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7 Handy Tips To Green Your Spring Cleaning 5

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From repurposed cleaning items to cleaner cleansers, these tips will help you get your home ready for Spring.

A friend and I were talking the other day about how our mothers share a habit: When they’re cleaning, they use a copious amount of paper towels. Because they’re made from lower-quality paper fibers, paper towels are not recyclable, and although in some cases you can compost them, it’s probably not a good idea to add them to your compost pile if they’ve been sprayed with toxic cleaning products first.

Many of the people I know are a little more conscientious about using sustainable materials — employing reusable cleaning cloths instead of the rolls of paper towels, for instance. And when it comes to cleaning and de-cluttering this year, I’m going to go a few steps further and really think hard about ways I can reduce household waste and decrease my use of harmful chemicals.

Want to green your Spring cleaning, too? These tips will help you be more sustainable by repurposing things around the house as well as improving your indoor air quality to make your home a safer, and cleaner, place to be this Spring.

1. Use aluminum foil as a cleaning tool. While clean aluminum foil is recyclable, if it’s covered with food, grease, or baked-on gunk, it has to go in the trash. But first, make it earn its keep: Wad it up with the dirty stuff on the inside, and it can serve as a heavy-duty scrubber to get your grill grates spick and span and ready for the summer. A ball of foil can serve the same purpose for your oven rack.

2. Use natural soap to make homemade cleaning solutions. You’ve probably heard by now that white vinegar makes a versatile and nontoxic cleaning product. I’ve recently added a big (and cheap!) bottle of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap to my cleaning caddy. In various dilutions, alone or with vinegar, it works to clean everything from laundry to toilets to countertops. The company has a great sustainability message too: Using recycled packaging and regenerative organic agriculture practices, working towards zero waste, using solar energy, and recycling its greywater.

3. Make a homemade Swiffer. There’s no doubt that the Swiffer, a mop with a disposable cleaning head, is one of the biggest recent advances in cleaning products. But their convenience and effectiveness come at a cost: The Swiffer-brand cleaning solutions get low scores from the Environmental Working Group, and the removable pads aren’t recyclable or reusable. But if you already own a one of these mops, don’t trash it just yet. You can make reusable cleaning pads for it with an old fleece blanket or jacket. Coupled with your own homemade cleaning solution (made with the aforementioned natural soap or vinegar!) and you’ve got a much more eco-friendly setup.

4. Clean out old candle jars to reuse. I usually have a few poured-wax jar candles left over from attempts to give my winter-stuffy house some ambiance. With the oily wax inside, they’re not recyclable, but I plan to spend a little time this Spring to remove all the wax so I can recycle or reuse the jars.

5. Repurpose fireplace ashes. If you have a wood-burning fireplace you’re all too familiar with the onerous chore of removing all the ashes after you’ve lit the final fire of the season. But don’t throw those ashes away! Fireplace ashes are surprisingly useful for polishing silver, scrubbing soot from the fireplace door, or amending soil. Who knew?

6. Replace your HVAC air filter with a reusable one. My Spring cleaning to-do-list always involves heading down to the crawlspace with a fresh air filter for our HVAC system. The dust-caked old ones aren’t recyclable, but there’s good news: You can buy permanent air filters that can be washed and reused again and again!

7. Keep windows open when you clean. The EPA says that indoor air in homes, offices, and other buildings is often more polluted than the air outside. For this reason, I like keeping my doors and windows open, and even running my attic fan to circulate the fresh air, while I’m cleaning. This helps bring clean air into the house and get stale, potentially VOC-laden air out, especially if I’m using chemical cleaning products.

With a little thoughtfulness and ingenuity, we can all do our Spring cleaning without making more of a mess for the environment.

Do you have handy, eco-friendly Spring cleaning tips? Share them in the comments below!

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

  • Mary J. 8 months ago
    Newspaper to wipe down glass windows is great it is lint free and does a spotless finish.
  • tommy b. 8 months ago
  • Kate G. 8 months ago
    I invested in Norwex cleaning cloths . I am not a sales person :) lol But I love them . No longer buy paper towels or cleaning supplies really . Cut down a lot of waste and chemicals .
  • Laura L. 8 months ago
    My only critique is that re-using your air conditioner filters is actually really dangerous for your health--they will not dry completely and will introduce mold to your air, plus the dust mites will love it when the filter is moistened and will breed. Any filters that say they can be re-used or they last 3-6 months are not safe for use, and this is according to ENT Dr's, Allergy Dr's, and A/C repair people. If your regular single use filter isn't dirty yet after a month, you can leave it in for another month but 3 months is pushing it as dust mites hatch a new generation every 21 days and their bodies and poop are irritating to everyone's airways, even if you're not allergic. So you will end up giving yourself or your family bronchitis or sinus infections. The best thing to do is limit your A/C and heat use so that the filters don't get dirty so quickly, and buy a brand that is made from recycled materials. You can't take the chance with your health, being able to breath is not an option.
  • Laura L. 8 months ago
    I love all the suggestions, except I'd add that old t-shirts are amazing for making lint-free cleaning cloths so no need to crochet or get complicated in making swiffers, and old socks (who doesn't have socks with holes or no match) can be turned inside out and put on your hand or a swiffer duster and when moistened with white vinegar they get all the dust off blinds, tables, baseboards, anything--AND the big bonus for allergies like mine is white vinegar kills dust mites, while most other cleaners even those marketed to allergy-sufferers DO NOT.
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