A Cheap and Green Spring Clean!

A Cheap and Green Spring Clean!

It’s that time of year.  You remember it well.  The day that Mom threw open the windows and let the Spring breeze flow through the house.  I wasn’t awake long before my sleep swollen eyes realized the beds were picked cleaner than a Sunday chicken.  An enormous pile of linen lay at the bottom of the stairs waiting for someone to whisk it down the basement steps to be laundered.  The breeze swirled around my small frame and the smell of pancakes swept me into the kitchen.   My sneakers were calling my name.  My eyes and heart stepped in time to the marvelous song in my head.  Spring had sprung!

My bike looked terribly lonely after a long winter in the garage.  The sun was aching for company as she glared at me through the weather streaked window of my kitchen.  All my thoughts were swept aside as the announcement came from mother that today was Spring cleaning.  No one was going anywhere until chores were done.  The faster we worked, the sooner we would be allowed to play outside. Itching feet created the crayon frown on my face.  As my hands did the work assigned by mom, my mind was never far from the playground longing for the sound of bike tires on pavement, the laughter of friends, the chimes on the ice cream truck, and the wind in my hair.

That day seemed unimportant to this child.  Years would pass.  High school and college would come and go before that first apartment belonged to me.  It was the weekend before Easter.  I woke to bird song and a brilliant sky.  Lucky for me, it was Saturday.  The bed clothes were stripped and laundry began.  Coffee was on the boil and the cleaning products came out of the closet for inventory.  The large French windows in my early 19th century vintage studio were flung wide open on the second floor.  My heart beat in tune with the hum of life below in that small Chicago suburb.  “Spring cleaning!” I thought.  “What am I, mad?  No, I can’t wait to freshen up the place.”

However, I don’t use quite the same cleaning products as Mom did back in the day.  She was dubbed ‘The Bleach Queen’ in our house (and she was a natural brunette).  Women who couldn’t tolerate the smell of bleach often used ammonia instead.  Times have changed.  Current research informs us that those well intentioned cleaning products may be harmful to us.  The American Association of Poison Control Centers has 57 centers reporting and sending alerts on harmful substances and the consequences of ingestion and exposure.  For a copy of the comprehensive report on the dangers of household and other chemical products, please visit their website at www.aapcc.org or click here for their 2011 Annual Data report.

Certain old methods used by our grandmothers, possibly our mothers, are coming back as green alternatives.  In truth, they are safe and cost effective methods that were used for centuries before the carpet bagger arrived on the train with a magic elixir to sell.  Care should be taken when making and storing detergents for household use.  As with any cleaning agent, please keep products out of reach of children.  Label all your products including the name, creation date, and ingredients on each container.  Store all items using non-contaminated containers with secure lids.

Basic Ingredients:

• Baking Soda
• White Vinegar
• Hydrogen peroxide
• Borax
• Essential oils: lavender, eucalyptus, lemongrass, or tea tree
• Castile soap
• Fresh herbs, citrus, or citrus peels
• Olive or vegetable oil
• Water

Use diluted white vinegar in water with old newspaper for streak free windows and mirrors.  Substitute white vinegar in place of fabric softener.  Add one-half cup of vinegar to your dark laundry load and soak for 30 minutes to set the color before washing to retain the black dye in those new jeans or washable slacks.

Make your own laundry detergent using simple ingredients like borax and pass up the harsh chemicals.  Essential oils are great for those who like scented cleaning products without harmful additives.  Here are some helpful links to get clean and green in no time!

25 DIY Green Cleaning Recipes

14 Bleach and Toxin Free Disinfectants

Soap Nuts Organic Laundry Detergent – many uses!

For the gardening type, an old British remedy used during World War II when soap became scarce is an herb called Soapwort or saponaria officinalis.  Soapwort is an attractive addition to your herb garden and a great way to incorporate eco-friendly practice into your life.  Soapwort is excellent for making bar soaps and shampoos having a spicy scent.  For information on adding soapwort to your garden along with directions for making soap, please visit The Herb Gardener.

Prolonged exposure to harmful chemicals is especially hazardous to young children and pets.  Please read labels carefully paying close attention to warnings and proper storage information.  In case of contact or ingestion of a harmful chemical, please contact your local poison center by dialing 1-800-222-1222.  While making the transition to green cleaning, keep these safety tips in mind.

The Internet is a fabulous resource.  Seek out others in your area and online who are also making the transition to cheap and green.  On Facebook, I encourage you to visit The Healthy Hybrid for more great tips on cleaning products, homemade cosmetics, and healthy eating alternatives.

Happy Green Spring Cleaning!


Tina Boutall is a farmer’s wife in transition from the commercial farm to the organic paradigm.  She earned her bachelor of science degree in Accounting from DeVry University-Chicago with an emphasis in Technical Management.  A magazine article contributor since 2005, Tina also provides manuscript editing and mentoring for aspiring writers in her spare time.  She is currently working on her first fictional novel after years of writing Christian nonfiction.  She resides in Kentucky with her husband and their Boxador – Mae.

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