Spring is the traditional time for a thorough spring clean. There are many powerful cleaning products available with promises of a clean home through minimum effort. Unfortunately, many conventional products contain a toxic array of chemicals that can be harmful to your health and the environment.
Fortunately, help is on hand from Mother Nature! In this article you will learn how to spring clean your home using safe, natural and effective ingredients for a truly Green Spring Clean.
SINKS AND BATHS
There is nothing like a clean sink or bath to motivate you to continue with your spring cleaning! You can shine your taps and sink effortlessly with bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). Simply sprinkle some onto a damp sponge and gently scrub. Use an old toothbrush to clean the hard-to-reach areas such as around the base of the taps, then rinse well with warm water.
Many drain cleaners contain sulphuric acid, which literally eats away at anything organic blocking the drain. This means the tiniest drop of these cleaners on your skin will start to eat away and burn your skin too. Ouch!
To freshen drains the green way, pour 1/2 a cup of distilled white vinegar down the drain, leave to work its magic and then use a plunger if it is blocked. It may take longer and a little more effort, but at least it is safe and effective.
Most conventional toilet cleaners contain chlorine bleach or strong acids. These are harmful to you if inhaled or splashed on the skin, and bad for the environment once you flush them into the water system.
White vinegar removes limescale effortlessly. Pour it neat into the toilet bowl, swish it around with the toilet brush and leave it overnight. Swish it again in the morning and flush. If the water stains are really bad, you can gently rub at them with a natural pumice stone.
SHOWERS AND TILES
Many bathroom cleaners are based on petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource. With peak oil prices big news, it makes sense to avoid these products.
Instead, spray a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar onto tiles, leave for a couple of minutes and then rinse with a damp sponge to remove soap scum the green way.
One of the most toxic products you can have in your home is a conventional oven cleaner. These contain lye, ammonia and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which pollute the air and can be hazardous to health.
Lye and ammonia are corrosive to bodily tissues. They can cause burns and severe damage to delicate tissues in the eyes and respiratory tract, even by inhalation.
VOCs can cause respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment. In addition, many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals and some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.
Fortunately, help is on hand from our trusty friends bicarbonate of soda, water and a little patience!
Sprinkle a thick layer of bicarbonate of soda over the base of the oven, then spray with water. Allow to dry, spray again and leave overnight. In the morning you will be able to scrape out the grease and burnt-on grime easily with a palette knife or sponge.
Spray with a mix of 50% water and 50% white vinegar to wipe away any white residue.
To clean the hob, make a paste from water and bicarbonate of soda and scrub with a scouring sponge. Leave for a few minutes, then rinse with warm water.
Many products, including floor cleaners, contain ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’. These artificial smells are made up of toxic chemicals that can cause sore throats, runny noses, irritated eyes and asthma attacks. They are made from chemicals capable of causing birth defects, cancer, and central nervous system disorders.
Linoleum, wooden and ceramic tiles can be cleaned with a bucket of hot water to which you have added three drops of pure essential oil. Choose tea tree, eucalyptus or thyme for killing germs, and pine or lemon for a fresh, clean smell. If you don’t have any essential oils, use a tablespoon of white vinegar instead.
Keep the mop only just wet for wooden floors. A microfibre mop will work wonders and keep your floors clean the green way.
Conventional carpet cleaners contain solvents that, when inhaled or absorbed through the skin, may cause blood disorders, as well as liver and kidney damage. Some contain napthalene, which is used as a moth repellent. According to the July / August 1985 “Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials Report”, Napthalene is described as “toxic by ingestion or inhalation. It is also harmful if absorbed through the skin. It is an irritant of the skin, eyes, mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract.”
To freshen your carpets the eco-friendly way, sprinkle a layer of bicarbonate of soda on, leave to work for half and hour and then vacuum. This is an excellent way to get rid of pet odours and musty smells. If dust allergies are a problem, then invest in a well-sealed, high-quality HEPA filter vacuum.
For spot removing stains in carpets, check out Special Cleaning jobs.
One well known fridge deodoriser states, ‘Do not eat’, on the packaging. Another contains perfume, which, as previously stated, is made up of hundreds of synthetic chemicals. Do you want these products near the food you eat?
If anything is sporting a green furry jacket in your fridge, then it’s time to throw it out! Wipe the shelves with a cloth wrung out in a solution of hot water and a drop of lemon essential oil or the juice of half a fresh lemon. Clean around the drainage holes to keep your fridge hygienic. Finish by gently cleaning the seals and the door handle.
Place a small container of bicarbonate of soda inside the fridge to absorb smells and end by vacuuming the coils to ensure maximum air flow and efficiency.
WINDOWS AND MIRRORS
Many conventional glass cleaners contain ammonia. Ammonia can irritate and burn the eyes, throat, and nose when inhaled. In higher concentrations, in a bathroom with no ventilation for example, it can cause severe coughing and choking fits.
Add effortless shine and sparkle to your home with a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar. Use scrunched up newspaper or a microfibre cloth to buff and remove grease marks.
Clean grout with an old toothbrush soaked in diluted tea tree oil or a a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar. It will take a bit of work, but your efforts will be rewarded with a toxic free, mould-free bathroom.
Alternatively, beg, borrow or steal a steam cleaner and watch in awe as the grout comes up looking like new. It’s a home makeover in minutes!
Furniture polishes are usually highly fragranced with harmful chemicals that can cause sneezing, runny eyes, headaches and asthma attacks.
The green way involves making yourself a nice strong cup of tea. That doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Allow the tea to cool, put it in a small bowl and use a microfibre cloth wrung out in the tea to dust. The tannins in tea help to kill the dust mites, and damp dusting prevents the dust floating around the room.
Then, make a furniture polish from jojoba oil (or olive oil) and white vinegar. Mix 3 parts oil with 1 part white vinegar in a jar. Use an old rag (a cut up towel or t-shirt will do!) and apply to your furniture. The wood will drink up the mixture and shine beautifully.
If there is any left over, have it on your salad for lunch!
If you are a total novice to green spring cleaning and still want the reassurance of ready-made products, then there are several companies offering much safer and healthier alternatives to conventional cleaning products:
For inspiring recipes, read “Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living
" by Annie Berthold-Bond, or “Clean House Clean Planet
” by Karen Logan.
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