’s right… using a common bathroom cleaning product like bleach tile spray in conjunction with a glass cleaner can cause a very dangerous gas to form. DO NOT DO THIS! All of these chemical cleaning products produce indoor air pollution by producing toxic fumes that can irritate eyes and lungs. (Children and pets are most at risk) Many cleaners also contain unnecessary antibacterial agents (pesticides, technically), that can actually make bacteria stronger, and more resistant to antibacterial drugs. Not to mention, commercial cleansers cost a lot! So save your health and your wallet: make your own! Even the biggest messes and toughest stains can be attacked effectively with simple ingredients that are already in your home!
Porcelain and Tile
Keep your bathrooms and kitchen tile spotless with these natural cleansers:
Baking Soda and Water: Dust surfaces with baking soda, then scrub with a moist sponge or cloth. If you have tougher grime, sprinkle on some kosher salt, and work up some elbow grease.
Vinegar: Vinegar naturally cleans like an all-purpose cleaner. Mix a solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar in a new store bought spray bottle and you have a solution that will clean most areas of your home. Vinegar is a great natural cleaning product as well as a disinfectant and deodorizer. Always test on an inconspicuous area. It is safe to use on most surfaces and has the added bonus of being incredibly cheap. Improperly diluted vinegar is acidic and can eat away at tile grout. (Never use vinegar on marble surfaces. Don't worry about your home smelling like vinegar. The smell disappears when it dries)
Disinfectant: Instead of bleach, make your own disinfectant by mixing 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of liquid soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil. It's easy!
The room where food is prepared, stored and often enjoyed requires constant vigilance. Splatters, spills and errant crumbs can build up and collect out of sight, encouraging harmful bacteria.
Baking Soda and Water: Reclaim counters by sprinkling with baking soda, then scrubbing with a damp cloth or sponge. If you have stains, knead the baking soda and water into a paste and let set for a while before you remove. This method also works great for stainless steel sinks, cutting boards, containers, refrigerators, oven tops and more.
Kosher Salt and Water: If you need a tougher abrasive sprinkle on kosher salt, and scrub with a wet cloth or sponge.
Natural Disinfectant: To knock out germs without strong products, mix 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of liquid soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil. Spray or rub on countertops and other kitchen surfaces.
Windows and Mirrors
Instead of those harsh-smelling sprays, try this highly effective, simple solution for windows and mirrors:
White Vinegar, Water and Newspaper: Mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with a gallon of water, and dispense into a used spray bottle. Squirt on, and then scrub with newspaper, not paper towels, which cause streaking. (If you're out of vinegar or don't like its smell, you can substitute undiluted lemon juice or club soda)
Carpets and Rugs
Keeping carpets clean is less daunting than you might think, even after a season of tracked-in dirt and salt.
Beat Those Rugs: Take any removable rugs outside and beat the dust and hair out with a broom.
Club Soda: You've probably heard the old adage that club soda works well on carpet stains. But you have to attack the mess right away. Lift off any solids, then liberally pour on club soda. Blot with an old rag. The soda's carbonation brings the spill to the surface, and the salts in the soda thwart staining.
Cornmeal: For big spills, dump cornmeal on the mess, wait 5 to 15 minutes, and vacuum up the gunk.
Spot Cleaner: Make your own by mixing: 1/4 cup liquid soap or detergent in a blender, with 1/3 cup water. Mix until foamy. Spray on, then rinse with vinegar.
To Deodorize: Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the carpet or rug, using about 1 cup per medium-sized room. Vacuum after 30 minutes.
Hardwood floors are easy to vacuum, but don't do well with wet mopping. So how do you restore their natural glow without roughing them up?
Vinegar: Whip up a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar and 30 ounces of warm water. Put in a recycled spray bottle, then spray on a cotton rag or towel until lightly damp. Then mop your floors, scrubbing away any grime.
Conventional oven cleaning chemicals are loaded with toxic ingredients that are harmful to skin and eyes, and the fumes are unhealthy. Instead, go natural!
Baking Soda and Water: Coat the inside of your dirty appliance with a paste made from water and baking soda. Let stand overnight. Then, don gloves and scour off that grime. Make spotless with a moist cloth.
A clogged sink is a real hassle, but pouring toxic chemicals like Drano down it isn't so wise. Not only will it pollute our waterways, but the products can cause chemical burns and are highly dangerous if ingested. Do you really want that in your home?
Baking Soda and Boiling Water: Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the problem drain, followed by 2 cups of boiling water. If that isn't doing it for you, chase the baking soda with a 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover tightly, allowing the vigorous fizzing of the chemical reaction to break up the gunk. Then flush that with one gallon of boiling water.
Whether you have fine family heirloom pieces or something you picked up at an estate sale, you're eventually going to have to wash them. Even with advanced settings on today's washing machines, you still may want to address fragile fabrics by hand.
Sunlight: What could be easier than sanitizing and removing stains... with sunlight! (Just don't do it too often with fragile pieces, because they can start to break down). Simply lay your old lace, curtains and other fine linens on the grass in the sun for a few hours. Dirtier pieces can be dampened first.
Boiling: If that doesn't do the trick, fill a pot with water and bring to a boil on your stovetop. Drop in linens and let steep until stains lift.
Detergent and Borax: Mix dishwasher detergent and borax together until you get a thick rubbing paste. Rub into soiled linens, then rinse clean.
Peroxide: If you have stubborn stains, try spraying them with peroxide, then rinsing with water.
Commercial silver polish contains toxins, and manufacturers recommend you don't leave on skin too long. Do you really want something like that spread over the utensil you use to put food in your mouth!?
Aluminum Foil, Boiling Water, Baking Soda and Salt: Keep your sterling shined with this seemingly magic method. Line your sink or a bucket with aluminum foil, and drop in tarnished silver. Pour in boiling water, a cup of baking soda and a dash of salt. Let sit for a few minutes. The tarnish will transfer from the silver to the foil.
Toothpaste: If you can't immerse your items or are otherwise inclined to polish by hand, rub tarnished silver with toothpaste and a soft cloth. Rinse with warm water and dry. Instead of toothpaste you can substitute a concoction made of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water.
Ketchup: To keep your copper pots, pans and accents looking bright and shiny, try rubbing with ketchup.
Soap: Wash your pewter items in warm soapy water, rinse, and polish with a clean cotton cloth. Instant clean!
Steel Wool and clean cloth: Wipe down the item with the cloth, scrub lightly with the steel wool, rinse and then dry. Be sure to rub in a little vegetable oil once it is dry to inhibit any further rusting.
Lemon Juice and Baking Soda: combine a few tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of baking soda, rub it on and then polish it off…so shiny! If your items are heavily soiled, you can soak them in hot vinegar and some table salt. The shine will start showing up on its own, and once you see it, take the item out and rinse it. You can also rub lemon on brass to get into any grooves that need cleaning…just be sure to wipe it off once it is clean.
Use vinegar as a natural fabric softener. This can be especially helpful for families who have sensitive skin. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store bought fabric softener. Vinegar has the added benefit of breaking down laundry detergent more effectively. (A plus when you have a family member or roommate whose skin detects every trace of detergent.)