Spring is here – and that means spring cleaning time! Mother Nature is freshening up, and so are most of us. Taking out the recycling, letting in the fresh air, and scrubbing our homes to a sparkle is a great way to put the winter doldrums behind us for good and get ready for the delightful days ahead.
The problem with cleaning, though, is that so many cleaning products contain ingredients that are anything but clean. Corrosives, hormone disruptors, carcinogens, phosphates and more all lurk behind the attractive labels. Some of these are so toxic that they can easily make you sick — not to mention the harm
they do to wildlife and ecosystems when they inevitably make their way into the environment. To top it off, the packaging these products come in clutters our landfills and our cabinets alike.
It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to have a home that is not only clean, but safe and eco-friendly, too. Eco-friendly cleaning is no harder than conventional cleaning, and sometimes easier. It’s certainly safer, and much more pleasant, too. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Choose eco-friendly cleaning products. These days, even conventional supermarkets offer eco-friendly cleaning product options. Many of them work just as well as their chemical-laden counterparts. Look for products that are nontoxic and biodegradable. Recycled and recyclable packaging is a huge plus.
- Create your own cleaners. Of course, you can also make cleaning products from natural ingredients such as baking soda, white vinegar and lemon juice. Nothing beats knowing exactly what goes into cleaning your home, and you’ll probably use a lot less packaging, too.
- Wash with water. You might be surprised how clean you can get your home with just plain water. Water works wonders to banish non-greasy dirt on surfaces such as floors and dresser tops. Add a little plain, phosphate-free liquid soap if you need a little extra cleaning power, then rinse with more plain water to freshen most any part of your home.
- Icky carpets? Try baking soda. Ordinary baking soda is a super cleaning agent and absorbs all sorts of odors. No need to get your carpet wet — just sprinkle it liberally over the entire area you want to clean, let it sit for a while, and vacuum for noticeably fresher carpets.
- Beat it. If you have throw rugs, why not clean them the old-fashioned way? Simply take them outside and hang them over a clothesline or railing, then beat with a broom. You’ll be amazed at the amount of dirt and debris that will fly out. (Kids love this task, but no matter who does it, make sure they wear a dust mask or respirator.)
- Air it out. Whether it’s laundry, rugs or rooms, there’s nothing like sweet spring air to freshen up your furnishings. Hang drying in the sun saves energy, too!
- Soak up the sunshine. If you’re not worried about fading your rugs, hang them in the sun to air out — sunlight is a fabulous disinfecting agent. It’s also a great natural bleaching agent for diapers and whites.
- Try citrus-based degreasers. It’s not true that super greasy cleaning tasks can be tackled only with petrochemicals. Citrus-based degreasers are friendlier to the environment and quite effective. They smell good, too. You can even use them in your carpet-cleaning machine.
- Break out the essential oils. Essential oils are not just for aromatherapy. Many of them are wonderful additions to home cleaning products as well. Since many of the fragrances used in cleaning products are toxic and/or allergenic, essential oils are a much healthier alternative. Try cedar oil for cleaning toilet bowls. Mix a few drops of lemon essential oil with two tablespoons of olive oil and ¼ cup vinegar for a great-smelling, non-toxic furniture polish. Or run your diffuser with your favorite essential oil for a super-fresh, safe and effective air freshener alternative.
Of course, this is just a quick list of eco-friendly cleaning ideas. There are so many more ways to clean your home effectively without resorting to harsh and unhealthy chemicals. Perhaps you can think of more. What are your favorite eco-friendly spring cleaning methods?
Ryan McNeil is the president of Renewable Energy Corporation, a Mid-Atlantic residential solar energy company that is committed to installing quality, American-made solar panels.