Spring Clean the Green Way

Spring is here! If you're ready to throw open the windows and do some serious spring cleaning, why not do it the green way? You don't need to subject yourself to the high prices and caustic chemicals that come with so many store bought cleaning products. With a few simple ingredients like vinegar, peroxide, lemon juice and baking soda you can get your whole house fresh and clean.

Let's start with vinegar.
Thanks to its acidity, distilled white vinegar is effective at killing most mold, bacteria and viruses. Put full strength vinegar in a spray bottle to create an all-purpose cleaner you can use on glass, mirrors, doorknobs, sinks, appliances and countertops (just avoid using it on marble). Instead of harsh bathroom cleaning products use undiluted vinegar on toilets, bathtubs and showers. Add a little baking soda for extra scrubbing power. For stubborn soap residue in the bathroom or grease stains in the kitchen let the vinegar penetrate for 10 to 15 minutes before wiping clean. To eliminate residue on a showerhead mix 1 part baking soda with two parts vinegar in a bag and wrap it around the showerhead. Let it sit for at least an hour. Then remove the bag, give the showerhead a quick wipe and run the water. To keep your dishwasher clean and odor-free, fill the detergent dispenser with vinegar and run it empty once a month. Mix a cup of vinegar with a gallon of water to clean vinyl and linoleum floors.

Break out the peroxide for serious disinfecting.
Hydrogen peroxide (the 3% solution you can pick up at pharmacies and grocery stores) is a nontoxic antibacterial that kills viruses, mold and mildew. You can think of it as an all natural bleach. Anything you typically clean with bleach can be cleaned with peroxide. This includes countertops, sinks, cutting boards, bathtubs, showers, toilets and garbage pails. Simply spray it on, allow the bubbles to subside (hydrogen peroxide needs time to disinfect) and wipe. To clean and disinfect vinyl and linoleum floors mix equal parts peroxide and water to mop. No rinsing necessary. For laundry you can replace bleach with an equal amount of hydrogen peroxide. You can also soak items like toothbrushes, sponges, cleaning cloths, retainers, thermometers and loofahs in hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them. Using vinegar and peroxide together (spray with vinegar and then peroxide) creates a one-two punch that is as effective as bleach at killing bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, but is safe enough to use on produce without so much as an aftertaste.

Clean, shine, and bleach with lemon.
Lemon juice is a fresh-smelling, all natural cleaner. You can clean non-marble countertops by wiping them with lemon juice and rinsing with water. Bleach stains on countertops, dishes, cutting boards and other surfaces by pouring lemon juice on the stain and allowing it to sit before sprinkling baking soda and scrubbing. Lemon can clean, shine and remove rust stains from solid brass (never on brass plated), copper and stainless steel. Simply sprinkle half a lemon with salt and use it as a scrubber. Continue adding salt and buffing until all stains are removed. Finish by rinsing with water and buffing dry with a cloth. Shine aluminum by buffing it with a cloth dampened with lemon juice or half a lemon. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice to dishwasher detergent for extra grease-cutting power and make easy work of cleaning the inside of the microwave by heating a mixture of lemon juice and water for a minute before wiping down the inside of the machine. To freshen up the garbage disposal toss some lemon peel into the disposal while running hot water. Mix equal parts lemon juice and water to create an all natural air freshener.

The best way to dust wood furniture is with a damp cloth. Commercial wood polishes can contain harsh chemicals and leave a very hard-to-remove residue. For an all natural polish mix two parts olive oil with one part lemon juice and apply it to your wood furniture using a soft cloth.

Lemon is also a powerful bleaching agent. To bleach white clothes soak them in half a cup of lemon juice mixed with a gallon of hot water for at least an hour. Then launder as usual. To remove rust stains from clothes, pour lemon juice on the stain and then rub in cream of tartar. Let the mixture sit until the stain disappears. Then launder as usual.

Finally, when cleaning with vinegar you can always add a bit of lemon juice to neutralize vinegar's strong scent.

Boost your cleaning power with baking soda.
Baking soda is best known for its power to deodorize. All you have to do is keep an open container of baking soda in the refrigerator, freezer or any cupboard to prevent odors.

Sprinkle baking soda on anything you want to deodorize, including (but not limited to) garbage containers, hampers, gym bags, sneakers and the dishwasher. To remove odors from carpeting or upholstery, sprinkle the area with baking soda, let stand for at least twenty minutes and vacuum. Repeat as necessary.

Baking soda's texture and absorbency make it good for cleaning, degreasing and scrubbing various surfaces. Clean and polish silver, stainless steel and chrome with a paste made of 3 parts baking soda mixed with one part water. Simply rub on the paste, rinse with warm water and dry with a soft cloth. Degrease dishes, ovens and other surfaces by sprinkling baking soda on the grease and rubbing with a dry cloth. The baking soda will soak up the grease making it easier to rinse messes away. To remove burnt on food, sprinkle cookware and grills with baking soda, add hot water, let soak overnight and wash as usual. To clean bathroom floors, mop with half a cup of baking soda mixed in a bucket of warm water and rinse. Clean walls and laminate furniture with a damp cloth dabbed in baking soda (the homemade equivalent of Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser). Clean toys with a solution made from 4 tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of water. To clean stuffed toys, dust on baking soda, let it sit for 20 minutes and dust off.

Baking soda is also very effective as a stain remover. You can remove tea stains on teapots and cups by soaking stains in a mixture of ¼ cup baking soda and 1 quart warm water overnight before washing. To remove scuff marks or grease spills from floors, sprinkle with baking soda and wipe clean with warm water.

Use these all natural cleaning solutions with rags you make out of old towels and t-shirts (saving money on paper towels and reducing waste) and you’re ready to clean green!

Prefer to buy green cleaning products instead of making your own? Learn what to look for in “green” cleaning products before you buy.

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