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Zero Waste of Time: An eco-friendly approach to spring cleaning your home

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Posted on: April 11, 2024

By JULIETTE FRADIN

The arrival of spring brings a sense of renewal and rejuvenation with blooming flowers, longer days and people wanting to enjoy fresh air again. It’s also the perfect time to tackle spring cleaning.

Maybe the county’s plastic bag ban made you consider adding more sustainable choices in your daily life. Why not include your cleaning routines, too? Embracing an eco-friendly approach to spring cleaning not only benefits the environment but also fosters a healthier home.

Traditional cleaning methods often rely on single-use plastic bottles, disposable wipes and harsh chemicals packaged in non-recyclable materials. However, by making a few simple swaps, you can significantly reduce your ecological footprint while still achieving sparkling results.

You can create your own cost-effective cleaning solutions that empower you to control exactly what goes into your home environment.

Vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice are powerful natural cleansers that can tackle a multitude of household tasks. (Handy tip: You can purchase baking soda and vinegar in bulk at Glut Food Co-op, in Mount Rainier.)

Vinegar’s acidic properties make it an excellent degreaser and disinfectant: Just combine equal parts of water and vinegar in a spray bottle. You can even soak citrus peels in a jar of vinegar for two weeks, remove the peels, and use the vinegar to make your spray

Baking soda’s gentle abrasiveness can scrub away grime without damaging surfaces. Create a paste by mixing baking soda and water and spread it on dirty surfaces like ovens, pots and pans. (Keep in mind, however, that baking soda is still abrasive and shouldn’t be used on surfaces like granite, marble or laminate.) Spray vinegar over the paste until it begins to foam. Let it sit for a few minutes and then scrub with a sponge or dishcloth. 

Lemon juice not only cuts through grease but also deodorizes. For example, sprinkle salt on a cutting board before rubbing half a cut lemon over it. Let the lemon and salt mixture sit for a few minutes before rinsing — and voilà, a stink-free board! 

When it comes to wiping away dust and dirt, ditch the disposable paper towels in favor of reusable cloths in natural fabrics like cotton, bamboo or hemp. Or, just recycle your old towels or worn-out clothes. These natural alternatives produce less waste; they can also be washed and reused countless times, saving both money and resources in the long run. Microfiber cloths, on the other hand, are not biodegradable and can release lots of microplastics in the water when washed. 

For tougher jobs, such as scrubbing tile grout or removing stubborn stains, opt for a durable scrub brush made from sustainable materials, like bamboo, or one that you can compost. If you want to minimize waste throughout the cleaning process, instead of tossing out old toothbrushes, repurpose them as scrubbers for hard-to-reach areas. Zero-waste store Fullfillery, in Takoma Park, has all the cleaning tools you need, along with bulk products like vinegar, baking soda or salt.  

A deep-cleaning tool that you can use all around the house is a steam cleaner. It’s like a vacuum but uses high steam temperatures that kill germs, dust mites, mold and bacteria without bleach or chemicals. You can use it in the kitchen to clean your fridge, oven, dishwasher and cabinet doors; in the bathroom, on shower glass, faucets, or tiles and grout; and in the bedroom, on mattresses, toys and plastic bins. Be cautious with hardwood floors, though, which need to be properly sealed because lingering moisture can cause damage to tiny cracks. 

Incorporating sustainability principles into your spring cleaning routine isn’t just about minimizing environmental impact — it’s also an opportunity to cultivate mindfulness and gratitude for the spaces we live in. If you embark on a spring cleaning journey, consider embracing an eco-friendly mindset and leaving behind a lighter footprint on the Earth.

ALL PURPOSE CLEANER RECIPE

  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon washing soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon castile soap
  • 2 cups hot water

Mix the ingredients in a spray bottle. Apply and wipe clean. 

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