Earth Day: 10 tips for a clean, green spring

Published: April 22, 2009

     It's that time of year again. When the sun starts to shine, we want our homes to shine as well. Cleaning in a green way is best for you and your home, and takes no extra effort — it's just a matter of changing the way you clean.

I know what you're thinking – do "green" household cleaners really work? Yep – because it turns out that our households don't need to be sterilized. No surface is going to stay sanitized for very long. Remember, disinfectants can be poisonous, as they are regulated as pesticides.

There are many affordable and worthwhile green options, so why use chemicals? We have become accustomed to buying separate cleaners for each part of the house, but we simply don't need to use ALL the cleaning products that are available.

There are many natural products on the market and just as many eco-friendly ways to keep clean by using everyday items. Take a look around your kitchen cupboards for some effective solutions so you don't have to use harmful chemical-based cleaners or spend extra money.

Here are some tips to help you get started: 1. Educate yourself! Not only can cleaning product companies keep their ingredients a secret, but they can label themselves organic, natural, non-toxic and biodegradable without any actual certification. If you'd rather not use household cleaners like vinegar, baking soda or Borax, definitely do some research and look for trustworthy green brands like Method, Natureclean and Seventh Generation.

2. Bicarbonate of soda is a whiz at getting lots of surfaces clean; a couple of tablespoons of bicarb and some hot water works like a treat for getting rid of burnt-on food from casserole dishes or removing scuff marks from floors. Use as a cleaner, deodorizer, scouring powder, water softener and much more.

3. Borax is an effective alternative to harsh chlorine bleach.

4. When we use the word "fragrance" we generally mean scent. When manufacturers use it they may be disguising the fact that they're using phthalates (petroleum-based hormone disruptors). For a fresh, clean smell in your home, look to citrus and herbs.

5. Ammonia may cut grease, but it's also dangerous to your health. Skip the chemical sprays and use a spray bottle filled with four parts water, one part white vinegar instead.

6. Natural products are truly all you need. Or, if you already have vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, lemons and some cheap olive oil in your cupboard, you're ready to roll with a DIY version of cleaning products.

7. Cold tea sitting in the pot? Tea is acidic and is therefore a natural cleanser, but you won't want to use it on surfaces that will stain or are porous.

8. Don't underestimate the power of nature's most effective cleaner: elbow grease: A soft, clean cloth, hot water, and your own muscle-power are sufficient for most cleaning tasks

9. Cleaning out closets and cupboards is part of the whole spring cleaning ritual: take unwanted or out of size items to a consignment shop, or have a bit of fun and call friends over for a clothing exchange party.- it's becoming the new recession trend!

10. Don't have time to do the clean yourself?

Look in the phone book for green, chemical-free cleaning services available in your area. Cleaning green leaves a fresh natural clean scent in your home — perfect timing for the beginning of spring!

For more formulas and detailed advice on using natural products for cleaning your house, try books such as The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier, and Green Clean by Linda Mason Hunter and Miikki Halpin, as well as the National Geographic Green Guide, Spring 08. They are available at public libraries as well as bookstores.

Melody Wren is a perennial writer, and in an effort to avoid being an environmental nuisance, she is recycling, reusing, repurposing, rediscovering, reupholstering and researching ways to live a greener life in a greener home.