By Mariam Ghaidan
As the clocks turned back recently, that means spring is finally here! And with this new season comes a desire by many for a fresh start, especially at home.
Spring cleaning is a centuries old tradition, but one that in recent years has been undertaken with toxic cleaning products. Did you know that many common household cleaners haven’t been approved by the EPA (environmental protection agency)? And many of these can cause health issues ranging from dermatitis (dry skin on the hands and beyond), asthma and even cancer. Long after you’ve wiped down your countertops and disinfected your bathroom, cleaning chemicals like PBDEs, Petroleum, Phosphorus, Ethoxylates, Ammonia, Alkylphenols, Perfluorooactanoic Acid (PFOA), Triclosan and Aromatic Amines linger in your home for days, polluting household air and possibly entering your food if used in the kitchen.
And it’s not just your home you’re contaminating: toxic household cleaning agents get sent back into the water system every time you wash your clothes, do the dishes or even flush toilet bowl. Not only could these chemicals make their way back into your drinking water, but they harm wildlife and the environment too.
But worry not: we’ve put on our thinking caps, done our research and asked a few mothers and grandmothers for “old but gold” tips, resulting in a sturdy list of all natural non-toxic methods to clean your house naturally this spring.
1. Fresh Fridges
We tend to store all sorts of food in our refrigerators leading to a formation of different smells which can be unpleasant; but due to the fact that we store food in there you wouldn’t want to clean it with any chemicals and cleaning products anyway. Do automatically absorb odors easily, just put an open container of baking soda in the corner of the fridge. Solved!
When cleaning the inside of the refrigerator, use simple white vinegar. In fact, white vinegar is an all-purpose must-have ingredient for cleaning as it naturally removes grease, odours and some stains.
2. Cleaner Clothes
Vegans, beware: did you know many commercial laundry soaps contain animal byproducts? But never fear: making your own laundry detergent at home is simple! Take 1cup of Borax (not to be confused with boric acid) and add 1cup of baking soda, and grate your favourite all natural bar of soap with a cheese grater. Blend the soap gratings into the dry mixture, and use as you would normal powdered laundry soap (around 2 scoops per average load). For extra softness, add 1/4c of white vinegar to the water of the final rinse cycle. Helps stop limescale buildup in your machine, too!
3. Natural Air Freshener
Apart from smoking, the worst thing you could do to your household air is spray an ‘air freshener’. These are packed with VOCs, chemicals that are known to cause cancer in animal studies. Instead of using a commercial ‘air freshener’ (more like ‘air polluter’ if you ask us!) gently puncture the skin of an orange or lemon with a fork, then slow cook it in the peel in a shallow pot of water to give your home a citrusy scent! To neutralize odours, add a piece of coal to corners in the kitchen.
4. Tidy Toilets
No need to use ammonia or other nasty, toxic ‘cleaners’ that do more harm to the environment than they’re worth. Even the yukkiest toilet can be cleaned by tossing a full cup of baking soda into the bowl and leaving it to sit for an hour. Then, use your scrubbing brush to scrub the liquid around the bowl. Afterwards, pour in a cup of white vinegar, let all of this sit for a few minutes more, then flush.
5. Awesome Ovens
Forget the heavy duty chemicals: all you need to clean the oven is baking soda and vinegar! Make a thin paste of baking soda and water, using roughly one-half of a cup of baking soda and a few tablespoons of water. Leave it overnight. Wipe the paste off with a damp cloth the next day, then, spray white vinegar over any remaining hard-to-remove spots. Finish it off by giving the whole thing a rubdown with a damp cloth. Voila! This works for the racks, too–just be careful you don’t get the baking soda mix stuck in the electrical elements of the oven.
6. Sparkly Surfaces, Everywhere
We’ve found the perfect recipe for an All-Purpose Cleaner from eartheasy.com: simply mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep as long as needed. If you fancy a bit of scent, add a few drops of natural lemon oil (found at aromatherapy shops). You can use this for the removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, and bathroom mirrors.
7. A Very Natural Deodorizer
Baking soda, like vinegar, is another household must-have! It cleans, sterilises, softens water, scrubs off mould and leaves surfaces shiny. You can use this in the kitchen, the bathroom, the laundry room, you name it. Again, you could add a drop of lemon oil for a clean, fresh aroma. In fact, the acid in lemon juice removes dirt and rust stains easily. It’s especially effective when mixed with salt, which makes “an excellent scouring paste”.
8. Washing Windows
If you have old papers or newspapers don’t trash them recycle them by reusing them they actually come in handy as they make great “cloths” for cleaning windows or glass surfaces, simply spray your choice cleaning substance and wipe away!
An alternative for wiping away dirt from any surface is a microfibre cloth which lifts off dirt, grease and dust without even the need for cleaning chemicals, because they are developed to detect and trap dirt. A good quality cloth can last for several years. There are a number of different brands such as Eco Touch, E-cloth and Zwipes to name a few.
9. Cleaning Copper
Believe it or not tomato ketchup or tomato paste is a method to combat built up dust, dirt and tarnish on brass or copper items. Simply apply a thin layer of the paste or ketchup onto the brass item and leave it for about an hour then wipe it away with hot water and a touch of soap et voila! An alternative natural cleaning combination for brass is to use salt and lemon.
10. Shiny Silverware
Take 1cup of boiling water, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon white salt, 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 sheet of tinfoil, a bowl and a microfibre cloth. Basically the trick lies in the foil being placed shiny side up in the bowl and then you add the baking soda and salt and slowly add the vinegar lastly you pour the hot water and slowly adding the silver pieces in. After this has all soaked for a short while, you take each piece out and polish it with your microfibre cloth. This probably works best with smaller pieces depending on the size of your bowl or if your silver item is really big you can damp your cloth into the mixture and use it directly as a polish; this will leave your silverware gleaming. Works well with silver jewellery too!
11. Showers With Power
If you have limescale buildup on your shower head, the solution for removal is easy: just spray it with loads of white vinegar, wrap a sandwich bag around the shower head, tie with an elastic or piece of string and let ‘soak’ overnigh. By the next morning it should be like new!
12. A Purer Dishwasher
Washing dishes by hand is always the best option, as it saves energy, and dishwashers tend to accumulate black mold. Also, the filter of your dishwasher is prone to gunking up if you don’t clean the filter every now and then. To do so, simply take out the dirty filter and soak it in a natural dish soap overnight. Put it back in the machine, sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the machine, and put in a cup of white vinegar. Run the machine on a ‘heavy’ cycle, and this should do the trick!
If You Can’t DIY…
If you’re in a rush and don’t really have the time or patience to make your own cleaning substance, we have found great ready made alternatives: Dr. Bronner’s selection of organic liquid (Castile) soaps, or their best-selling Sal Suds Liquid Cleaner, both work on just about anything. Both are packed with certified organic essential oils and come in 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. Or try CitraSolv: their natural multi-purpose cleaner works on all household surfaces including stainless steel, wood, porcelain, aluminum, and more. Finally, Jessica Alba’s Honest Co makes a full range of household cleansers that are all natural. In any case, there’s simply no excuse to keep using harsh, toxic chemicals in your home.