Spring cleaning without the chemicals
Save money and your lungs by using these homemade detergents.
Fri, Apr 24 2009 at 5:07 AM
There's nothing like giving your home a good scrub-down in the springtime; it just feels like the perfect time of year to start fresh and new. But spring cleaning often involves serious cleanup jobs that require hefty chemicals to complete — or do they? The truth is, even the nastiest stains and spills can be taken care of with natural, nontoxic cleaning products and some elbow grease.
And even if you're not exactly Suzy Homemaker, you can DIY a lot of these cleaners easily with stuff you probably already have in your home. Tackle the dirt, dust and disorder and avoid toxic products at the same time with these green spring-cleaning recipes.
Greasy ovens: All that food grease that drips onto the bottom of the oven eventually turns into a disgusting black sludge. Attack it with the following recipe: Mix a half cup salt, a box of baking soda, a quarter cup borax, and a cup of water into a paste. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees, then turn it off and apply the paste with a sponge. Let it sit for half an hour, then spray it down using vinegar mixed with 10 drops of lemon essential oil, and wipe clean. (Recipe via The Naturally Clean Home, Karyn Siegel-Maier)
Crusty refrigerators and microwaves: Mix baking soda with 1 part warm water to 1 part lemon juice, adding just enough liquid to make a paste. Rub it into caked-on food and then wipe with a clean cloth — it will deodorize as well as dissolve caked-on food. Did a cup of tomato soup or some other kind of food explode inside your microwave? That calls for something a little tougher: Mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a cup of water and microwave for five minutes or until the liquid boils over, then wipe down.
Stinky garbage disposals: There's a foul odor in your kitchen, and it's not coming from the trash can. Chances are, if you've got a garbage disposal, it's the culprit. Less-than-pleasant smells wafting from the drain can be eliminated by tossing in some ice cubes and citrus peels and running the disposal. It'll freshen up the smell and sharpen the blades at the same time.
Mildewed grout and tile: Few things are as unpleasant as being trapped in a small bathroom gagging on the smell of chemicals while you're trying to clean. To tackle mold and mildew without harsh, toxic cleaners, first mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3 percent solution) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray the affected area. Let it sit for an hour. Next, mix a cup of baking soda with just enough natural liquid detergent (like castile soap) to create a paste. Give it a good scrub and your tile will look as good as new.
Clogged drains: Just half a cup of baking soda followed by boiling water is usually enough to break up clogs, but when you need to bring out the big guns, follow the baking soda with vinegar instead of water. Yes, it's just like an elementary school science project and will fizz and bubble wildly, but it works. Flush it out with a gallon of boiling water.
Dingy toilets and sinks: Stubborn rings in the toilet and dingy soap-scum-covered basins can be brightened up with borax and lemon juice. Mix enough lemon juice with borax — a natural mineral — to create a paste. Rub it onto the dingy spots, let it sit for a couple hours and then flush.
Stained carpets and upholstery: Baking soda is magic when it comes to removing stains and eliminating odors in textiles, including rugs, carpets and drapery. Gently rub a liberal amount of baking soda into the spot, let it sit overnight and vacuum it up. For heavy-duty stains, mix a quarter cup each of borax, salt and vinegar, rub the mixture onto the stain, leave for a few hours and then vacuum.
Even pet urine can be dealt with naturally: Just dab up as much excess moisture as you can with a towel, rub in some liquid detergent and rinse with a bit of vinegar diluted in warm water. Dab with a towel and allow it to sit for at least four hours, then blot again.
(MNN homepage photo: salihguler/iStockphoto)