As the winter draws closer to an end, many of us find ourselves beginning to plan our spring housecleaning. But why waste the first sunny, warm days of the year slaving away indoors? Get a jump start on your spring cleaning now while the weather isn’t great so that by the time the first robin chirps his vernal song, your house sparkles like the sun.
Many people, especially parents of young children, harbor concerns about toxic chemicals in store-bought cleaning products. These fears carry merit: a recent study discovered that prolonged exposure to household cleaners creates a health impact similar to smoking one full pack of cigarettes daily. Eschew the cleaning aisle by mixing natural cleaners that work as well as commercial products without the health risk.
Here are eight steps to follow to naturally deep-clean your home for spring.
1. Gather Your Supplies
The first step in end-of-winter housecleaning involves making a store run to gather everything you need. Make sure to keep certain staples on hand. Those with large homes and big families benefit from buying basic natural cleaning ingredients in bulk as they last almost forever and have multiple uses.
Fill your shopping cart with pure white vinegar, baking soda, clear dish soap, tea bags, some lemons or other citrus fruits and your favorite essential oil blends. To decrease your carbon footprint, pick up some washable microfiber cloths and reusable spray bottles for your cleaning concoctions. Have an old Swiffer in the cleaning closet? Grab a cheap pair of socks you can cut the toes out of to make a reusable cleaning wand that works as well as wasteful single-use pads.
2. Freshen Laundry With Scented Vinegar
Vinegar serves as a natural antibacterial agent, and adding a bit to your laundry blasts away body odor and kills germs trapped in fabrics — but few of us want our favorite jeans to smell like Easter egg dye. Instead, make your own scented laundry vinegar you can also utilize for other cleaning tasks.
To make scented vinegar, begin by saving up orange and lemon peels or fragrant herbs. Fill a mason jar halfway with the herbs and/or peels. Get playful and mix and match several varieties to create unique signature scents.
Heat your vinegar in a clear glass container until it just barely reaches the boiling point. Avoid using metal pans as the metal breaks down the active antibacterial agents in vinegar. Pour the vinegar over your peel-and-herb mixture, cover and let sit for at least 24 hours or longer for a stronger scent.
Once your scented vinegar achieves the level of smell you desire, simply strain it into a spray bottle with a funnel. Spritz a liberal amount into your washing machine or spray some onto a spare bit of cloth and use it as a dryer sheet. Your clothes will come out smelling sensational.
3. Scrub Sink Stains With Citrus
Everyone hates those unsightly yellow water stains that appear around faucets and bathtub drains. Eliminate these stains and give your bathroom or kitchen a morning-fresh scent by cutting a lemon, lime or even a grapefruit in half and using it to wipe stains away. The citric acid contained in these fruits neutralize the metals in the stains, leaving your sinks and tubs sparkling naturally.
4. Shine Hardwood Floors With Tea
Traditional floor cleaners leave chemical residues on your hardwood floors, and these toxins transfer easily to children who often play on the floor. Instead of chemical cleaners, simply make yourself a cup of tea or three. Instead of adding honey and sipping away, use this tea to clean and shine the floor.
Tea contains tannins, substances that cut through grease and grime. In addition to using tea to clean hardwood, experiment with using a spray bottle full of tea to clean windows, mirrors and even glass stovetops. Tea easily dissolves dirty fingerprints and grease splatter.
5. Disinfect a Stinky Dishwasher
Over time, even the most technologically advanced dishwashers develop odors from bits of food particles left trapped within. Refresh a smelly dishwasher or garbage disposal using vinegar and baking soda.
To clean the dishwasher, begin by emptying it. Place a cup of pure white vinegar between the tongs on the upper rack and run a full cycle to allow the vinegar to melt away greasy, stuck-on food. Once the cycle completes, sprinkle some baking soda on the bottom rack and run a quick rinse cycle to polish the interior of your dishwasher to a beautiful, odor-free shine.
To clean the disposal, simply pour in a cup of white vinegar and run the disposal for approximately 30 seconds. Add a bit of baking soda inside to eliminate odors from the next use. Alternately, grind up a few citrus peels in the disposal once per week to kill odor-causing germs.
6. Sprinkle Freshness on Fabrics
Baking soda eats up odors just about anywhere, including on fabrics like carpets, couches and chairs, which cost a fortune to professionally deodorize through chemical means. Using a sifter, sprinkle baking soda on any fabrics that smell a bit ripe. To leave a lingering floral scent, grind up some dried flower petals and add the grinds to your baking soda sprinkle.
Allow the baking soda mix to sit on odoriferous surfaces for 30 minutes to an hour. Then, vacuum the excess baking soda and flower grounds away, and you’re left with a couch that smells so inviting, you just have to lie down on it and take a nap!
7. Manage Microwave Messes
Microwaved food tends to splatter no matter how many precautions you take to prevent it. Once the food particles dry, they become seemingly impossible to remove without a hammer and chisel.
To easily wipe away unsightly microwave messes, mix a cup of water with a tablespoon or two of pure white vinegar in a microwave-safe container. Leave the container open, place it in the microwave and let it run for approximately five minutes. The vinegar disinfects while the steam from evaporation loosens food particles, making them easy to wipe away. Just be careful removing the container from the microwave — it can get quite hot!
8. Get Steamed
Finally, for the removal of ground-in or particularly difficult stains from furniture, carpets or even walls, invest in a quality steam cleaner. As steam cleaners use only water, you’ll blast away stains without using a single chemical. Steam cleaners cost anywhere from $20 to $150, making them affordable for just about any budget.
For tough stains such as red wine, pre-treat the area with vinegar or tannin-neutralizing white wine. Allow to sit for five minutes then blot. Follow with the steamer and watch that cabernet naturally wash away.
No one relishes housecleaning, but more importantly, no parent wants to expose their children to toxic chemicals. By switching to natural cleaning products, you can enjoy a sparkling, chemical-free house. Here’s to a clean and healthy home!