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Green Spring Cleaning


Wild Iris, Frozen Head State Park.  Photo by Margaret M Hoff

Spring is the traditional time of year to clean your house from top to bottom. In fact, this practice seems to stem from the Jewish tradition of Passover in which Jews clean their homes to eliminate specific foods for their spring holiday. This practice has been followed for over 3,500 years – and who are we to argue with a cleaning tradition that goes back that long? Moreover, springtime is the best time to clean because it is warm enough to open all of your windows and doors – especially important when you are shaking out those dirty rugs, sweeping the dust bunnies hiding beneath your furniture, and eliminating the dead ladybugs that have gathered in droves upon your windowsills.

While you are eliminating all of those collected dust bunnies and dead bugs, I also suggest that you eliminate the toxins in your home. Several studies over the past decade have come to show that the air pollution inside your home is often higher than the air pollution outdoors. That, my green friends, is really scary thought. Oregon Toxic Alliance has put together a webpage that lists the common household toxins that we all have throughout our house. You can find browse these toxins by category and also find a green alternative for cleaning your home.

Fortunately, you have the power to clean up the air pollution in your home. Some things you can easily avoid (lead paint, chemically laden new carpets & draperies, and air fresheners). Then there are houseplants that can actually eliminate the toxins in your house: benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. Check out this site explaining the NASA study of what plants eliminate which toxins, so as you know which plants to get next time you are at your local greenhouse. Finally, we can avoid other harmful chemicals by breaking some habits we have had our whole lives, such as cleaning our windows, kitchens, bathrooms, floors, and furniture with harmful toxins.

Is there a way we can clean our houses without these chemicals? Just like concept of spring cleaning, we need to go back to what our ancestors, or at least our great grandparents, used to clean their houses; baking soda and vinegar are the two main ingredients needed to clean any house naturally.

Baking soda is amazing. It can be used for so much more than keeping your refrigerator free of smells.

  • Carpets – simply sprinkle some on your carpet, let sit for about half an hour, and then vacuum it up.
  • Ovens – rub down the inside of your oven with a paste made from water and baking soda. Let it sit overnight, and wipe clean with a rag in the morning.
  • Kitchens and Bathrooms – baking soda is great for all of the stubborn stains on your stovetop, countertops, sinks, as well as shower stalls and bathtubs. Use a rag (or sponge) to mix baking soda and water and wipe away. If you have tougher stains, simply let the mixture set on the stain for a longer period of time (10 to 20 minutes will usually work well).

Vinegar is amazing as well. I usually use white vinegar.

  • Floors – vinegar is great to mop your floors as you simply add to water to it, or you can use it straight, and mop away.
  • Windows – use a spray bottle to apply the vinegar to your windows and then wash off dirt with a crumpled newspaper for a streak-free shine.
  • Garbage Disposal and Drains – after cleaning your kitchen, splash a little vinegar down the garbage disposal or drain – this with those smells stuck in the pipes.

Vinegar and Baking Soda mixed together makes a natural, safe, fizzing reaction that works perfectly on tough grime in bathroom stalls, toilet bowls and kitchen sinks. Plus, it can unplug your drains. I found this out last week after my husband had shaved in the sink and it was completely clogged. I mixed half and half of vinegar and baking soda and poured it down the drain – the natural fizzing action actually removed the hair from the drain and completely cleared the pipe. I was happily surprised and secretly mad at myself for having wasting all my money in the past on dangerous chemicals like Drano.

Here is an anti-clog drain recipe from a friend – passed down from past generations. This is a once a month treatment to help keep brains clog-free.

In quart jar combine: about 2 tablespoons Salt, 4 tablespoons Baking Soda, and fill the rest of the jar with White Vinegar. Pour down drain – if there is white powder left in the bottom of the jar, add a little more vinegar and pour into drain again. Wait for an hour or two and then flush drain with hot water.

NOTE: Add vinegar only over the drain you are going to pour it down because as soon as you add the vinegar you will start the reaction and it will start to fizz all over the place.

In regards to other green cleaning methods, I’ve found several great sites with green cleaning suggestions: Washington Toxics Coalition, Green Homes, Clean & Green, Sierra Trading Post.  Or, you can buy green cleaning products at your local grocery store, such as Seventh Generation, online, or at your local health food store. So start your spring cleaning – and clean up the air pollution that is inside your house!