Gentle rains. Flower blossoms. Longer days. All of these are part of the season of spring. So, too, is the annual rite of spring cleaning.
Though few people truly love scrubbing away dirt and grime, the results are well worth the effort. This year, why not make it as eco-friendly as you can? Going green while you clean doesn’t have to take much extra time, and could actually save you money. And it can benefit you, your family and the planet.
Here are seven eco-friendly spring cleaning tips for your home:
1. Toss out chemical-based cleaning products
Many conventional cleaning products contain chemicals that can cause a variety of health irritants. The American Lung Association (ALA) cites ammonia, bleach and volatile organic compounds (VOC) as three examples. VOCs and other chemicals can be found in chlorine bleach and some brands of detergent, dishwashing soap, rug cleaner, oven cleaner, furniture polish and floor polish, among other products.
Check the labels of cleaners in your home or while you’re at the store. Language such as, “harmful or fatal if swallowed,” or “danger – corrosive” may be a red flag. These cleaning chemicals might not only hurt your body, but if poured down the drain, flushed, or disposed of with your regular household trash, could also contribute to water or ground pollution.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website has a searchable directory of more than 900 relatively safer chemical ingredients and their common uses. The ingredients are labeled with a green circle, half-green circle, a yellow triangle or grey square based on the degree to which they’re believed to be safer.
2. Make your own non-toxic cleaning solutions
Common ingredients like soap, water, vinegar, salt, baking soda and lemon juice can be effective for housecleaning, and safe for your health and the environment.
To reduce odors in carpets, sprinkle baking soda on the floor, sweep it around, wait for it to absorb odors, then vacuum up the powder. To clean windows, TreeHugger suggests a recipe of 2 teaspoons of vinegar with 1 quart of warm water. Spray the solution on the glass, then wipe off, ideally with dead-tree newspapers or washable rags. For an all-purpose cleaning solution, mix 10 to 20 drops of lemon extract, lemon zest or tea tree oil into 1 quart of water.
Don’t want to make your own cleaners? Look for eco-friendly brands like Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyers.
3. Get organized
A checklist of cleaning chores can help you plan your spring cleaning routine, keep track of how much you’ve done, and see what remains. Include on your list heavy-duty cleaning chores that aren’t routine, but need to be done annually or every few years.
Declutter each room before you clean so piles of things like clothing and papers don’t impede corners that need wiping or furniture that needs dusting. Reusing, recycling or repurposing stuff you no longer need is an eco-friendly alternative to filling a trash can and your local landfill.
If the process feels overwhelming or you don’t know where to start, make a simple one-day spring-cleaning checklist, like this one from Oprah, with a manageable number of chores slotted into blocks of time.
4. Gather your cleaning equipment
Having basic cleaning gear on hand can make cleaning easier, faster, and kinder to the environment. With supplies like cleaning rags and spray bottles already in the house, you’ll be less tempted to use less eco-friendly goods.
For example, if you have already repurposed some old towels as cleaning rags, you’ll likely be less inclined to grab the nearest roll of paper towels, which create waste, as your primary cleaning tool. This can save money, too, since you won’t need to buy paper towels or packages of rags for cleaning. If you have an empty spray bottle or two, ready to fill with homemade cleaning solution, that’s one less errand to run.
5. Let the fresh air in
Like conventional cleaning products, air fresheners can contain unhealthy chemicals. The ALA says that air fresheners can contain VOCs, and that “even natural fragrances such as citrus can react to produce dangerous pollutants indoors.” The dangers can include allergic reactions and headaches.
There is also research that suggests pregnant women’s exposure to some ingredients in air fresheners might contribute to childhood asthma, according to Scientific American. As part of your eco-friendly spring cleaning routine, consider disposing of all air-freshening products. Instead, open your windows, perhaps plant some potted flowers, and let the spring air into your home.
6. Freshen your bathrooms
Annual spring cleaning is a great time to shower extra love on your bathrooms. Clean the wastebasket, scrub the underside and base of the toilet, clean inside cabinets or other storage areas, and wipe off baseboards. Cleaning electric fans, heaters or air vents can help them work more efficiently, which also reduces energy use.
Spring cleaning is also a great time to make your bathroom more environmentally friendly. Install a low-flow shower head and motion-sensor faucet to reduce water use. Switch from traditional light bulbs to LED lighting to reduce energy consumption. Stock up on recycled facial and toilet tissue products to save trees.
7. Eco-clean your bedrooms
You might keep up with regular chores like making the bed or dusting the nightstand, but odds are your sleeping area could still use some annual attention. For spring cleaning, launder any decorative pillows or pillow shams. Wash your comforter, blankets, dust ruffle and mattress cover. Use mild eco-friendly detergents that are kind to you, your linens and the environment.
Before you make up your bed again, flip your mattress and sprinkle the top with baking soda to help reduce any odors.
Spring cleaning takes time, planning, commitment and follow-through to get all of the tasks on your list done. These tips can make the process faster, easier and more efficient. They’re also safer for you and your family, and friendlier to the planet.
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