Go Green and Clean: Eco-Friendly Spring Cleaning Tips for Your Apartment
BY LISA DEBENEDICTIS // ILLUSTRATION BY LAUREN THIMMESCH
It’s finally spring: the season of picnics, fresh produce, and of course, spring cleaning. But before you break out the duster, it might be time think about greening your cleaning, too. By choosing eco-friendly cleaning products and tools, disposing of waste correctly, and making other environmentally conscious choices in the way you clean, you’ll make your home (and the earth!) a healthier place to live.
Use the Right Products
Homemade cleaning products, such as all-purpose cleaner and glass cleaner, are easy and eco-friendly.
Unfortunately, many chemicals in common household cleaners are pollutants that affect the water supply, contribute to smog, and are toxic to animals. On top of that, there have been studies linking chemicals in many of these cleaners to health risks. The good news? Some of the best eco-friendly cleaning products are simple, inexpensive items you might already have in your kitchen. To start, make sure you always have the following:
Distilled white vinegar
Using the items above, you can make many simple household cleaners, such as:
All-purpose cleaner: Use this for spraying down counters, sinks, spills, and more. Mix 9 parts water to 1 part vinegar. If the smell of vinegar bothers you, you can add a few drops of an essential oil, such as lavender or lemon, as well.
Scouring cleaner: This works well for cleaning ovens, burned pans, bathtubs, and sinks. Sprinkle baking soda onto a damp cloth or sponge, and rub into the surface to clean. For tough stains, make a paste of baking soda and water and let it sit for a few hours, or add vinegar to the baking soda.
Wood cleaner: Mix ¼ cup of oil, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Glass cleaner: Mix ½ cup of water with ½ cup vinegar.
To continue your green cleaning, the next step is to take a peek at the tools you clean with, too. While it’s tempting to go through a few rolls of paper towels for your cleaning projects, opt for rags (you can cut up old clothes, towels, or sheets), microfiber towels, or huck towels instead. Doing so reduces waste, saves money on paper products, and sets you up with cloths that can be washed and reused any time. Disposable mops are also convenient, but a good old-fashioned cloth mop saves you (and the trees) from buying replacement cleaning pads on a regular basis. Or swap out your sponges for scrub brushes or dish brushes, which last longer and don’t need to be replaced as often, either.
Throw Things Away—The Right Way
Instead of throwing out old clutter, donate or recycle it.
Spring cleaning is the perfect time to go through your closets and get rid of the things you no longer need or use. But instead of dumping everything into trash bags, take a few extra minutes to dispose of them responsibly and sustainably.
If your closet is brimming with old clothes, shoes, and coats, donate them to a charity like Good Will or Salvation Army. Many companies even arrange for pick ups!
Finally tackling that drawer of old tech? If you’re tired of looking at a mess of cords, your broken smart phone, and a laptop from 2004, don’t just toss them in the garbage. Most electronics contain toxic chemicals such as arsenic and lead and need to be disposed of properly so they don’t end up in landfills. Instead, recycle them—many cities now have programs for this, and tech companies such as Apple and Microsoft offer recycling options, too. Or consider donating your used electronics to a local school or nonprofit.
Other household items that you might not expect are also considered hazardous waste, such as batteries, paint, nail polish, anything in an aerosol can, fluorescent light bulbs, and (surprise, surprise) many cleaning products. These shouldn’t be thrown out with the rest of the trash or ever be dumped outside or down the drain. Instead, check with your city or town for hazardous waste collection locations or pick up services and be sure to follow the proper procedures.
Of course, recycling your paper, glass, plastics, metals, and more is super important, too. If you don’t already participate, check in with your local municipal recycling program for more information about collection and accepted items. And there’s no time like the present to start composting!
Tackling the Deep Clean
Now that you have your green cleaners, eco-friendly tools, and have sustainably disposed of your clutter, it’s time for the deep clean.
First, schedule your cleaning for a rainy (or at least cloudy) day. This is wise for several reasons: It’s really hard to stay motivated when it’s sunny and beautiful out, and it’s better to wash windows on a cloudy day, anyway (it prevents streaks).
So, what’s the best way to clean? Getting a great playlist queued up is a must, as well as wearing comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. Next, always clean top to bottom, then left to right—that way, you won’t miss anything. And while many people prefer to clean room by room, Woman’s Day also suggests this strategy: start with dusting, then move to furniture fabric, mirrors and windows, surface cleaning, kitchen and bathroom, vacuuming, and mopping to polish it off (pun very much intended).
Since you’re already knee-deep in spring cleaning, you may want to hone in on a few tasks that tend to get neglected, like washing pillows (not just the cases, the pillows themselves) and comforters, cleaning your appliances, reorganizing cabinets and drawers, and washing the walls.
And remember, don’t try to do it all in one day. Break your spring cleaning up into a few sessions, and continue to dust, vacuum, and clean the kitchen and bathroom on a weekly basis for upkeep.
Other Green-Cleaning Tips
Air-drying clothes can save you on energy costs and reduce your carbon footprint.
All it takes is a few small changes to incorporate sustainable and eco-friendly choices into your lifestyle and the way you clean up, but it doesn’t need to stop there.
Instead of drying all your clothes in the dryer, invest in a simple drying rack (or clothesline if you have a backyard) to save energy and money. For dry-clean only items, consider bringing them to an eco-friendly dry cleaner in your city. And if you need a little help on the spring cleaning front? Hire an eco-friendly cleaning company next time.
You’ve gone green and clean, and it sure feels good. Now it’s time for a much-needed break—how about that picnic?