We’ve spent more time indoors than usual over the past year, and we probably notice the dust and cobwebs more than we ever did.
Spring is here, and that means it’s time to give our living space and working space a good cleaning. But you don’t have to destroy your indoor environment in order to destroy dirt and germs. Here are some environmentally friendly ways to spring-clean your space.
Check under your kitchen sink or in your utility closet. Chances are you’ll find quite a collection of cleaning solutions. Do you really need them? Probably not.
Instead, you can find most of the cleaning products you need in your favorite store’s grocery aisle. And you’ll save money in the process. Items such as baking soda, lemon juice and white vinegar cost pennies compared with the price of expensive detergents. Add borax, hydrogen peroxide and olive oil to your shopping list and you have most of what you need for a “green clean.”
Baking soda has some grit to it, which makes it an excellent scrubbing tool. When mixed with an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice, baking soda creates a solution that disinfects, loosens dirt and cuts through grease.
Borax is a powder that comes in a box. You’re likely to find it hiding on a lower shelf amid all the detergents in your store’s laundry section. Borax is great for disinfecting, whitening and deodorizing fabrics. You can add a half-cup of borax per gallon of water to your carpet cleaning machine to boost its cleaning power. Or you can sprinkle some borax on your carpets, let it sit for a few minutes, and then vacuum to get a fresh and clean carpet. Powdered borax on a damp sponge will get your shower or bathtub sparkling clean. Be sure to rinse surfaces thoroughly with clear water after you’re done scrubbing.
If you suspect your dog needs some spring cleaning, sprinkle borax on Fido’s bed, carpet or anything else that may harbor fleas. Let the borax sit for an hour and then vacuum thoroughly. Insects hate borax, so if spring brings an infestation of ants or water bugs, a mixture of borax and sugar sprinkled wherever you see the pests will make them scram.
Olive oil, vinegar and water may make a basic salad dressing, but they also can clean the wooden surfaces in your home in an eco-friendly way. A good formula for floors is to combine a quarter-cup of olive oil with a third of a cup of vinegar and five cups of hot water. You can add a few teaspoons of lemon juice or a few drops of your favorite essential oil if you don’t want a vinegary scent left behind.
The recipe for wood furniture polish is a half-cup of vinegar and a half-cup of water mixed with four tablespoons of olive oil. Add 20 or 30 drops of essential oil to add fragrance. Combine in a spray bottle, shake well, spray on a cleaning cloth and wipe down the furniture.
Chances are your windows are looking dingy after winter’s rain and snow. Vinegar and water are all you need to get them clean again. A quarter-cup of vinegar mixed with two or three cups of water will do the trick. You might want to add a few drops of lemon juice before spraying the solution on the glass. Wipe windows with an old newspaper or a cotton rag to get them streak-free.
Hydrogen peroxide is an eco-friendly way to sanitize your home. You can find hydrogen peroxide in the first aid section of your local drugstore. But a word of caution — don’t mix hydrogen peroxide and vinegar or the resulting peracetic acid will irritate your skin or cause permanent damage to your lungs.
Use hydrogen peroxide in place of bleach to get out tough fabric stains such as blood, perspiration, grass or wine. Combine two parts of hydrogen peroxide with one part of your favorite dishwashing liquid to create your own stain remover. But test the solution on an inconspicuous area of the item first because hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach.
Hydrogen peroxide will kill mold when you apply it full-strength using a spray bottle or a rag. Let it sit for 30 minutes and then clean. But hydrogen peroxide will not get rid of mold stains, so you will need to deep clean afterward to eliminate them.
You also can spray hydrogen peroxide on doorknobs, sinks, countertops and other germ-prone areas of your home or office. Allow it to dry and you’re good to go.
Another way to clean in an eco-friendly way is to eliminate the disposable items you use for cleaning. Disposable floor cleaning pads spread chemicals throughout your home and then end up in the landfill. Fabric softener sheets clog your dryer vent with fibers and then go into the trash after only one use.
Instead, invest a few additional dollars in products you can reuse. You can buy microfiber mop pads that are electrostatically charged and will clean dirt and grime off your floors as well as the disposable ones. Instead of throwing them in the garbage, throw them into the washer and they will be ready to clean your floors another day. Likewise, electrostatically charged microfiber dusters can be used over and over again, and you can toss them into the washer when they get dirty.
Get rid of those disposable fabric softener sheets and buy dryer balls made of wool. They have the additional bonus of reducing wrinkles in your clothing and saving drying time.
And finally, if you want to take a natural approach to cleaning but don’t want to be bothered going the do-it-yourself route, there are plenty of chemical-free cleaning products out there that will do the job.
With a little research and a little ingenuity, your indoor space can be green as well as clean.