Sustainable spring cleaning 101: Intro to the green clean

How to green-clean like you mean it from the get-go, sustainably

Sustainable spring cleaning in four easy steps

  • Use eco-friendly products
  • Use eco-friendly tools
  • Declutter your clothes
  • Follow local eco guidelines

Once you’ve determined to embark upon a journey of sustainable spring cleaning, congratulations are in order. What took you so long? Just kidding. Anytime is a great time to make a positive change. Your small decision to do this the right way for the planet will have benefits that stretch far beyond your home, and we’d like to thank you for it. 

There’s more to this than merely using green products when you clean, though they are indeed a big part of your decision and the perfect place to start. Many popular household cleaners, even the ones claiming to be nontoxic and green, are actually bad for the environment. Many, like Method cleaners, hide chemicals behind misleading words like “fragrance” and “natural,” which mean virtually nothing. Toxic chemical use in household cleaners isn’t even regulated by the United States, so what’s actually in the colorful bottles on grocery shelves is often anyone’s guess.

As it turns out, the best green cleaning solutions are the ones you create for yourself at home, with a few simple ingredients, a little useful knowledge and a heart and mind full of good intentions for the planet and subsequent generations. This effort alone can keep a lot of nasty chemical pollutants out of your home and our waterways and oceans. It’ll also save you considerable money and reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions. 

Green home cleaning is best accomplished by collecting your own set of reliable, natural cleaning tips (yes, we realize we just used the word “natural,” but we really meant it) from sources like this one. Once you apply your own critical eye to what you’ve read and square it with your own cleaning priorities, you’ll be on your way to a much more eco-friendly approach to green house cleaning, hopefully one that forms a lifelong habit: one that looks and smells just as good when you’re finished and also  makes you think and feel a whole lot better about the air you breathe, the water you rely on and the soil on which you and your loved ones live.

Check out these four simple tips to start your green cleaning routine today!

1. Use eco-friendly products.

This is the big one. Once you get this part right and get used to changing your ways by using cheaper, homemade and simpler versions that are just as effective as those colorful chemical combinations you’re used to, you’ll be well on your way to a lifelong habit of embracing the green clean.

  • Vinegar: Behold, the bedrock of many a homemade household cleaner! Vinegar can be used just about anywhere, from dishwashers and microwaves to windows and floors to stovetops and desktops. Versatile and refreshing, as vital to a good salad dressing as it is to an effective homemade copper-pot cleaner and drywall mold remover, your green clean approach is sure to rely on the vast powers of vinegar.
  • Baking soda: In a very close second place, allow us to introduce baking soda, another heavy hitter when it comes to versatile, homemade and eco-friendly household cleaning products. As an abrasive, it can make scouring more effective. As an odor absorber, it can freshen things up. As a stainless steel cleanser, it shines. It even clears drain clogs!
  • Lemon: Meet another great deodorizer and multi-purpose kitchen cleaner. Bringing unmatched antiseptic and antibacterial properties to the table right from the fridge, the little yellow lemon boasts big possibilities. Shine up those pots and pans. Polish metals. Remove stains from food containers. Sanitize cutting boards. Mix with vinegar for an unbeatable all-purpose cleaning fluid. Add some salt or baking soda for some serious scouring power. When you’re done using a lemon’s juices for cleaning and its peel for fragrance, potpourri or cooking, you can still even use each remaining half, scooped out, as an organic seedling starter you can plant in your garden! How’s that for zero waste?
  • Potpourri: Aromatic potpourri, combined with the fresh air you let in from open windows in springtime, can make your whole house smell great. Whatever season you’re in, lemon peels simmering on the stove are a great start for building your favorite combination of fresh, clean scents. Try adding fruit, cinnamon, cloves and essential oils. Just let them simmer on the stove and you’ll unleash the aromas. Add lavender to keep bugs at bay.

2. Use eco-friendly tools.

Once you have your homemade, eco-friendly cleaning products and air fresheners assembled, you might as well carry on that environmentally conscious approach to the tools you use to apply them, should you not? 

Step one: Ditch the paper towels and any other single-use sheets for dusting. They waste trees and end up in landfills anyway. What you want is reusable old rags. More on that in our clothing paragraph below. 

Step two: Toss the plastic sponge. It degrades over time, releasing tiny plastic bits into the water, which eventually make it into public waterways and oceans. You can also use (and reuse) old rags as sponges. If you need something stronger for scouring, reference the tips above, or reach for the steel wool. 

Step three: Use some elbow grease. When it comes to electric appliances or any other tools you’re not using, resist the urge to leave them plugged in, and you’ll eliminate their constant electricity draw, which can add up and is a source of wasteful spending. While you’re at it, use the vacuum and leaf blower less often. You can do most of that work manually with a broom, and you get additional exercise and save some electricity. If you’re refreshing old furniture, instead of furniture polish, use nontoxic, all-natural (really) beeswax. nd in all situations and with all tools, just try to use less water.

3. Declutter your clothes.

Many of us have far too many clothes in our wardrobes. With the rise of accessible, inexpensive fashion, it’s easier to accumulate more than we need. Another key part of embracing the green clean approach is to take a hard look at your own wardrobe. How much of it is really necessary? How much of it have you actually worn in the last year? Do you expect that will change in the coming year? 

Going through all your clothes with an eye toward getting rid of items you no longer wear or that no longer fit is a healthy habit to get into. First, what can you donate? Many nationwide charitable organizations specialize in used clothing and getting it to people in need. If you have other clothing items that are worn out, resist the temptation to toss them into the trash. Old shirts, blouses and dresses can make great cleaning rags. They’re reusable and will save you the expense (and landfill contribution) of yet another roll of paper towels.

4. Follow local eco guidelines.

No matter how dedicated your efforts to recycle, regift, donate and reuse, you’re likely to still have a few things left over that you’ll need to throw away. Just remember that part of your new-found dedication to the green clean means not only minimizing waste, but also disposing of it in an eco-friendly way. 

Every community has public guidelines for disposal of questionable items you won’t want to just toss into the garbage, like dead batteries, paint cans, broken electronic devices, motor oil and more. Make sure you check with your municipal waste authority on how to dispose of each of these items safely and in a way that minimizes environmental impact.

You’re not the only one thinking about spring cleaning. Not by a long shot. For more ideas, check out our survey of American cleaning and decluttering habits while stuck at home, and read about how to spring forward with this home maintenance checklist. While you’re at it, be sure to review our 7 spring cleaning tips and tricks, and then dig into the finer points of window cleaning with these five tips to clean your windows like a pro. For even more great insights, like us on Facebook.

The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.

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