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Green Spring Cleaning Tips

With winter behind us, it's time to embrace the season of rejuvenation by reducing clutter and attacking grime. Give your home a fresh beginning with our green spring cleaning tips. For more great green tips all year long, sign up for daily green tips from The Green Life.

Clean Naturally
Why scrub counters, floors, and tubs with harsh chemicals that reduce indoor air quality and harm the environment when you can use a few common household items to get the job done? Some basic ingredients for DIY cleaners include baking soda, lemon, vinegar, salt, liquid soap, and hot water. Follow these recipes to create nontoxic scrubs for every occasion.

Clean With Reusable Wipes and Scrubbers
Spring cleaning doesn't have to result in a trash can full of used paper towels. Instead, try reusable scrub brushes or homemade cloth cleaning rags. Synthetic sponges are petroleum-derived and can contain triclosan. Greener options for natural sponges include those made of wood-pulp cellulose. Your best bet? Cultivate luffa (a.k.a. "loofah") in your garden and grow your own "sponge gourds."

Use Natural Air Fresheners
A clean house is often associated with a "fresh" smell, so it's ironic that synthetic air fresheners could be contaminating homes with phthalates or formaldehyde. To really freshen up a room, try opening the windows first. Next, invest in houseplants. NASA has been studying the pollution-reducing abilities of plants for years. Some of the plants tested by NASA and shown to remove benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air include the peace lily, spider plant, golden pothos, mother-in-law's tongue, bamboo palm, ficus, pot mum, and gerbera daisy.

Choose Earth-Friendly Cleaning Products
You dump all sorts of fancy-smelling products into the machine with your clothes, but those commercial detergents are full of nasty chemicals that can end up in rivers and streams. Consider switching to a plant-based, biodegradable laundry soap (but beware of greenwashing and don't forget to read the instructions on the container, because you may be using much more detergent than necessary. Worried about your whites? Instead of chlorine bleach, scan the store's shelves for a nontoxic alternative -- and skip the fabric softener altogether.

Ditch Your Drycleaner
Rather than taking your suits to be doused in a chemical that's linked to cancer and air pollution, head to your local eco-friendly dry cleaner. (They do exist -- here's a list!) Or try wet cleaning, which uses water and detergent but still presses your garments so they look polished enough for the office. If possible, avoid buying clothes labeled "dry clean only," and remember that dry cleaning isn't always necessary even if the care instructions say it is. Hand washing in cool water or in your washing machine on the delicate cycle is often a suitable alternative.

Shine Furniture With Natural Polish
Make a simple wood furniture dusting mixture with lemon juice and olive oil. Annie B. Bond, author of Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living recommends using a wool dusting cloth "because static electricity draws dust to wool, and lanolin in the wool causes the dust to stick to the wool." The next best thing? A cotton rag made from an old t-shirt. When it's time for a shine, check out Bond's recipe for a polishing cream wax.

Make a Green Window Wash
To clean those panes, fill a spray bottle with a vinegar and water mixture to make a DIY wash. If you've used conventional glass cleaners in the past, Care2 recommends adding soap or detergent to the mixture to cut the wax buildup left by commercial products. Scrub with newspapers to avoid streaking.

Let it Hang Out
Now that the weather's warmer, instead of tossing your damp clothes into the dryer, hang them outside. Line-drying uses zero energy (except your own) and we think sun-dried clothes actually smell better. If the weather doesn't permit (or for more delicate items), invest in an inexpensive drying rack that you can set up inside. If you want to use a clothesline but your homeowners' association forbids it, consider getting involved with Project Laundry List or a similar advocacy organization (before you do, check out this hilarious clip from The Colbert Report about the right-to-dry movement).

Revamp Your Green Routine
After you've purged your closets (recycling everything, of course) and dusted off your shelves, set the stage for a cleaner, greener year. Use spring cleaning as an excuse to reorganize your recycling bins for maximum efficiency or make sure a hibernating bike is tuned up and ready to ride. Clear out pantry space so that you'll have room to store staples bought in bulk. Get out your calendar and designate a regular schedule for repair projects or start hosting monthly repair-a-thons with friends.

Efficient Washing Habits
Front-loading clothes washers (most have an Energy Star label) use up to half as much water and energy than other, older models, so if you're in the market for a new machine, snag one of those. But don't run out to buy a new washer if your old one still works. Instead, wait until you have a full load and wash your clothes in cold water (it gets them just as clean) on the shortest available cycle.


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