I must confess, to me the idea of ‘spring cleaning’ is just a reason not to get down on my hands and knees to scrub the floor … or polish the windows (ugh!) … or clean my rangehood filters — for 364 days of the year, anyway! But when the magnolia trees are in bloom and I can hear the faint buzz of bees in the garden, I know it’s spring (hurrah!) and I feel strangely compelled to throw open the doors and windows for some fresh air and give my house a much-needed once-over with a scrubbing brush and mop.
Since taking an interest in sustainable, eco-friendly living, I have become much more comfortable with my minimalist approach to cleaning. We have, as a society, become so fearful of germs that advertisers would have us believe we are putting ourselves and our families at great risk by not sterilising our living environments on a regular basis. But only recently have I learnt that our bacteria-filled surroundings (and bodies!) are actually populated by at least 95% GOOD bacteria, and less than 5% are, in fact, harmful. I guess this means that for most of my adult life I have been waging a cruel war with mostly really good, helpful little critters, because I have been obsessed with destroying just a few little nasties. Now that I have moved on from the nuclear war approach to cleaning, I use, almost exclusively, baking soda and vinegar to clean the surfaces in my house. With these two ingredients, and maybe the odd drop of dishwashing liquid, you can get your house looking and feeling sparkly clean!
The vinegar works by creating an acidic environment, which bad bacteria really dislike. So plain old white vinegar is the perfect solution for a surface spray, when your intention is just to significantly decrease the population of nasties in your home. Unfortunately, not everyone wants their home to smell like a garden salad (although the smell really dissipates as it dries!), so I cope with this issue by infusing citrus peels in a big jar of vinegar for a few weeks before using. As an added bonus you also get the natural degreasing properties from the citrus peel in your cleaning spray. This homemade alternative to Spray ‘n’ Wipe is not only extremely affordable, but completely biodegradable, safe to ingest, and if you buy your vinegar in bulk it’s also low-waste.
Baking soda, on the other hand, is the bomb at scrubbing and degreasing. I use it to scrub down my shower and sinks, usually mixed with a little bit of foaming soap or dishwashing detergent to make it paste-like. Baking soda is also 100% biodegradable, cheap as chips, safe to ingest, and the best thing: it washes away easily, with no annoying residue.
You can even combine the two, baking soda and vinegar, to create an effective drain cleaner (which is very therapeutic to watch as it fizzes and bubbles!). Just pour a cup of baking soda down the plug hole, followed by a cup of white vinegar. After a few minutes you can rinse it all away by pouring some boiling water down the drain.
To mop your floor, just add ¼ cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon dishwashing liquid (you can use less if it’s concentrated) and ¼ cup washing soda to a bucket of hot water.
However, if scrubbing and polishing just aren’t for you on any given day of the year, don’t feel too guilty if all you can do is throw open the windows and doors whenever the sun comes out! This simple gesture is actually a hugely important part of maintaining a healthy home, as the rush of fresh air from outside reduces the bacteria population inside using a technique called ‘dilution’. Fresh air also helps to dry out your home and, of course, sunlight is surely our most effective natural cleaner: it whitens, brightens, disinfects and dries without the need for any synthetic chemicals. How easy is that?
By Esther Vreede (Mrs Goodness)
For more great environmentally friendly tips and ideas go to Esther’s website