After enduring an extra long winter it’s finally time to fling open the windows of your Muskoka home and let in the fresh spring air . It is also time to tackle the dreaded spring cleaning. Conventional cleaning products can be more dangerous than the dirt they’re intended to clean so what are your options? The way we clean (with lots of disposable paper towels) isn’t always earth-friendly either. However, there are many available alternatives that can help you make your home squeaky clean—and green too!
Green Cleaning Products
The last thing you want to do is dump toxic chemicals into our beautiful environment as you clean. These days, you don’t have to make a special trip to a speciality store to seek out environmentally friendly cleaning products. Green Works products available in many stores including Walmart and the Green line from Independent Grocers are just a couple of the many products available that both protect the environment and work as well as the more traditional brands. Or, if you’re up for a DIY challenge, you can make your own natural homemade cleaners yourself. It’s easier than you might think! The basic supplies you’ll need to make your own green cleaners include:
Distilled white vinegar (sold in most supermarkets)
Borax (sold in a box in the laundry aisle)
Liquid castile soap (a natural soap base made from saponified organic oils of coconut and sunflower. found in most health foods stores)
Essential oils (super concentrated natural plant oils found in health foods stores, usually in the cosmetics section)
Microfiber cleaning cloths
Here are a few basic “recipes” and techniques to get you started:
Glass: Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with one quart of water in a spray bottle. Spray on glass and wipe clean with old newspaper or a lint-free cloth.
Countertops and bathroom tile: Mix two parts vinegar and one-part baking soda with four parts water. Apply with a sponge, scour and wipe away.
Floors: Mix four cups of white distilled vinegar with about a gallon of hot water. If desired, add a few drops of pure peppermint or lemon oil for a pleasant scent. After damp mopping the floors, the smell of vinegar will dissipate quickly, leaving behind only the scent of the oil.
Wood furniture: Mix equal parts lemon juice and olive and oil. Apply a small amount to a cloth and rub onto the furniture in long, even strokes.
Toilet bowl cleaner: Sprinkle a toilet brush with baking soda and scrub away! Occasionally disinfect your toilet by scrubbing with borax instead. Wipe the outside of the toilet with straight vinegar.
Disinfectant: Mix two teaspoons borax, four tablespoons vinegar, three cups hot water and 1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use a spray bottle. Wipe clean.
Mold and mildew: Wipe with straight vinegar.
Air freshener: Sprinkle essential oil on a cotton ball and stash it in a corner of the room. If you have kids, make sure it’s out of their reach, as essential oils are very strong and could irritate their skin. Lavender is a relaxing scent that is great for bedrooms, while cinnamon, clove and citrus oils are great for the rest of the house. You can stash a few in the car, too—try peppermint, which may help you stay alert.
Green Cleaning Tips
Hang dry your laundry. Drying your clothes in an electric or gas dryer isn’t just hard on your clothes, but it’s also hard on the environment. Don’t stop with natural laundry detergent—to truly stay green, install a clothesline in your backyard. If space (or aesthetics) is an issue, look for a retractable clothesline, which takes up almost no space when not in use. Weather permitting, line-dry your clothes outside to reduce pollution, while also cutting your energy bill, getting more exercise, enjoying the fresh air and extending the life of your clothes. Plus, they’ll smell like a clean breeze (the real kind, not the chemical kind).
- Add a little greenery. Install a living air filter—houseplants! Some of the most efficient air-cleaning houseplants include spider plants, English ivy, rubber plants and peace lilies. You’ll need 15 to 18 medium-size (six- to eight-inch diameter container) houseplants for the average 1,800-square-foot house. If that sounds like a lot, place a few plants in the room where you spend the most time.
- De-clutter your wardrobe. Donate gently worn items to charity, where they’ll get a second life, and donate torn and stained items (if they’re made of an absorbent fabric) to your rag collection, where they’ll replace wasteful paper towels. And as you’re packing up your winter sweaters, replace stinky mothballs with a natural and better-smelling version: Stuff a lonely unpaired sock with cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and whole cloves and tie it at the end.
- Paint your walls green. If spring cleaning at your house involves a fresh coat of paint, consider the VOC content when choosing your paint. VOCs, or Volatile Organic Compounds, are chemicals that form vapors at room temperature. Some VOCs, like the ones in many paints, contribute to smog and indoor air pollution, and can cause a host of short- and long-term health problems. The good news is that many paint manufacturers have started making low- or no-VOC paints. The bad news is that many of those manufacturers have simply substituted VOCs with other non-VOC (yet still toxic) chemicals. For truly eco-conscious safe paint, check out these products: Homestead House Paint Co., Benjamin Moore Natura and Sherwin Williams Harmony.
- Swap out your Swiffer. Instead of continually buying expensive single-use mop pads, invest in a reusable mop or cloth head. There are many brands available and Walmart even has some that will fit over an existing Swiffer type mop. These mop heads can be washed in your washing machine, hung dry and used again and again—well worth their moderate price tag.
- Stop using paper towels. Save trees, cash and landfill waste when you buy specially-made, washable cleaning and dusting cloths, available in all types of fabrics, from cotton to microfiber. Better yet, use what you already have and give an old piece of cloth (stained towels, ratty sheets and pillowcases, too-small t-shirts, etc.) a new life. Simply cut or tear your old item into smaller squares (if you want to get fancy, finish the edges with a sewing machine), and voila! Pop them in the washing machine with your laundry to clean and use them again and again.
Cleaning up your Muskoka home for spring doesn’t have to be dirty work. By implementing some of these ideas and products, you will benefit your body, your home and the planet. Many of these changes are small ones, but their impact on your health and the environment can really add up over time.