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Spring Cleaning the Green Way

Spring Cleaning the Green Way
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BY KITT WALSH

Spring has (finally) come and I herald it by buying daffodils, starting sunflower seeds with my granddaughter and undertaking a real spring-cleaning of my winter weary house. Just like my mother did, I scrub everything that isn’t nailed down and air everything out and, also just like my mother, I eschew chemical cleaners and, wherever possible, go green. Here are some tips to help you help the larger environment while cleaning up your own:

Invest in baking soda: (Buy the biggest box you can fine), distilled white vinegar, olive oil, borax (find it in the laundry aisle), liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s found online or in health food stores), essential oils like lavender, geranium and eucalyptus. Tree tea is handy to have around too.

Make rags: Old cotton underwear, those t-shirts too ripped to go to the donation box, athletic socks (make great fan cleaners) and newspapers clean mirrors and windows better than anything.

Create cleaning solutions:

For glass: ¼ cup vinegar with water in a spray bottle. Wipe with newspaper.

For furniture: Mix olive oil and lemon juice. For rings or stains, try rubbing with mayonnaise and waiting five minutes or try a dab of toothpaste. Rub in a circle, wait a few minutes and wipe off.

For floors: A gallon of hot water, a few drops of essential oil, 4 cups of vinegar (it will smell like an Easter egg for a while, but that will dissipate.)

For bath tile and counters: 1 part baking soda, 2 parts vinegar and 4 parts water.

For anywhere that needs disinfecting: 4 tablespoons vinegar, 3 cups hot water, 2 teaspoons borax, ¼ teaspoon castile soap. Or 15 drops of tree tea oil mixed with water in a spray bottle also does the trick. Disinfect wooden cutting boards by covering with lemon juice and waiting 20 minutes before rinsing.

For the toilet: Disinfect by scrubbing with borax and wipe the outside with pure vinegar. To maintain it, put some baking soda on the brush and scrub.

For grout: Make a paste of baking soda and water. Use a toothbrush and rub the paste onto dirty grout. Wait three minutes and rinse.

To freshen air: Throw open all the windows for as long as possible to air out “winter”. Soak venetian blinds in your bathtub with vinegar and castile soap. Rinse after an hour or so (long enough for you to wash your curtains. Throw some essential oil in the rinse water.) Mix lavender oil (or put cinnamon sticks) in a pan of water and simmer it on the stove. The smell will fill your house. Put a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a cotton ball and stick in the corner of the room. Lavender for the bedroom to help you sleep. Peppermint in your home office to keep you focused. Eucalyptus in the bathroom to create a spa-like feel. Bring in a Boston fern, peace lily, bamboo palm or English ivy plant to help purify the air.  Use beesewax or soy candles (avoid wax spills by soaking the candles overnight in salt water and letting dry before using) scented with essential oil.

For mildew/mold: Wipe with straight vinegar.

To clean your microwave: Mix ½ cup each vinegar and water and microwave for two minutes. Baked on food should wipe right off.

To get dust off of silk flowers: Put them in a paper bag with coarse cornmeal and shake. (The cornmeal can also be used to mark a line of where you planted seeds in your garden before the plants come up.)

To moth-proof winter clothes: Instead of mothballs, tie cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and bay leaves in unmatched socks and hang the stuffed sock with your winter woolens.

Other great uses for baking soda:

-Run the dishwasher empty with only baking soda in the cup.

-Use baking soda on a sponge to wipe down the interior of the refrigerator.  Rinse with clear water.

-Pour down smelly drains and run warm water afterward. (Throwing citrus peels down your disposal helps too.)

-Sprinkle on your upholstery and carpets. Wait 15 minutes and vacuum. If you have a stain on your carpet, wet with rubbing alcohol and scrub with salt (1 part alcohol to 4 of salt). Let it dry and vacuum. If it is a smelly stain (sour milk, cat urine), wipe up the spill, place three layers of dryer sheets on top and sprinkle with coffee grounds. Leave overnight.

-Pour in your smelly running shoes and leave overnight.

-Sprinkle in your garbage cans and on your shower curtain.

-Clean oven spills by making a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water. Cover the spill with it overnight and wipe clean.

Last of all, wash everything you can, put vinegar in the rinse water to cut soap and hang everything out to dry in the fresh air and sunshine. Take a minute to feel the sun on your face (you need the Vitamin D anyway) and enjoy Spring.

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Kitt Walsh owns a web content company, Behind Blogs (http://www.behindblogs.com), is a regular contributor to CNN Money, a public speaker on Social Media, a book editor and ghostwriter, and freelances as a feature writer, editor and marketing consultant for magazines, newspapers and private clients around the world.