The moment I notice little shoots peeking out of the soil, the sun glistening in the sky, lingering for just a moment longer than the day before, a fire ignites in my winter-weathered soul. I get an itch to get outside and start moving, breathing in the fresh spring air, allowing the new life to energize me in all aspects of my life. Inside my home, this translates to an intense desire to clean, organize and streamline.
While pregnant, I developed sensitivities to many things, from skin care to household cleaning products. After doing a bit of research, I learned this was for good reason: conventional cleaning products contain a host of chemicals that are not only toxic to humans and animals alike, but also to our planet. I started making our own cleaning products and was pleased with the results, the inexpensive cost, and my system was thankful for the natural approach. Here is a sampling of ten ways to clean green.
Orange Salt Scrub
A cheap and effective tub and sink cleaner: cut an orange in half and juice it. Fill the peel with salt and scrub your shower and tub. Rinse off with warm water. Repeat with other orange peel and scrub your bathroom sink. The citrus oil cleans, cuts dirt and grime, and the salt helps scrub it away. After you have cleaned your bathroom, sit back and enjoy your glass of freshly squeezed juice!
Lemon Lavender Wood & Leather Cleaner
- ½ cup white distilled vinegar
- 1-3 teaspoons olive oil
- 10 drops essential oil(s) of your choosing (I like a combination of 8 drops lemon and 2 drops lavender)
Combine in a spray bottle and shake. Spritz an old rag with the cleaner, or spray directly onto the surface to be cleaned. Wipe. Use a new rag as needed, until the surface is clean. The vinegar is an excellent cleaner, while the oils help retain moisture in the wood and leather. I also use this mixture to dust, by first damping an old rag, then wiping surfaces.
For a beautiful table setting, as well as an eco-friendly way to dine, ditch the disposable paper napkins and stitch cloth napkins. Simply take a 21” fabric square and fold over one edge ¼”, iron, and then repeat by folding the ironed edge over itself. Carefully unfold, clip the corners, refold and pin in place. Repeat on the remaining three sides. Finally, edgestitch along the folded edges of the entire napkin and press.
All-Purpose Antibacterial Cleaner
- ¾ cup white distilled vinegar
- 1 teaspoon liquid castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild) or liquid detergent*
- ½ teaspoon Borax
- 2 cups hot water
- up to 50 drops antibacterial essential oils (I like a combination of lemon, lavender and peppermint, or rosemary, peppermint and lavender; straight sweet orange or a combination of citrus scents such as lemon, lime or grapefruit is also quite nice) or try grapefruit seed extract for a fragrance-free spray.
Using a funnel, combine ingredients in a clean, empty spray bottle. Shake. Spray on surface to be cleaned, then wipe with a damp rag.
* I use liquid detergent (such as Seventh Generation dish soap) in the kitchen, and castile soap in the bathroom.
Natural Room Fresheners
To freshen a room naturally, simply open a window! When your home is aired out, close the windows and simmer dried herbs in water over the stove. For a lovely summery/spring scent, use a mixture of dried lavender and rosemary along with several lemon peels.
For a quick pick-me-up, try this non-toxic room spray:
- ½ cup vodka
- ½ cup water
- up to 25 drops essential oils of your choosing (I am partial to citrus scents like sweet orange, grapefruit and lemon. Peppermint, lavender and rosemary is also a nice combination, as is rose and grapefruit)
Combine in a spray bottle and spritz several times away from your body, being careful not to directly inhale the spray.
Lavender Tea Tree After-Shower Spray
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup white distilled vinegar
- 25 drops tea tree essential oil
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
Combine ingredients in spray bottle and spritz the shower walls and tub after you bathe. No need to scrub or rinse afterwards. Vinegar cleans, while tea tree and lavender essential oils inhibit the growth of mold and mildew. Not recommended for families with baby boys. Both tea tree and lavender essential oils can alter hormones in male infants.
Paper towels are not only expensive, but they create a massive amount of waste in our landfills each year. Cloth is a cheaper and more eco-friendly option. Here are several suggestions for creating your own cloth towels:
- Cut up an old bath towel into rags. One bath towel can yield over a dozen rags.
- Re-purpose old washcloths as rags.
- Old t-shirts make great rags for dusting, cleaning wood and leather, as well as windows and mirrors. Simply cut off the sleeves and neckline of a t-shirt, and then cut along the side seams. Finally, cut the t-shirt into rags.
- Make unpaper towels by using the sewing instructions described for cloth napkins. Good fabrics to use are 100% unbleached cotton muslin, waffle-weave muslin, and kitchen toweling. Visit your local fabric store and peruse the utility fabrics. I guarantee you will be inspired!
We all have those “problem areas” in our home, where it’s all too easy to allow clutter to pile up. It might be a closet, the kitchen table, or our trouble area: the basement. One of the easiest and quickest ways for me to feel as though my home is clean, is to organize one of these areas, but finding the motivation can prove troublesome when the task seems daunting. Here are my tricks:
- Focus on one small area at a time.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes and allow yourself to stop when the time is up. Chances are, you’ll want to continue.
- Set-up several cardboard boxes in your home labeled: donate, sell, re-purpose, give-away. When a box is full, empty it.
- Think before you buy – every time. Do we truly need this? What function does it serve? Where will it go? What will we do with this when it’s no longer needed? This helps me determine whether an item is important enough to claim space in our home.
- Change out seasonal décor. Small gestures such as rearranging furniture, changing out linens or refreshing a painted winterscape for a photograph of spring flowers can instantly brighten a space. Or think about bringing nature indoors; it’s free, beautiful, natural, compostable, saves storage space and best of all, there will be a memory behind it.
Homemade Laundry Powder
Making your own laundry powder is not only extremely cost-effective, but is simple and ensures no pesky chemicals are left on your clothes, your skin, or in our water supply. Visit this post for a how-to.
Wool Dryer Balls
Replace chemical-laden dryer sheets with homemade wool dryer balls using 100% wool yarn or felt old woolen items such as a blanket, sweater or a variety of old hats and stitching into balls. Wool dryer balls last for 7+ years, are completely non-toxic, replace the need for fabric softener and dryer sheets as well as shorten drying time; this equates to a cost savings of many hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Visit this post for my tips and tricks.