10 Ecofriendly Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Your Home

Article by: Luisa Rollenhagen

Chemical based cleaning products have drawbacks: They’re pricey, they may trigger health issues and their manufacture, use and disposal can harm the environment. So if you’re approaching a spring cleaning of your home this year, why not consider these effective all-natural cleaning alternatives?

Lemon

Lemons are nature’s cleaning wunderkind. They have powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties and are a natural deodorizer due to their high acidic content. Here are some suggestions for how to use lemons in your home: 
Have your copper pans lost their shine? Dip half a lemon in salt or baking powder to scour your pans to their former glory.Mix a bit of lemon juice with baking soda to remove stains from plastic containers. Combine lemon peel and white vinegar in a jar, allow to marinate for a few days, then strain out the peel to use the vinegar as a cleaner. A small dish containing vinegar and lemon juice will absorb odors.Rub a slice of lemon across your chopping board to disinfect the surface.

Baking Soda

Baking soda, like lemon, is another one of nature’s cleaners. Also known as sodium bicarbonate, this mildly alkaline substance functions as a gentle abrasive, deodorant and more. 

A thick paste of baking soda and water can be useful in removing surface rust. A more liquid mixture of baking soda and water can function as an all-purpose light cleaner that’s particularly effective on grease. 

Clean your oven. A thick paste of baking soda and water can be applied to the bottom of the oven to clean it. Let it sit for a couple of hours or overnight before scraping it off and wiping the surface.

Brighten the bowl. Baking soda also is a winner in the bathroom. Throw a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl and let it sit for more than an hour. Then add a cup of white vinegar, let the mixture sit for a while longer, and flush.


Safely clean your clothes. Baking soda also is a great addition to your laundry room. When added to your washing machine, it can soften your clothes and remove any unpleasant odors.

Fun fact: If your clothes happen to be contaminated with uranium, add a cup of baking soda to the wash to get rid of that pesky nuclear radiation. This sounds like a joke, but it’s not. Apparently scientists have discovered that sodium bicarbonate will bind with depleted uranium dust and remove it from clothes, which chemical detergents can’t manage. Talk about an all-purpose cleaner. Nonetheless, don’t go playing in uranium dust anytime soon, kids.

White Vinegar

Mentioned a couple of times already, white vinegar is a weak acetic acid that can be used in almost all aspects of home cleaning, as it has strong antibacterial properties. 

Vinegar diluted in water is an effective stain remover for various textiles. It’s also a great natural deodorizer, and can be combined with various other natural products, such as lemon juice, to absorb odors. Simmer vinegar with water on the stove while cooking to prevent cooking odors. Vinegar can help remove strong scents left over from fish, onion and garlic too.

Refresh your dishwasher. If your dishwasher could use a thorough cleaning, ditch the expensive chemical tabs and instead fill a dishwasher-safe bowl with two cups of white vinegar and set it on the top rack. Let the otherwise empty dishwasher run one cycle to get rid of any odors and bacteria.

Descale your kettle. Vinegar is your friend again here, although you can use lemon juice, too. Pour a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water into your kettle, allow it to boil, then rinse the kettle out once it cools down a little but is still warm.

Make your windows shine. Vinegar to the rescue again. Fill an empty spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water and use a microfiber cloth to wipe down your windows and avoid any streaking. This also works wonders for mirrors.

Keep those tiles sparkly. The grout between tiles in the bathroom can quickly accumulate mold, which is both unsightly and unhealthy. Remove it by mixing one part carbonated water with one part white vinegar and spray it on the moldy areas. 

If the grime still doesn’t scrub off, add two parts baking soda to the vinegar-water mix to make a thick paste. Let the mixture sit on the grout for at least 15 minutes before scrubbing it off. 

January Checklist for a Smooth-Running Home

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January brings fresh starts and renewed hopes for the year ahead. Of course, with the excitement of the holidays done and months of winter stretching out before us, January can also be a bit of a downer — especially for those in cold climates. Make the most of the first month of 2014 by taking time to say goodbye to the old year (and the holiday decorations), give your home the TLC it needs to see it through winter storms, and dream up plans for the months ahead. Here are 10 to-dos to get your year off to a good start. 

1. Keep your home fresh and cozy postholidays. Once the glow of the holidays has passed and you shift back into your usual routines, the house can suddenly feel a bit empty. Fight the winter blahs by giving your home a good cleaning (those pine needles end up in the strangest places) and boosting comfort with extra candles, cozy throws, hot drinks and good music. 

2. Store holiday decorations properly. Yes, it’s sort of a pain, but taking the extra time to sort your Christmas lights, ornaments and decor now will save you loads of frustration next year — you owe it to your future self! Wrap each strand of lights around a stiff piece of cardboard to prevent tangling. (Remember to test them first.) Very delicate ornaments should be individually wrapped in tissue paper and stored in shallow boxes. Sturdier ornaments can be lightly wrapped and stacked in a box with cardboard dividers. 

3. Organize warranties and manuals. Get any new gadgets or appliances over the past year? Take a few moments to flip through that stack of old manuals and warranties, tossing out paperwork for stuff you no longer own — and remember to send in forms to activate new warranties as needed. Store everything together in one binder or document box. 

4. Install flood alarms. If you’ve had problems with flooding, you know how awful even a minor flood can be. Installing individual sensors in likely leak spots (behind the washing machine, toilet and drainpipes) can alert you before leaks become a disaster.

 

5. Keep hard surfaces sanitized. Cold and flu season is fully upon us. Do what you can to keep illness at bay by regularly sanitizing often-handled surfaces. Tables and counters are obvious spots, but don’t miss sneakier areas like doorknobs, faucets, phones and tech devices. 

6. Get inspired and set goals for the year. Want to get more organized this year or save up for a renovation? Then sit down on a blustery afternoon with a hot drink and your Houzz app or a pile of inspiring home magazines and start plotting and planning! Once you’ve settled on a few goals, try writing specific to-dos and deadlines on your calendar to keep your eyes on the prize.

 

7. Protect pipes from freezing. If you haven’t yet and still can, insulate any exposed outdoor pipes to prevent freezing. If you plan to be away from home during a freezing spell, have a friend or neighbor stop by to turn on your water to a trickle. Find out where your home’s water shut-off valve is, if you don’t know already, so you can quickly shut off water if a pipe does burst.

8. Inspect your house after winter storms. 
Get ahead of problems by carefully looking over your home’s exterior after each storm. Especially keep an eye out for any tree limbs that have come down and any damage to your roof or siding.
 

9. Provide for feathered friends. Wild birds in cold climates can use extra support. You can help by providing a safe place to land and fill up on fresh birdseed. Bigger birds like cardinals and jays prefer larger, dark seeds — look for a seed mix that caters to the kind of birds you see in your yard. Fresh (unfrozen) water can be difficult for wild birds to find in winter, so consider regularly providing a dish of fresh water, or a heated waterer. 

10. Out with the old, in with the new. Got some new goodies for Christmas? Instead of packing them into overstuffed closets and drawers, take a few extra minutes to seek out something similar to let go of. New set of sheets? Pick out an older set to give away. New pair of boots? Dig in your closet for a worn-out pair to toss.