Green guide to spring cleaning

Most of the products needed to create natural cleaners are already in our kitchens. Olive oil can be used for dusting. Vinegar is great for cleaning windows and baking soda is a great at helping scrub away the grime.

During this year’s round of spring cleaning, think about reaching into your cupboard instead of under your sink when picking cleaning products.

The commercial products that many of us use today to clean counters, bathrooms, windows and floors contain ammonia, bleach, chlorine, acid and a whole host of other complex chemicals that are far too difficult to pronounce.

Megan MacPherson, state green team leader with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, has been using natural cleaning products for several years. They tend to cost less than traditional commercial products, don’t produce indoor pollutants that can irritate children and pets, and work just as well.

“It’s really a win-win,” MacPherson said.

Most of the items that are needed to make natural home cleaners are probably already in your cupboard.

Consider this:

• Baking soda is great for scrubbing.

• Olive oil can be used for dusting.

• Club soda works on carpet stains.

• Both vinegar and lemon juice act as natural cleaners.

Lynate Pettengill, owner of Aveena Natural Cleaning Services, operates an entire cleaning business using products you could eat, although she doesn’t recommend that you taste any of them.

“All of us can do this,” Pettengill said. “We don’t have to have these chemicals that have a health risk to ourselves, our children and our pets and also do some damage to the environment as the water is drained or it goes into the air.”

When using natural cleaners, Pettengill recommends using filtered water, so minerals from the tap water aren’t spray all over the house. She also uses a higher-grade Castile soap and tea tree oil for disinfecting.

“Just get in there and try some things. I think some people worry that it is some complicated deal. But it’s not,” Pettengill said.

MacPherson said she cleans her home much the way our grandparents did before chemical cleaning products were introduced in the 1950s.

“In a way, it’s getting back to an easier way of life,” she said.

Here’s a list of home-made cleaning products that MacPherson uses.

Baking Soda and Water

For a basic cleaning, dust the surface with baking soda and then scrub the area with a damp sponge or towel. For stains, knead the baking soda and water into a paste, and let the mixture sit for awhile before scrubbing with a cloth. This method works on porcelain, tiles, kitchen counters, stainless steel sinks, cutting boards, refrigerators and oven tops.

Kosher salt and water

For tougher grim, sprinkle on kosher salt and use a little more elbow grease.

Lemon juice or vinegar

For stains, mildew or grease streaks, use lemon juice or vinegar. Spray on the lemon juice and vinegar, let sit for a few minutes and then scrub off with a stiff brush.

Natural Disinfectant

Instead of bleach, try this mixture to disinfect an area: Mix two to three cups of water with three tablespoons of liquid soap and add 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil.

Window Cleaner

To get glass gleaming, mix two tablespoons of white vinegar with a gallon of water. Put the mixture into a spray bottle and squirt on glass surface. Then scrub area with a newspaper, which leaves fewer streaks than paper towels.


Keeping carpets clean can be daunting. But here are some simple recipes that will help remove a winter’s worth of dirt and salt.

• For throw or area rugs, take them outside and use a broom to beat the dust and hair out of them.

• Most people know that club soda works well to remove carpet stains. But you have to clean the spill immediately. Pour club soda on the spill and then blot with a rag.

• For bigger spills, use cornmeal. Cover the spill with cornmeal, wait five to 15 minutes and then vacuum up the mess.

• To make your own spot cleaner, mix 1/4 cup of liquid soap or detergent in blender with 1/3 cup water. Mix until foamy and then spray on spot. Rinse with vinegar.

• To get rid of funky smells, sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the carpet (about one cup per medium sized room) and then vacuum after 30 minutes.

For more tips on using natural cleaning products, Pettengill recommends the book Clean House Clean Planet by Karen Logan.