It’s that time of the year again for rejuvenation. Rejuvenation of the earth, the soul, the mind and your bathroom? Yep! It’s spring cleaning time! An annual tradition of discovering you still have that MC Hammer flyer stuffed in with your Circuit City receipt for that laser disc player that you just are still not sure if you are going to keep.
A spring clean gives you the chance to start off new and fresh. So while you are starting new and fresh, do it while keeping mama earth new and fresh with these eco-tips on spring cleaning the green way!
Start It Off!
Open windows: After an entire winter of off-gassing from your carpets, flooring, furniture, paint, chemicals – I don’t think you want to know what’s in the air you breathe. Even if you live in a city, the air outside your window is on average 50 times cleaner than indoors. So crack those windows open right away and at every opportunity throughout the year.
Get Rid of It!
Food cupboards: You thought you’d need it, use it, want it, but alas you did not. Donate it to a food pantry if it hasn’t expired; otherwise make sure the packaging, cans and containers get recycled as well.
Donation boxes: Inevitably you will find lots of things that no longer have use for you but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful for someone else. Clothing, shoes, household items, books, furniture, toys, anything and everything. Pack up these items and donate them to a charity, list them on Freecycle or Craigslist. Many services provide ways to trade in old cell phones and miscellaneous electronics so you can avoid contributing to e-waste. Radio Shack, for instance, offers a program where you can bring in used mobile phones, MP3 players, gaming systems, GPS receivers, and digital cameras and after appraisal, they’ll give you a RadioShack gift card in return. But never throw away anything that still has “life” left in it.
Proper disposal: Motor oil, paint cans, aerosols. Check Earth911 to find out where these toxic products can be dropped off for proper disposal. Same goes for electronics. If they can’t be given away, check local resources.
Recycle: Magazines, mail, catalogs, any needless papers, packaging. Don’t just put them in the garbage can. Put them in the recycling can. All of these papers are recyclable!
Dispose of toxic chemicals: Clean out the array of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals under your sink. All of them. Follow your local guidelines for toxic waste disposal, or donate them somewhere. I assure you, you do not need them to have a spotless and even disinfected house. If you knew the amount of toxic chemicals they release into the air your kids breathe, you would not even question it.
Yard Sales: Round up all the stuff you don’t want, pick a nice, sunny weekend, and put it out on your front stoop for display. Make it fun by coordinating with a friend, meet neighbors and people watch. Plus the main reason, making some money!
Buy distilled white vinegar: The uses are amazing. Everything from cleaning and sanitizing to disinfecting and stain removal. Check out vinegartips.com for ideas, but whatever you do, do NOT use commercial household cleaners; they are harsh, harmful and unnecessary.
Don’t use bleach or any cleaners containing chlorine: The problems with chlorine bleach are numerous — it can burn skin and eyes and prove fatal if swallowed. When it goes down the drain, it becomes toxic to the natural world, too. A herbal-based sanitizer or one by Seventh Generation is a good alternative, as is just plain old hot water and soap. White vinegar also works wonders.
Buy baking soda: Multi-purpose baking soda can be used for everything from freshening the air to scrubbing the toilet and tub. Fantastic for cleaning but also for removing odors from rugs and carpets. Sprinkle some on, let it sit for 30 minutes and vacuum it up; nice and simple.
Skip the antibacterial soap: It’s just not necessary. The widespread use of antibacterial soap is also leading to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
Skip paper towels and sponges: Gather old t-shirts and towels (not suitable for donation) and put them to work. Skoy cloths are another favorite and they can all be washed and used again for later cleaning projects.
Greener Vacuums: Many vacuums on the market are now built with the environment in mind, boosting energy efficiency, durability, strong filtration and recycled materials. The Bissell Little Green handheld vac and the Electrolux UltraSilencer Green are both made from recycled plastic. Vacuum-Home.com features an entire page devoted to green vacuum cleaners.
Swap out your Swiffer: Instead of continually buying expensive single-use mop pads, invest in a reusable mop. Casabella is one brand that’s widely available in health food stores and general stores. Their mop heads can be washed in your washing machine, hung dry, and used again and again.
