Time to get your spring eco-cleaning on! Here is a checklist, how-to, and eco-recipes to help.
- Washable fabric mop
- Plenty of cloth rags. Old flannel sheets cut into squares is a good option.
- Stiff brush
- Old toothbrush.
- Vacuum or wet-vac for carpets, windows, doors, fireplaces etc.
- Spray bottles, for the DIY eco-cleaners
- A rockin’ playlist…cleaning seems to go faster when you listen to your favorite tunes.
- Essential oils will help freshen the areas you to cleanse, purify and polish.
- Baking soda
- White Vinegar
- Rubbing alcohol
- Castile Soap
- Soap nuts (berry-like fruit harvested from a tree) contain saponins, which clean almost anything: clothing, dishes, even hair.
- Olive or jojoba oil will polish furniture and oil wood without harmful additives. They are also less likely to go rancid.
- Hydrogen peroxide will help remove stains naturally and easily. Always be sure to check for color-fastness before use.
Go for a Zero-Waste Cleaning Plan: Slash cleaning waste by trading paper towels for reusable microfiber cloths or re-purposed flannels. And trade the Swiffer sweeper for a broom and the disposable mop for a reusable one.
Top Down Approach: Work from the top down and you’ll save time, energy and resources by not repeating tasks. A few things to keep in mind when working from the top down:
- The exception to cleaning from the top down is to wash the walls from the bottom up, then back down. This is because dirty, soapy streaks may be harder to clean off dirty walls then already clean walls. Work your way back up to remove any drips.
- Keep the sheets on the bed while you work above to keep the mattress clear of dust or water.
- Do all the rest of your laundry after the room is clean so that you are only bringing in the clean laundry after all the dust and dirt is gone.
Dry Clean Before You Wet Clean: This may seem obvious, but it is worth remembering: sweep before you mop, dust fan blades before you wash them, vacuum dirt from windows before you wash the windows.
Open those windows: Closed-up houses may be cozy in the winter, but they tend to smell pretty stale. Get some air moving in your house by opening all the windows and positioning a few fans in strategic places, like hallways and stairways. Placing a fan in the window, facing out, can work wonders for your indoor air quality.
Keep Up, Not Catch Up: It’s always easier to keep on top of things than to try to catch up every spring.
Recipes: Eco-friendly, inexpensive cleaners
All-Purpose Natural Household Cleaners
In a spray bottle, mix 9 parts water and 1 part white vinegar. You can a few drops of dish soap, as well. Add essential oils if you’d like to minimize the strong smell of the vinegar. Melaleuca oil or lavender can be used as a cleansing, deodorizing, and purifying agent.
Natural Furniture Polish
Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar, lemon juice, or lemon essential oil with 1 tablespoon of oil. You can use this in a spray bottle or a small amount on a cotton rag.
Natural Oil or Wax for Wood
For wood surfaces that require regular oiling/waxing, switch the ratios to 1/4 cup oil and 1 tablespoon white vinegar, lemon juice, or lemon essential oil. Allow it to soak in for at least 12 hours before wiping off any excess with a dry cloth.
Natural Soap from Soap Nuts
Soap nuts can be added whole to your washing machine or boiled to create a liquid soap nut concentrate: Add two soap nuts per cup of water and boil for approximately 30 minutes, mashing them periodically. Strain, add essential oils and store in a sealed container.
In the kitchen
Countertops: Using equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle helps clean countertops and kills bacteria. Do not use this mixture on granite, marble or stone as the acidity is not good for these surfaces. Instead, use rubbing alcohol.
Oven: Heat the oven to 125 degrees. Using a spray bottle, spray vinegar on the oven interior. Add a bit of salt to a a towel damp with water to scrub and clean. For charred food, sprinkle baking soda and scrub with a wet rag. For stubborn areas, spray the all-purpose natural household cleaner over the baking soda and allow it to sit for several minutes before resuming scouring.
