Spring Cleaning with Nontoxic Cleaners


Spring cleaning goes beyond normal everyday cleaning. It's a major project of home revitalization: to make everything new by removing dust and dirt, to make sure everything is in good repair, and to put things in order, so that you will have everything in your household in working condition for the coming year.

Here are some tasks that are traditionally included in a major spring cleaning:

* Put away winter clothes and take out spring and summer clothing.

* Sweep and vacuum floors, walls, and corners.

* Wash floors and carpets?

* Clean window panes, sills, and frames. Replace thick winter curtains that keep heat in with light summer curtains that allow breezes through. Remove storm windows, hang up screens.

* Brush or vacuum stuffed furniture and remove spots.

* Wash every surface in every room that has accumulated dust or grime.

I like to finish a spring cleaning by bringing in loads of spring flowers and placing them in vases in every room.

USE NONTOXIC & NATURAL CLEANERS

With so much cleaning going on, I always make sure to use cleaning products that are simple, safe, and eco-friendly.

When choosing a cleaning product for a specific job, I use the least-toxic, most-effective product, in the smallest effective amount.

Cleaning products are the only household products regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission under the 1960 Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act, which requires products that contain hazardous chemicals to carry warning labels. In general, it is best to avoid using products that say "Danger," "Poison," or "Warning," on the label. Many safer products carry the "Caution" label, even though they are acceptable to use. Fortunately, the least toxic products voluntarily disclose their complete ingredients on the label, so you can determine for yourself the safety of the product. There are even cleaning products now made with organically-grown ingredients.

Nontoxic cleaning actually requires very few specialized ingredients. I do all of my cleaning with a squirt bottle of fifty-fifty distilled white vinegar and water, liquid soap, and baking soda. For laundry I use a natural soap powder and chlorine-free oxygen bleach. Other substances I have on hand for occasional cleaning needs are salt, lemon juice, borax, and chlorine-free Bon Ami scouring powder.

SIMPLIFY YOUR CLEANING

While scrubbing away at your spring cleaning, there are two things you can resolve to do in the coming year that will make cleaning easier. These will also reduce the amount of cleaning products you use, saving resources and money. But the most important thing to me is that they save time and reduce the amount of cleaning needed.

First, I incorporate preventive maintenance. I put a cookie sheet on the rack under a casserole that is likely to spill over, for example, which pre-empts the need to scour baked on food from the oven. If the casserole spills, the cookie sheet can be effortlessly soaked clean in a few inches of water in the kitchen sink.

I also keep in mind the adage "A stitch in time saves nine," which means if you take that first stitch to fix the tear before it gets bigger, you'll save having to make nine stitches later. In cleaning, this translates to wiping up the spill when it happens, cleaning surfaces before they are caked with dust and grease, just cleaning as you go while there's not much to clean. It's only when we don't clean that we may need harsh chemicals to tackle what would have been an easy job earlier.

"Clean your room well," say the Shakers, "for good spirits will not live where there is dirt."

Find nontoxic, natural and earthwise cleaning products at http://www.debraslist.com/cleaning.

Hailed as "The Queen of Green" by the New York Times, Debra Lynn Dadd has been a consumer advocate for products and lifestyle choices that are better for health and the environment since 1982.


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