Spring is in the air – Time for a Green Spring Clean?
In days gone by, when people relied on coal and wood fires to heat their homes as well as candles or oil/gas for lighting, people kept their doors and windows firmly shut to keep the cold out and the warmth in. Ceilings, walls, furnishings and everything else became covered in soot or ash, and by the end of winter possessions would be dusty, dirty and grimy. They would wait for a dry, warm, sunny, day and would then “spring clean”. This would involve removing everything from inside the house to outside, to be washed and aired. The empty house, with all windows and doors thrown open, would be scrubbed clean, painted and repaired. If the season was too cold they would not be able to wash, dry and air their household goods, too warm they would be swarmed with flies. Spring was the perfect season for this mammoth task.
Do we need to spring clean our homes now that we are less reliant on solid fuel to heat our homes? Do our centrally heated, climate controlled homes require a spring clean? After all we have household cleaning gadgets – washing machines, vacuum cleaners to help us to keep on top of those cleaning jobs. Not only that but we have a vast choice of cleaning products. We have anti-bacterial, anti-grease, dust reduction chemicals – a different solution or spray for every area of the home and for every task. Our homes are cleaner than those of our ancestors, or are they?
It is true that we now are able to keep our homes cleaner. We use cleaning products, chemical and materials on a regular basis However, many of our house hold goods are not made from natural, organic fabrics. Added to that our eco-friendly homes are now more air tight than ever before. Whilst our homes may no longer contain the soot and grime of earlier times, we have a different kind of dirt – by products of our modern live style, lingering in the nooks and crannies of our homes. A regular deep clean, a spring clean, using natural products and including a good airing of our homes, is just as necessary today as those by gone days.
Have you ever cleared out large appliances or items of furniture whilst moving house or remodeling? The amount of fluff, dust debris and even long lost treasures that have found their way under those items can be quite shocking. We don’t need to go into detail about what is mixed with that debris, including dust containing chemical ingredients from deteriorating furnishings, lingering germs and other bad stuff. Our cooking, heating and ventilation appliances, ducts and fans also require deep cleaning. Suffice it to say that our homes are healthier when they are cleaner. We don’t need to wait until we move or remodel to perform a deep clean. We just need a plan, gather some tried and tested natural cleaning products, and chose the best time and season to get on with the job. We might need to enlist willing helpers, volunteers, or payed help if necessary, so that we can move larger items around and ideally get as much out into the fresh air, and as much fresh air into the house as possible.
A good plan is to work from the top of the house down, from the top of each room down .That way any dust that falls is cleaned in the next stage. This is also a good time to reflect on which items are surplus to requirement, and could be given away, sold, free-cycled, or recycled. Anything that can be stripped, washed and dried should be. Bedding, drapes, soft furnishings, even mattresses. These also benefit from being placed outside to air. Throw the doors and windows open. The circulation of the air around the room and throughout the house will replace the stale air with fresh air. Work through each room. Ceilings, light fittings, walls, windows, base boards, and floors. Sweeping, washing vacuuming follow the same pattern of working from the top down.
Natural cleaning Vs chemicals
If we are trying to restore a healthier environment to our homes, be aware of the contents of your cleaning products. The following figures quoted by Treehugger.com are a reminder of the need to use more natural cleaning products and move away from potentially harmful and often unnecessary chemicals.
17,000: the number of petrochemicals available for home use, only 30 percent of which have been tested for exposure to human health and the environment.
63: the number of synthetic chemical products found in the average American home, translating to roughly 10 gallons of harmful chemicals.
100: the number of times higher that indoor air pollution levels can be above outdoor air pollution levels, according to EPA estimates.
275: the number of active ingredients in antimicrobials that the EPA classifies as pesticides because they are designed to kill microbes.
They add, “As the health and environmental impacts of conventional cleaning products become more thoroughly understood, more and more brands of healthy, green, and effective cleaning products have started hitting the market and competing for that coveted place of honor under your sink. Many of these products are non-toxic, biodegradable, and made from renewable resources (not petroleum). But if designer labels aren’t for you, home-mixed cleaners can get the job done and then some. Vinegar and baking soda can be used to clean almost anything. Mix in a little warm water with either of these and you’ve got yourself an all-purpose cleaner.”
In addition to commercially available eco cleaning products, vinegar, salt, lemon juice, and baking soda make good alternatives. These are also kind on the environment and your pocket. Liz Barnes, health Educator at SparklePeople shares these basic “recipes” and techniques to get you started:
- Glass: Mix 1/4 cup vinegar with 1 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 2 parts vinegar and 1 part baking soda with 4 parts water. Apply with a sponge, scour, and wipe away.
- Floors: Mix 4 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 of 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 clean with straight vinegar.
- Disinfectant: Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, 3 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 is 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, and 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 to stay alert.
Liz Barnes also encourages us to ditch the paper towels to save trees, cash and landfill waste. Although we can buy specially-made, washable cleaning and dusting cloths, in all types of fabrics from cotton to microfiber, we can recycle cloths we already own and no longer need, such as old towels, sheet, pillowcase and t-shirts. Simply cut or tear the old item into smaller squares with either finished edges or not! These can then go in the washing machine with your laundry to clean and be used again and again.
- Here is another tip for microwaves, or non self-cleaning ovens. If these aren’t cleaned regularly then a deep clean is useful.
- Take two cups of water into a Pyrex bowl, with two lemon halves, and turn the oven on a high setting for ten minutes. Take a fresh washcloth and scrub the oven rack and walls, taking care not to skip the ceiling, but take care! It will be hot! Give it a second scrubbing with half a cup of plain white vinegar diluted in half a cup of warm water. Add another cup of water to the bowl and turn the oven on for another ten minutes. The lemon will remove the smell of the vinegar, and your oven will be like new.
Spring is a traditional time for deep cleaning our homes. Spring cleaning time is a good opportunity to rummage though and evaluate our cleaning kit and make green improvements to it. Replace the commercially produced, potentially toxic cleaning products with homemade or commercial eco-friendly ones.
With the clutter cleared, and the grime gone, it’s a good time to put those dirt prevention or reducing features in place. Door mats at entrances and enforcing your indoor shoe free policy will prevent unnecessary dirt entering our homes. Homes are places where we escape from the hustle and bustle of life and spend time with family and friends. A regular cleaning routine, and a planned deep clean can maintain a healthier, happier home environment.