Cutting board: Slice a lemon in half. Use one half and rub over the surface. Let sit for 10 minutes. When 10 minutes has passed, take the other half of the lemon and rub to loosen any bits on the board. Rinse with water.
Fill a bowl with water and one sliced lemon; place it in the microwave for 5 minutes on high. The steam from the water will loosen any food particles. Spray with the all-purpose cleaner and wipe down. For deodorizing, mix 1/4 cup of baking soda in a bottle of water, shake well until dissolved, and spray the entire surface allowing it to sit for several minutes before wiping clean.
Dishwashers: Use liquid or whole soap nuts in your dishwasher by filling the soap dispensers. Add white vinegar to the rinse-aid compartment. Every month or two, run a gallon of white vinegar through an empty dishwasher cycle. (For really bad build-up, dishwasher cleaners of 100% citric acid can be used on occasion.) Baking soda can be added to help soften water, deodorize plastics or assist in cleaning, but only in small amounts (1/8 to 1/4 cup per load) to prevent residue.
Dishwashing by Hand: A teaspoon of liquid soap nuts will suffice for a sink full of dirty dishes. A bit of white vinegar can be added to soften the water.
In the bathroom
Bath and tile: Mix ¾ cup of baking soda with ¼ cup of castile soap. Add one tablespoon of water and make a paste.
Toilets: To clean and sanitize frequently, mix a spray bottle of vinegar with five or six drops of tea tree or lemon essential oil. For a more thorough cleaning, put 10 drops of the essential oil in ½ cup of baking soda and mix with ¼ cup of vinegar.
Drains: Use a “snake” (a long cable that goes down the drain to remove debris or buildup) to empty slow drains of buildup or debris. Pour baking soda followed by 100% undiluted white vinegar down the drain. This may be necessary several times as it works through the drain. Lime essential oil may also help remove sludge.
Garbage Disposals: Avoid using them whenever possible by scraping food into a compost bin or trash. For deodorizing, sprinkle with baking soda regularly and send lemon slices down the shredder.
In the living room
Use several tablespoons of liquid soap nuts per gallon of water. You can add in several tablespoons of baking soda and a half cup of white vinegar for deodorizing or additional cleansing. Spot treating with soap nuts, baking soda and/or vinegar may be necessary for tough spots.
Dusting Electronics and Non-Wood Surfaces
Use the all-purpose natural household cleaner recipe above and spray the rag (never spray electronics directly).
Glass and Mirrors
Use 50% vinegar and 50% water to lightly spray the surface, then wipe clean with a dry cloth.
Walls, Doors, etc
Use the all-purpose natural household cleaner recipe from above for light cleaning. To prep wall for painting, fill a medium-sized bowl of warm or hot water with 1/4 of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar and scrub with a soft cloth.
In the dining room
Dusting and Oiling Wood
Apply the natural wood oil recipe above liberally to dry wood. Allow it to soak in for several hours before wiping off any excess. Repeat monthly or as needed.
Flooring – Hard Surfaces
For hardwood, tile, linoleum, or concrete flooring add one cup of vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons liquid soap nuts for every 2 gallons of warm water.
Pet Kennels, Cages and Beds
Use the all-purpose natural household cleaners recipe for hard surfaces and launder as described above. All these ingredients are safe to use around animals.
Pet Stains, Odors, and Areas
For a dog run use 100% white vinegar, usually a gallon or more depending on the size of the area to be washed, scrub with a push broom or similar and hose the area off. (Vinegar will kill plants and weeds so use it wisely outdoors.) For pet stains, wash the surface as you normally would but double the vinegar to remove any odor and discourage them from using the area again.
Removing Stickers, Crayon, Marker, etc
Both lemon and lime essential oil are known to remove stickers, crayons, and other marks from paint, dry erase boards, wood, glass, etc.
Stains on Fabric
Soak the stained area in water (temperature depends on fabric type) with 1 teaspoon of liquid soap nuts. Depending on the fabric, you can also try to gently scrub the area with a baking soda paste.