The smell of spring is in the air, and so are the odors of bleach and cleaning products trying to blast their way to a fresh, new season. The emergence of the season always motivates people to sweep out the old and usher in the new by cleaning their homes thoroughly and refreshing their décor.
However, spring cleaning requires a bit more thought—and maybe a bit more elbow grease—when you want to do it in an eco-friendly way. But fear not—there are plenty of ways to keep your spring cleaning efforts bright green.
Probably the easiest and most effective way to green your spring cleaning is to avoid harsh cleaning agents altogether. These days, harsh cleaning solutions are not the only game in town—there is an entire industry devoted to making greener, safer products for precisely this purpose. But truth be told, it’s really not necessary to buy any at all, especially if you have the time to whip up a DIY alternative. Making natural cleaners at home is incredibly easy and saves money, a trip to the store, and the environment. It’s a win-win-win.
By using basic supplies like distilled white vinegar, baking soda, borax, rubbing alcohol, and olive oil, cleaning au natural has never been easier. Here are a few basic “recipes” for different types of homemade cleaners that will serve just as well as any store-bought solution.
Glass: Mix 2 cups water with half a cup of white vinegar and one-fourth cup of rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Spray on glass and wipe clean with old newspaper or a lint-free cloth.
Countertops and bathroom tile: Mix two parts vinegar and one part baking soda with four parts water. Apply with a sponge, scour, and wipe away.
Floors: Mix four 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 lemon juice and olive oil. Apply a small amount to a cloth and rub onto the furniture in 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 with vinegar.
Disinfectant: Mix two teaspoons borax, four tablespoons vinegar, three cups hot water and one-fourth teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe on with a dampened cloth or use a spray bottle. Wipe clean.
Mold and mildew: Wipe with vinegar.
Air freshener: Sprinkle any essential oil on a cotton ball and tuck it away in a hidden corner. With kids around, it’s important to place the cotton ball somewhere it can’t be reached, as it may irritate a child’s skin. Lavender is a relaxing scent perfect for bedrooms, while cinnamon, clove, and citrus are perfect for other rooms. Cotton balls treated with essential oil can be stashed in cars, bags, or wherever a touch of freshness is needed.
Save some cash and some trees by using washable cloths in lieu of paper towels. You don’t even have to buy any cloth for this purpose, as old sheets, pillowcases, towels, socks, and T-shirts make perfect cleaning rags. Every time you clean, rely on a fabric that can be washed and dried with other laundry and used again and again. Even a small change like this can have a big impact on your environmental footprint.
Although using an electric or gas dryer for your laundry is the easiest option, these machines can be hard on your clothes and the environment. You can reduce your laundry’s environmental impact by hanging clothes on an outside line to dry. If space is an issue, consider a retractable clothesline that doesn’t take up any space when not in use. When the weather’s nice outside, line-drying your laundry is a great way to conserve energy and give your clothes a natural, fresh scent. There’s nothing better than the real smell of “clean breeze”—the kind offered by nature instead of a dryer sheet.
It goes without saying that buying less is always a good idea. But sometimes the smell of spring is enough to tempt anyone into a few new purchases to spruce up their home. If buying something to commemorate the season feels positively mandatory, consider purchasing a few new plants rather than plastic trinkets or decorations. Remember, whatever you buy is now permanently yours, so make smart choices that take into account the waste your purchase will create. Avoid items with heavy packaging in particular.
If you are painting rooms, always opt for paint with low volatile organic compound (VOCs) levels. VOCs form noxious vapors that are harmful to humans and the atmosphere. Be sure to talk with a paint professional and carefully check the ingredients in the paint for toxic ingredients, and opt for brands with an eco-conscious bent. Your walls will still be fresh and lovely, and the air will be even cleaner.