For some reason, in the light of spring everything in my house looks like it’s old, worn, or dusty – and sometimes that even includes me. So I grab the sponge, bucket, water, and cleaning solution and begin going from room to room in search of anything that doesn’t look springy fresh.
Sometimes I wonder about the impact all of this spring cleaning has on the environment. Millions of gallons of chemically-laced cleaning solutions are dumped down the drain every crisp spring day. Sinks and toilets are scrubbed with abrasives made with who-knows-what, which also go down the drain. The solution is to use green cleaning products plus learn about the different ways to use them.
There’s no denying that the smell of lemon juice in your house refreshes the senses and gives the feeling of a clean green home. Buy local, organic lemon juice if you can find it, but any 100% lemon juice product will do as they are all completely biodegradable green cleaning products.
Lemon juice is great for dissolving soap scum. It can also be used to clean and shine copper and brass. For copper, simply put some salt on a halved lemon and scrub away. Mixed with baking soda, lemon juice becomes a green cleaning paste, and you don’t even need a bowl to mix it in. Simply sprinkle some baking soda on a halved lemon and use that to scrub surfaces, stains, and even to do the dishes.
Lemon Pledge is one product I grew up with, and I loved the smell. You can make a safe, biodegradable “Lemon Pledge” by mixing 2 parts olive oil with 1 part lemon juice for a great furniture polish and yet another green cleaning product.
For a twist, try fresh oranges instead of lemons in these green cleaning products. Lemons or anything acidic has some antibacterial properties, too.
Another product I grew up with, back in the days before we were all concerned about the environment, was 409 and other general purpose spray cleaners. You can get the same effect by mixing 1 part vinegar and 1 part water in a spray bottle for a green general-purpose cleaner. Test the solution on a small section of the surface you are going to clean before using it. White vinegar, by the way, is an effective antifungal.
Use the green cleaning solution to clean the bathtub, sink, toilet, and countertops in your bathroom. Vinegar eats away soap scum quite effectively. If, however, you have marble in your bathroom, do not use vinegar or anything else acidic as it will etch the marble. Pour straight vinegar in your toilet bowl to get rid of rings.
In the kitchen, use the green cleaning solution for cleaning countertops, appliances, the stovetop, and even the floor. In the laundry room you can actually use vinegar as a hypoallergenic fabric softener. Just a quarter to a half cup of vinegar added to the rinse cycle will soften clothes and get rid of lingering detergent in your clothes.
If you’re worried about your house smelling like a salad, don’t. The smell of vinegar disappears after it dries. If you add a little lemon juice to your solution, it won’t smell so much like vinegar when you do your green cleaning.
Baking soda is technically a mineral derived from soda ash. Most people know it is a great deodorizer and put an open box in their refrigerators to absorb odors. Baking soda has a ton of other uses as a green cleaning product. (Be sure you buy baking soda, not baking powder.)
To clean sinks, tubs, and toilets simply sprinkle baking soda on the surface and scrub. Baking soda paste is an effective but soft scrubber and is also good on silver. For that dirty oven, sprinkle baking soda on the oven bottom, spray water on it, let it sit overnight, then clean the oven in the morning.
For green-cleaning your kitchen and bathroom surfaces use a mixture of one part vinegar with four parts baking soda, plus a few drops of an essential oil (lavender, for example) and make a paste. Using a sponge, scrub the paste on the surface, wait a few minutes, and rinse. Alternatively, you can get a naturally fizzy scrub paste by spraying on a vinegar solution (remember your all-purpose vinegar spray?), and then sprinkle on baking soda.
To remove chemical smells out of freshly purchased clothing, soak your clothes for a few hours (or overnight) in a cup of baking soda, agitating the water occasionally. Then wash as usual. Baking soda added to laundry also removes body odors.
For pet owners, cat or dog urine smells can be a big problem (even if you don’t smell it, visitors can). Sprinkle baking soda on the spot, wait a few hours, then sweep or vacuum up. Also, you can put a little baking soda in the kitty litter box.
Baking soda can also be poured down the drain with boiling water for a drain cleaner, sprinkled on your cutting board, sprinkled on carpets or couches before vacuuming, and put in the bottom of garbage cans as a deodorizer. As a green cleaning product, baking soda has many uses.
If you are concerned about disinfecting the surfaces in your home, remember that acidic products such as lemon and vinegar have disinfectant qualities. Also, natural oils such as lavender, eucalyptus, tea tree oil, clove oil, and grapefruit seed extract are very antiseptic used in green cleaning products.
If you must use soap, use a biodegradable product for your green cleaning. Vegetable-based castile soaps are ideal and come in a variety of scents. Myself, I love peppermint soap for its fresh, clean scent. Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps are sold in most health food stores, vitamin shops, and many outdoor stores as campers often use Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps to avoid harming the environment. To be safe, pregnant women should stick with eucalyptus, lemongrass, and tea tree oils.
While it may take a little effort to convert over to green cleaning products, consider the advantages. Do-it-yourself green cleaning products are much more inexpensive than regular store-bought products (even the green ones). Green cleaning products are non-toxic, don’t give off toxic fumes, are safe around children and pets, and most of all, green cleaning products go a long way in protecting our environment.
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