Make your own multi-purpose cleaners: These quick and easy recipes will help you clean your home without using harmful chemicals:
Super Surface Spray
• 16 oz. spray bottle
• 14 oz. – 1:1 solution of distilled white vinegar and water
• 7 drops of tea tree essential oil
• 7 drops of lavender essential oil
• 7 drops of lemon essential oil
Use this aromatic and disinfecting solution for cleaning kitchen counters, cabinets, refrigerator shelves, blinds, painted wood surfaces, painted walls, molding, fan blades, and more.
Herby Soft Scrub
• 12 oz glass jar with lid
• 1/2 cup baking soda
• 1/2 cup Castile soap
• 15 drops of antimicrobial essential oils like rosemary and sage
Mix well until you have a nice consistency like cake frosting. If you have leftovers, add 1 tsp vegetable glycerin to keep the blend nice and moist.
Antibacterial Soap Spray
• 16 oz spray bottle
• 14 oz. water or rosemary hydrosol
• 3 tbsp Castile soap
• 15 drops of tea tree essential oil
• 15 drops of oregano essential oil
Use this cleaning spray to disinfect your bathroom surfaces. You can use the Super Surface Spray to rinse away any residue left behind by the Castile soap.
Refreshing Linen Spray
• 16 oz. spray bottle
• 3 oz. unflavored vodka
• 12 drops lavender, ylang-ylang, peppermint, orange or your favorite smelling essential oil
• 12 oz. organic hydrosol of your choice
Spray to refresh your mattress, pillows, bed linens, couches, and fabric covered chairs, or spritz clean winter blankets before storing for the year. Also makes a wonderful ironing spray!
Natural Lemon Furniture Polish
• 16 oz spray bottle
• 1 cup olive oil
• 25 drops pure lemon essential oil
• 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
• fill the remainder of the bottle with purified water
Shake well before each use. Spray onto your rag or directly onto furniture. Buff dry immediately.
Tropical Carpet Deodorizer
• 1 cup of baking soda
• 10 drops of lemongrass essential oil per cup
• 10 drops of mandarin essential oil per cup
• 10 drops of ginger essential oil per cup
Mix together and sprinkle the aromatic blend onto your carpet, let sit for 30 minutes, and vacuum as normal. Wonderful mattress deodorizer, too!
Lemony Wood Floor Mop Formula
• 20 oz. spray bottle
• 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
• 1 tsp. vegetable glycerin
• 20 drops lemon essential oil
Spray, mop as usual, and quickly buff dry to protect your floors. They will be glossy and clean with a lovely lemon scent!
• small glass bottle
• 1/4 cup Castile soap
• 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
• 20 drops of tea tree essential oil
• 20 drops of sweet orange essential oil
This is the perfect liquid cleaner for tile floors, vinyl, or linoleum. Mix the solution with 2 gallons of hot water and mop away the dirt and grime.
Now that you’ve managed to weed out the useless from the useful, you need to find a system for organizing what you’ve got left–because if you can’t find something when you need it, you’d might as well not have it at all. For this, you’ll need storage containers, but that doesn’t mean you need to stock up on (non biodegradable) plastic bins; instead, try cardboard boxes wrapped in pretty paper, bamboo baskets, or cloth bags made from old t-shirts. Raise your storage with eco-friendly shelving to free up floorspace and make your rooms look bigger. If, while you’re organizing, you find items that don’t seem to fit with anything else, those are likely goods you could add to the “donate” pile.
Finish It Off!
Skip the air fresheners: Chemical fresheners can cause eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. Aerosol air fresheners are even worse — the tiny air-borne particles can damage nerves and lodge in your lungs. Buy fresh flowers in lieu of traditional air fresheners. An open box of baking soda, cedar blocks, and dried flowers also add natural fragrance to the room. – if you MUST spray the scent of spring in the air, forgo the aerosol air fresheners and instead fill a spray bottle with a combination of water and essential oils, and “spray away!”. For a natural “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.
Buy a plant (or 12): Some household plants will actually help to purify the air in your home as well as providing wonderfully fresh oxygen!
Have Spring Resolutions: No more antibacterial soaps, no more harsh cleaners and chemicals. Vow to replace them with eco- and health-friendly products. Put CFLs on your shopping list and use them for every bulb that needs replacing from here on out! CFLs are more energy efficient — they use two-thirds less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 8-12 times longer. If you swap only one bulb you’ll save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes in the U.S. for one year.
Start fresh, start right and keep greening your life!!