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Spring Cleaning the Natural Way

By Mikaela Fowler

With winter ending and warmer weather on the way, spring cleaning is high on many housekeeping agendas. Don’t run out to buy loads of special cleaning sprays or soaps, though — chances are, all the necessary items are right at your fingertips. And with many cleaning products sold laden with ingredients some consider toxic and dangerous, common household products might be the safest spring cleaning supplies in addition to the most effective. Here’s how to spring clean a house that might not just save money, but also serve as a bit of preventative health.

White Vinegar Cleans Nearly Everything

Vinegar’s traditional popularity as a natural cleaning solution reflects its antibacterial and deodorizing properties and low price. Mix one part vinegar with one part water to create an all-purpose cleaner that works wonders from counter-tops to windows to grimy microwaves. In the bathroom, the vinegar-water mixture is remarkably effective at shining up a shower head caked with grime, as well as mirrors and bathroom fixtures. Vinegar is an alternative to pricey store-bought cleaners that may contain harsh chemicals. Not only is it harmless, but it doesn’t leave a residue on surfaces that could contaminate hands.

Run white vinegar through an empty cycle of the dishwasher and coffee maker to freshen and brighten. A vinegar wash will also get rid of telltale signs of coffee and tea in mugs when mixed in equal parts with salt. Don’t worry about the tangy smell — it disappears after the vinegar dries.

Pour white vinegar into a glass bowl and heat it to boiling in the microwave to eliminate lingering food odors, or boil it in a pot on the stove while cooking to keep food odors from lingering.

A paste of 2 tablespoons white vinegar and one-quarter cup salt or baking soda can loosen carpet stains as effectively as commercial carpet cleaners containing lots of chemicals. This option appeals to pet owners and parents of young kids who spend a lot of time on the floor.

Boiled vinegar can remove tough stains on clothes, including socks and sweaty shirts. Rub with the vinegar, wipe with a cloth, and put in the wash. Some white vinegar can also be run through a cycle of the washing machine to clean and disinfect it.

Mixing 2 tablespoons white vinegar with a quarter-cup baking soda or salt makes a powerful paste that can clean grout and banish mildew wherever it’s lurking.

A powerful combo of one part vinegar to one part baking soda can get slow or completely clogged drains running again. Follow up with hot water to flush out the residue.

Citrus Refresh

For a great-smelling, natural disinfectant, squeeze a lemon. You can use undiluted lemon juice or mix it with water to make a natural cleaning product that dissolves soap scum and mineral deposits. Like vinegar, lemon juice provides a naturally safe and effective soap scum fighter.

Grind up lemon and orange peels in the garbage disposal to rid it of lingering food or mildew odors.

Ditch commercial air fresheners and instead simmer orange peels and a cinnamon stick or two in a pot full of water on the stove. Refill the water as necessary. On the lowest setting, it can last all day and make a home smell heavenly.

Baking Soda Spiff Ups

Banish stains and odors with baking soda. Although its effectiveness as toothpaste is well known, this versatile product also cleans everything from clothing to cookware. Get rid of burned, stuck-on food by boiling a mix of equal parts vinegar, baking soda, and water; scrub and rinse clean. Many consumers like the idea of using baking soda on pots and pans to avoid chemical cleaners, eliminating worry about ingesting chemical residue.

Mix equal parts water and baking soda to use as a mild abrasive for cleaning bathrooms and kitchens. Try it on the inside of the oven and on stainless steel and chrome appliances. Wipe off with a damp cloth.

Essential Oils Make Good Scents

Give natural cleaning products a fresh scent with essential oils. Although a tiny bottle of fragrant oil may seem expensive upfront, a little goes a long way: A few drops are enough to scent a bucket of water. Many essential oils also have antibacterial or other helpful qualities, so use them for their fragrance and cleaning power. Tea tree oil and lemon oil, for example, are antibacterial and anti-fungal, and fresh-smelling lemongrass oil can repel insects. Cleaning with essential oils leaves the house smelling pleasant.

Onion Deodorizes Basements

Get the damp, mildewy smell from out of a basement or garage by placing a sliced onion on a plate in the middle of the floor for up to 24 hours.

UV Rays Cure the Laundry

For a natural clean and a springtime smell, try line-drying laundry. As a natural disinfectant, the sun’s UV rays kill germs and remove allergens such as dust mites. Sunlight can also lighten linens without bleach: Hang them on the line to dry on a bright day, and they’ll look whiter by the time you bring them in. To freshen everything from towels and bed sheets to pillows and upholstered furniture, set them outside for 30 minutes.

Hydrogen Peroxide Buffs the Kitchen

Commonly used to disinfect minor scrapes and scratches, hydrogen peroxide also makes a great household cleaner. The blog One Good Thing by Jillee offers up a huge list of in-home uses for 3% hydrogen peroxide, including many spring-cleaning targets: cutting boards, dishwasher, and refrigerator, for example. Kids’ toys and lunchboxes can also be wiped down with hydrogen peroxide.

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