Many of us have already started our spring cleaning regimes, undertaking the tricky job of deep cleaning the whole house. But why not spare a thought for the environment as you go?
A lot of the cleaning products we use in our homes are potentially harmful to the environment — and ourselves. There are several toxic chemicals in everyday cleaning agents, including ammonia, phosphorous and nitrogen. When these substances are washed down the drain, they often end up in lakes, rivers and oceans. And when they do, ecosystems suffer.
And it’s not just we should be worrying about. There are greenhouse gases in certain aerosol products. These can drasticall alter ozone levels and speed up the process of climate change. And let’s not forget about the costs of packaging and delivery. The burning of fuel and the creation of packaging to get these products into our homes leave a huge carbon footprint.
But you can make a difference to the environment by changing your approach to spring cleaning. All you need to do is reduce your reliance on chemicals and think about how every cleaning task you perform might affect the environment.
To help you make spring cleaning green cleaning, we’ve put together a few simple tips.
Make your own cleaning products
Think about the cleaning chemicals you use in your home most often. The list probably includes sanitisers, multi-purpose cleaners and bleach. It might surprise you to discover that you can make green alternatives to all of these — without reducing the quality of your cleaning.
Here are a few examples of natural household cleaning products:
Borax — A natural deodorant that can also be used as a disinfectant.
White vinegar — Disinfects and cuts through grease and dirt. White vinegar is the basis of a powerful, natural sanitiser.
Baking soda — Absorbs grease and bad smells. Reacts with acids to dislodge stubborn accumulations of dirt and grease.
Castile soap — A great alternative to multi-purpose cleaners. Castille soap works well on floors.
Olive oil — Great for polishing wood and stainless steel.
Sodium carbonate — Effective at removing stains and stubborn accumulations. Sodium carbonate is a good laundry supplement.
Ditch the oven cleaner
Oven cleaning agents are some of the most caustic chemicals in the home. They can cause serious breathing difficulties, and they’re extremely harmful to ecosystems. Thankfully, there’s a green way to remove carbonised food and grease from inside a dirty oven.
Start by placing a heatproof bowl of water, vinegar and lemon juice inside the oven. Switch the oven on, and “cook” the water at a high temperature for an hour. The steam created should loosen the grease, food and grime.
Once the oven has cooled, create a paste with white vinegar and baking soda. Apply the paste liberally over all the interior surfaces, and leave it there for an hour. With a microfibre cloth, collect all of the loose material. You can use a blunt knife to scrape away stubborn accumulations. Finish by rinsing the oven with clean water, and wipe dry with a clean microfibre cloth.
Deep clean the bathroom with natural products
Don’t spend a small fortune on bathroom cleaning products. There’s no surface you can’t clean with natural substances. For example, lemon juice makes a great limescale remover. A mixture of lemon juice and baking soda is great for cleaning grouting. And white vinegar is an effective bath and sink cleaner.
If you have mould or mildew in your bathroom, you don’t necessarily need caustic, bleach-based cleaners. A mixture of water, hydrogen peroxide, and tea tree oil makes a great mould removal agent. If the mould isn’t too serious, even a light coating of vinegar might do the trick.
Polish with natural products
Whether you’re polishing your windows, your stainless steel appliances or your wooden surfaces, you can do a great job with natural substances. A little olive oil and white vinegar combine to make a great wood cleaner. And just a little olive oil with your favourite essential oil can be used to make steel surfaces shine.
To make an all-round household polish, mix a litre of water with 100ml of white vinegar and a tablespoon of olive oil. If you’re cleaning windows, don’t add the oil.
Use re-purposed cloths and dusters
If you’re wiping or scrubbing, almost any old rag might work. An old tea towel or item of clothing might work wonders on floors and kitchen surfaces, for example. Cut an old T-shirt into small squares, and you can create several cleaning cloths. Anything from an old towel to a sock can be cut to create handy cleaning rags for use around the home.
More and more homes are going paperless, saving trees but also saving the fuel and packaging required for delivery. By using rags instead of paper towels for your spring cleaning efforts, you and your family can make a real difference to the environment.
Use natural air fresheners
Don’t introduce aerosols and chemical-based air fresheners into your home when you can use natural products. For example, some old citrus fruit peel can work wonders in the right place. Or if you want the smell to pervade your entire home, boil the peel in a pan of water. Other natural air fresheners include cloves, spices and cinnamon sticks.
If you don’t have allergy sufferers in your home, the best way to freshen the air is to open windows at every opportunity. However, this may not be a good idea if you live close to a busy road or a construction site.
Superheated steam is Mother Nature’s cleaning agent. It doesn’t just cut through grease and grime, it also kills the vast majority of harmful bacteria and dust mites. And it does all of this without the need for caustic cleaning agents.
A handheld steam cleaner can clean a wide range of surfaces in the average home. It’s perfect for cleaning tiles, grouting, baths, windows and kitchen worktops. But with the right accessories, a handheld steamer can be used to clean upholstered furniture and curtains. And if you have a steam mop, a carpet attachment turns it into a powerful carpet cleaner.
Have a green clear-out
Spring cleaning is about getting your home ready for the summer — and beyond. This is the perfect time to declutter, recycle and upcycle. Decluttering makes cleaning easier, and it reduces the surfaces on which dust can gather.
Just don’t throw anything out until you have to. Anything that goes into your bin will probably end up in a landfill — and take centuries to decompose. Instead, look for opportunities to recycle. Even better, try to think of interesting and inventive ways to upcycle items. For example, an old ladder can be painted and turned into bedroom shelves.
Never throw anything out that can be used by someone else. Whether you give the item to a friend, a neighbour or a charity shop, make sure it’s put to good use.
A lot of people reduce the air-quality in their home by using unnecessary cleaning agents for spring cleaning duties. These products can cause allergic reactions, skin conditions and breathing difficulties. And they’re also expensive. Make your spring cleaning green cleaning by switching to natural alternatives wherever possible.