I love the idea of spring cleaning, a chance to refresh the whole house after being cooped up all winter, a chance to declutter for the upcoming summer, a much-needed deep-clean where I don’t take any of my usual cleaning shortcuts.
While I used to associate the smell of a clean house with that bleach-y, fake-lemons smell of my cleaning products, now I know better. A clean house smells like, well, nothing. To get there I use earth-friendly cleaning products, plus tools that don’t get thrown out after a few uses and plenty of elbow grease (After all, if a product promises to eat away at the most stubborn stains with no scrubbing, doesn’t it make you wonder what those chemicals are doing to the air quality or to our waterways when it goes down the drain?).
Take a peek at what’s inside my cleaning caddy. And if you’ve got a favorite eco-friendly product, we’d love to hear about it! Be sure to share your favorites in the comments at the end of the story.
- Laundry baskets and big cardboard boxes. My first step in cleaning up is to do a sweep of the room with a laundry basket and cardboard box in tow. Into the laundry basket goes anything that belongs in another part of the house. Into the box goes anything that I can purge from the house, when I’m done cleaning I’ll sort through the box for what I can sell, what I can donate, and what I can recycle.
- Microfiber towels. Paper towels are super-convenient and sanitary, no doubt about it. But if you’ve ever kept track of just how many you use during a typical deep-cleaning session, you’re probably well aware of how wasteful they are. (And if you want numbers, take a look at the sobering stats assembled by PeopleTowels, a company that makes reusable personal hand towels) To try to clean without them, I’ve invested in a stack of microfiber cleaning cloths from my local warehouse club. They’re great for wiping and washing all sorts of surfaces, either dry or damp, with or without a cleaning solution, and I don’t have to worry about wasting them. At the end of my cleaning session, I just throw them all in the washing machine – they’re good for hundreds of washes. Just make sure not to use bleach or fabric softener, and to air-dry them, to maintain their “magic” cleaning properties.
- White vinegar. Vinegar is as effective as many chemical cleansers at destroying bacteria and removing mineral deposits. I love that a gallon of it costs a fraction of a small bottle of specialty cleanser. The Vinegar Institute has a roundup of how to use vinegar in a wide range of cleaning applications. I put it in a spray bottle to use around the house. Just be warned — vinegar can’t be used everywhere and can damage certain surfaces.
- Bath Stone Cleaning Block. While I used to use gritty, chemically harshcleansers to do the dirty work in my bathroom and kitchen, now I’ve discovered a much more sustainable solution. The Bath Stone Cleaning Block from Earthstone is made from glass recovered from landfills, and it works on mold/mildew, soap scum, and hard water deposits on porcelain and tile. The company also makes versions for the kitchen, for the grill, and for the swimming pool.
- A green all-purpose cleaner that actually works. Going green is frustrating when you find that the products you use, no matter how good for the environment, aren’t doing the same job as their chemical counterparts. Do some research and experimenting until you find products that work the way they should — don’t worry, they’re out there! One to try: Sun and Earth All-Purpose Spray Cleaner, which is free of petroleum, dyes, perfumes, and other detrimental ingredients. To find others, the Environmental Working Group is an excellent resource.
- Concentrated, nontoxic cleaning products. I’ve recently discovered the joy of concentrated cleaning products. They’re lighter to lug home from the supermarket and take up less space in my cabinets, so imagine the resources they save in transportation and packaging materials. My first experience with concentrated cleansers was the excellent Shaklee line; I still don’t understand how it’s possible that just 1/4 teaspoon added to 16 ounces of water in a spray bottle makes such an effective all-purpose cleaner. All I know is that the bottle I bought 7 years ago is just now running low. I’m also fascinated by the IQ line of coconut-derived cleaning products; the refill cartridges are just 3.5 inch tubes and will turn a spray bottle of water into a powerful cleanser.
- A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. A good quality vacuum cleaner will improve your indoor air quality by cutting down on the amount of dust in the air. Health has a roundup of some of the best vacuums — just be sure to empty the dust canister regularly and change or clean the filter as frequently as the manufacturer advises.