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Green Your Spring Cleaning

Spring is here. It’s time to dust off your gardening tools and coax the dust bunnies out from under the beds. But while you’re polishing the surfaces in your home to a spiffy shine, you don’t want to trade dirt for a coating of toxic chemicals. Find out how you can green your spring-cleaning routine…

What’s in Your Cleaners?

Believe it or not, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the level of organic pollutants are up to five times higher in concentration inside your house than they are outdoors. Collectively known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), these agents outgas into the air from many types of ordinary household products, like furniture, paints, solvents and – you guessed it – cleaning products. There are dozens of chemical culprits to be concerned about, too. Formaldehyde, for instance, which is found in laundry detergents and disinfectants, is a known cancer-causing agent that is also linked to a greater incidence of leukemia. And nothing says “clean” like ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, does it? Also known as 2-Butoxy ethanol, this compound is found in many glass and all-purpose cleaners. It’s also readily absorbed through the skin, is known to cause birth defects and damage to the kidneys, liver and the central nervous system.

A Better Way

Obviously, natural cleaners are a better alternative to many conventional household cleaners when it comes to preserving human and environmental health. But, do they really work?

Household cleaners have changed a great deal over the last 50 years, but dirt is pretty much the same as it’s always been. Ditto for grease, pet paw prints and children’s finger marks. In fact, in spite of marketing campaigns designed to convince you that one formula is superior to another, the science of cleaning is the same today as it was for your great grandmother. For the most part, all you need to clean your house from top to bottom is a mild soap and water. If grease stands in your way, the addition of acidic agents, like vinegar and lemon juice, will break down fats and proteins. Baking soda, essential oils and even dried herbs are also germ-busting allies, and you don’t need a HAZMAT suit or a degree in chemical engineering to use them.

Ready…get set…start cleaning!

Yeah, okay. Few people enjoy cleaning and you’re probably no exception. But, armed with some simple, all-natural cleaning formulas that actually smell great and won’t harm the health of your family, pets or the planet, you can make cleaning a breeze. As an added bonus, your wallet will have more green in it too. So grab a rag, turn up the tunes and rhyme away the grime!

Herbal All-Purpose Cleaner

1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
2 tsp liquid castile soap
25 drops essential oil of thyme, eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, sandalwood, lemon, orange

Add all ingredients to a large spray bottle (about 22 ounces) and shake before using.

Lemon Blast Cleaner

This solution is great for refrigerators and stovetops.

1 teaspoon liquid castile soap
1/8 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups water
6 drops citrus seed extract
4 drops lemon, lime, orange, or eucalyptus essential oil
1 teaspoon borax

Combine all ingredients in a plastic spray bottle Shake well before each use. Spray generously on appliance surface and wipe with damp cloth or sponge. Wipe dry with a cloth or towel.

Germs-Be-Gone Toilet Cleaner

This antibacterial spray cleaner is especially formulated for cleaning the general surface of the toilet, and under and behind the seat.

2 cups water
1/4 cup liquid castile soap
1 tablespoon tea tree essential oil
10 drops eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a plastic spray bottle and shake well. Spray on toilet surfaces and wipe clean with a damp cloth or sponge. Editor’s Note: This formula can also be used to clean the bowl.

Super Easy Automatic Dishwasher Powder

This formula is effortless to make and since it stores well it can be doubled or made in bulk.

2 cups washing soda
1 cup borax
1 cup baking soda

Combine all ingredients and store in a plastic container. To use, add about 2 tablespoons to the soap compartment of your dishwasher. If you find your glasses are getting a residue buildup, then reduce this amount to 1½ tablespoons.

Rosemary-Geranium Floor Wipes

These fragrant wipes will almost make cleaning the floor a pleasure.

1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
10 drops rosemary essential oil
10 drops geranium essential oil

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Stack your pre-cut wipes on top of each other (or roll them together jellyroll style if you’re going to coil the wipes to store them) and place them in the bowl with the cleaning solution. Allow the wipes to absorb the liquid for a few moments. Immediately transfer the wipes to your storage container of choice, together with about ¼ cup of the liquid to keep them moist, and seal.

Basic Liquid Laundry Formula

Dr. Bronner’s, one of the most popular liquid castile soaps, is available in a variety of scents today, if you wish to skip adding your own essential oils.

2 1/4 cups liquid castile soap
¼ cup white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon glycerin
3/4 cup water
10-15 drops essential oil of your choice

Combine all ingredients into a plastic container or squirt bottle. Shake once or twice before adding to the wash. To use, add ¼ cup per average load; ½ cup for extra large or heavily soiled loads.

Weekend Warrior Wicker Wash

If you know that your wicker is wood-based, you can go to town cleaning it with this formula without being concerned about getting it wet. The essential oils used here will dissolve grime, while the gentle soap will make its removal easier.

1 gallon of water
1 tablespoon liquid castile soap (or Murphy’s Oil Soap)
20 drops cedar essential oil
10 drops sweet orange oil

Combine all ingredients in a pail of water. Dip a soft cloth or cellulose sponge into the cleaning solution, squeeze out the excess liquid, and wipe down the wicker using even strokes from top to bottom. Wipe a second time with a clean, dry cloth. Let the furniture dry completely before using it again, usually for several hours.

Stainless Steel Barbeque Polish

Wipe this solution on the exterior of your barbeque for a high polish and shine.

½ cup water
4-5 teaspoons baking soda
10 drops lavender essential oil

Combine the water and just enough baking soda to make a thin paste—it should be goopy, not too thick. Add the essential oil and blend well. Apply the paste onto your barbeque using circular motions with a soft cloth. Rinse with either plain water, or a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar. Finish by drying and buffing the stainless steel with a dry cloth.

Clear the Air Room Spritzer

This combination provides a fresh, clean scent that won’t overpower your senses.

1 cup water
15 drops thyme essential oil
10 drops sage essential oil

Add all ingredients to a small spray bottle. Shake a few times before using and spray in each direction from the center of the room.

More Herbal Cleaning Formulas