Green Spring Cleaning

Very special thanks to guest writer Sam Marquit for sharing these great ideas about green cleaning!  Please check him out at Fair Marquit Value where he talks about all things related to life and home ownership.  Besides being a professional writer, publisher & editor, he holds a personal and professional interest in Long Island real estate

My home is my castle and sanctuary. I like to treat it as such. Spring cleaning is my way to care for and give respect to the home that takes care of me. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and I want to nurture it as well as I can. I’m careful about what I put into and on my own body. I try to use the same level of conscientiousness while cleaning my home. Being “green” is just an added benefit, and one I’ll take every time.

There are many “green” cleaning products on the market, but they’re so easy to make yourself. I’ll spend the extra couple minutes and a few household ingredients to mix them up myself. There are really only a few simple things that I keep in my cleaning closet: white vinegar, washing soda, baking soda, borax, natural peppermint soap, a few spray bottles, sponges, rags and brushes. Some people like to add essential oils to their cleaners, but I’m not much of a fan of most fragrances.

One of the best things about using these natural cleaners is that I don’t have to worry about kids or pets (check out 8 green pet care tips) getting sick if they get into them. My childhood nemesis, Mr. Yuck, does not live in my house.

Vinegar is probably the one thing that I use the most for cleaning around the house. It even has antimicrobial properties. I usually dilute it with water, from as little as a half cup of vinegar per gallon of water, to straight vinegar. The ratio depends on what I’m cleaning. If you’re less tolerant of the odor of vinegar, you’ll probably want to dilute it more, and maybe add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. A little oil goes a long way.

For my glass top stove, I usually use a minimally diluted solution. If I have a particularly messy spill and the resultant burned-on ring, I’ll sprinkle on some baking soda, spray it with the vinegar, and then let it sit for a few minutes. I may add some liquid peppermint soap to the vinegar solution for a little extra cleaning power. I’ll use the same general solution for tile floors, counter tops and bathroom surfaces. For mopping, I use a more diluted vinegar solution.

If you have a yard or container garden struggling with weeds, don’t dump your vinegar cleaners down the drain. Vinegar is also an excellent weed killer. I pour it directly on the offending plant, and it starts to wither in a couple days. For particularly hearty weeds, or if it rained, I reapply once a day until I see the weed start to die. Be careful though, vinegar is not discriminatory. It will kill any plants it gets on.

Not only my house gets a good cleaning in the spring. It’s the time of year that my family starts to really get outside and get dirty. Running, hiking, soccer and gardening all take their tolls on my families clothes. Using the same short list of ingredients, I sometimes make my own laundry soap as well. For this, I add either plain white bar soap or fels naptha soap. Either will work. The soap must be shredded, so you may want to buy powdered soap instead. Make sure it has no added chemicals or detergents. My recipe is equal parts borax, washing soda and shredded soap mixed together. If you like, you can add a few drops of essential oil. I use the same scoop from commercial laundry detergent to portion my homemade laundry soap. (Please view this article for more ideas about sustainable laundry practices)

When I don’t make my own laundry soap (or for those who prefer commercial brands), I add half a cup of borax and/or washing soda to a load of laundry. It increases the cleaning power of laundry detergent. Borax can also be used to keep fleas, mites, roaches, ants, bed bugs, mice and other pests away. I sometimes use it on stubborn pots and pans as well. Mixing 2 tablespoons borax and 2 cups of water can also be an alternative cleaner for those who don’t like the smell of vinegar.

The possibilities are nearly endless. I still experiment with other mixtures. Happy cleaning!