Spring cleaning is a rite of passage: clearing out the cobwebs and cabin fever and opening up your living space to the fresh, clean energy of spring. Even better, you can do this without synthetic chemicals and harsh cleansers that contaminate this life-renewing time of year.
It’s no secret that indoor pollution is worse than outdoor pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns the public about the many different indoor air-quality issues you should address, from off-gassing furniture and carpeting to radon, asbestos, mold, and certain household cleaners.
Exposure to conventional household cleaning products can cause a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from eye and throat irritation to dizziness, fatigue, headache, worsening of asthma and other respiratory conditions, and even cancer. That’s because they contain hazardous ingredients such as chlorine, phosphates, sulfates, phthalates, parabens, perfumes, dyes, or petroleum products. Cleaning products that contain these toxins are a danger to humans and their pets.
Everyone has a different living environment and different cleaning needs, but there are some basic materials and nontoxic ingredients you can use to welcome spring while protecting your health, the planet, and your wallet. Begin with a list of basic supplies.
Natural Spring Cleaning Basics
Baking Soda: Also known as sodium bicarbonate, this staple deodorizes, fights grease, cleans well, brightens colors, and combines well with other ingredients.
Borax: Some studies suggest Borax can irritate the skin and eyes and may even disrupt hormone levels. So if you are looking for borax in the following formulas for spring cleaning, you won’t see it.
Castile Soap: If grease and grime are a problem, this 100 percent plant oil soap can cut through it!
Essential Oils: If you want your homemade cleaning products to have a wonderful scent, then you can add essential oils. Lavender, wild orange, peppermint, tea tree, and cinnamon are favorites, but you can choose your own. Most essential oils are safe, but some can trigger allergies so check them before using them in your products.
Lemon Juice: Watch out mold and mildew because lemon juice is your enemy thanks to its acid content. Lemon juice also leaves a shine on hard surfaces and a pleasant aroma.
Olive Oil: You don’t need to use your organic extra-virgin olive oil for cleaning—reserve that for your cooking. However, lower-grade olive oil is helpful as a polish and cleaner.
Rubbing alcohol: This old favorite is a good alternative when vinegar may harm some surfaces.
Washing Soda: This is used mainly for washing clothes. You can make your own washing soda by baking sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda.
White Vinegar: The acidity in vinegar is the secret behind its ability to cut through soap scum, grime, grease, and other dirt. Vinegar also disinfects.
Let’s Spring Clean
Get out your spray bottles and cloths, and let’s get to work.
Spring Cleaning in the Bathroom
Toilet: For serious cleaning, create a cleaning fizz by pouring in 1/2 cup baking soda, 10 drops of tea tree oil, and finishing off with 1/4 cup white vinegar. Use your scrub brush to clean. For routine cleaning, combine 8 ounces of white vinegar and 3 to 4 drops of your favorite essential oil in a spray bottle. Spray on the toilet seat and wipe clean, then use in the toilet, scrub, and flush.
Tubs and showers: Mildew, mold, and scum don’t have a chance in your tub or shower if you spray on pure white vinegar. Let it sit for about 10 to 30 minutes, depending on how much build-up you have, then rinse it off with water and a sponge.
General Spring Cleaning
Disinfectant: A powerful disinfectant consists of 2 cups water, 3 tablespoons shaved castile soap, and 25 drops of tea tree oil. Shake vigorously and use to disinfect just about anything in the house.
Glass Cleaner: Clean your windows and mirrors with this super glass cleaner. Combine 2 cups water, 2 tablespoons each of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar, and 4 drops of lavender or citrus essential oil in a spray bottle. Spray onto glass and wipe off with a soft cloth.
Tile Floor Cleaner: Combine 1 part white vinegar with 2 parts warm water in a bucket. Mop and go—no need to rinse! Note: Do not use this combination on wood floors.
Wood Floor Cleaner: Combine 1 gallon warm water, 1/2 cup white vinegar, and 2 drops lemon essential oil. Use a mop that is barely wet to wash wood floors.
Wood Furniture Polish: In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Use a soft cloth to polish wood furniture.
Borax-Free Laundry Detergent: Combine 5 ounces of castile soap (grated finely), 1/2 cup each baking soda and citric acid, 1 cup washing soda, and 1/4 cup coarse sea salt. Mix well and store in an airtight container. Just 1 to 2 tablespoons of this DIY natural laundry detergent will work.
Spring Cleaning the Kitchen
Countertops: Keep your countertops clean with a mixture of equal parts of water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. If you have granite, marble, or stone countertops, substitute rubbing alcohol or vodka for the vinegar.
Cutting Board: Perhaps the most critical item to keep clean in your kitchen is your cutting board. Use a cut lemon on plastic or wood boards. Rub the cut fruit on the board, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then rinse with water.
Garbage Disposal: It’s easy to forget to clean the garbage disposal, so start with an easy, natural approach. Pour white vinegar into an ice cube tray and fill the slots only half. Top off with water and freeze. When you have solid cubes, put them down the disposal and run it. The vinegar and ice sanitize as well as clean the blades.
Microwave: The solution for a dirty microwave is lemon juice and vinegar. Pour about 1/4 cup white vinegar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into a cup and microwave it for 2 minutes. Keep the door closed for several minutes after it is done, then wipe down the steamy inside of the microwave with a cloth or sponge.
Oven: Often, oven grime is not far behind that in the microwave—or it’s worse. No worries, heat up your oven to 125 degrees F, fill your spray bottle with white vinegar, and spray the dirty areas. Then sprinkle salt or baking soda on the treated areas, turn off the oven, and use a wet cloth to wipe away the grime once the oven has cooled.
Deborah Mitchell is a freelance health writer who is passionate about animals and the environment. She has authored, co-authored, and written more than 50 books and thousands of articles on a wide range of topics. This article was originally published on NaturallySavvy.com.