Green Spring Cleaning


Ah, spring cleaning. For some, it’s a welcome adventure; just think how clean everything will be! For others, it’s a daunting task that ends in unfinished projects and jobs grudgingly done. However you feel about spring cleaning, this year try to do at least one thing to make it a little more green. There are two primary areas of spring cleaning that lend themselves to green: Clutter (reducing and reusing) & Cleaning (using safer products & going waste-free).

Green is all about Reducing (our footprints, our trash, our stuff). It’s also a lot easier to clean less stuff than it is to clean hoards of stuff. Assuming, that is, that you could even get to the surfaces that need to be cleaned if you’re a serious hoarder. Why not start your spring clean with a giant purge? If you have a lot of stuff, the old standby of setting up 3 boxes in each room works well: one for trash (I use two: one for true trash and one for recyclables–I tend to find a lot of old magazines when I purge), one for garage sale items (if you’re so inclined), and one for donating. If you don’t truly love it or truly need it, put it in one of these boxes. It’s important to act on the boxes as quickly as possible. As soon as you finish a room, take the trash box to your trash can outside (and/or the recycling bin), the garage sale box gets marked and placed in a predetermined storage area, the donate box goes straight into the trunk of your car and is dropped off the very next time you go out.

One you’ve reduced, and also promoted reuse by donating unwanted items, it’s time to get cleaning. There are plenty  places online to find checklists of what needs to be cleaned. A few are listed below.

Spring Cleaning Checklist @ iVillage

Complete Spring Cleaning Checklist @ Real Simple Magazine Online

HomeEc 101 has a great series on spring cleaning: Room by Room; Detailed posts on Living Room/GreatRoom/Family Room and  Bedrooms. And lastly, Spring Cleaning for Disastrously Messy Homes

I’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years about the cleaning products I used to regularly spray, squirt and swipe along nearly every surface in my house. The sad fact is that most of these cleaners at best, are respiratory irritants, and at worst, can contribute to the causes of serious disease. There’s a reason there are warning and hazard labels on the backs of almost all cleaning products sold in stores. If it says “Caution,” “Warning,” or “Hazard,” it’s not good for you. It’s not good for the planet, either. Not surprisingly, most of the stuff that harms the earth, harms people, too. Fortunately, we have more options than ever where cleaning products are concerned, and some of the best options are those we’ve had for a very long time. If you’re interested in making your own safe, eco-friendly, and inexpensive cleaners, recipes are easy to find. To get you started, I’ve listed a few below.

Care2 has 8 different recipes listed here. has more non-toxic cleaning recipes here.

There’s a large list of 25 cleaning recipes at Tree Hugging Family here.

But, what if you’re not into making your own cleaners, and are now afraid to buy the standard stuff? Fortunately, there are many more safe and eco-friendly products on the market than there used to be. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of fakers out there. The problem is that anyone can put words like “natural” on their products, regardless of the ingredients. The safest bet is to go with trusted companies and those that have third party certification regarding the safety of their ingredients. The best list of these products I’ve found is over at Debra’s List. She’s done an amazing job putting this list together and her site explains what many of the seals and certifications mean. She also has a great Green Living Q & A on cleaning.

Armed with safer products, my final suggestion is to go waste-free. Use more rags and old towels rather than paper towels. Scrub with a cleaning brush instead of a sponge. Get creative. Go for reusables instead of disposables wherever you can.

I admit that I do not make all my own cleaners, though I do make my own laundry detergent. However, I can attest to the nearly magical powers of white vinegar. A couple of weeks ago I made the stupid mistake of overheating some butter in a glass bowl in the microwave. The entire stick exploded all over the inside: colossal, greasy mess. Based on something I read online, when or where I no longer recall, I filled a clean bowl halfway with water and another third full with white vinegar. I put it in the microwave and turned it on for 4 minutes, then let it sit another 10. When I opened the door, I dipped a rag in the hot vinegar water and began wiping out the inside. To my amazement, it cleaned up every bit of the butter and left no greasy residue. I dumped the rest of the vinegar water in my sink (with the stopper in place) and let it sit for a few minutes. I wiped it out and unplugged the drain. My sink has never been cleaner.

I can’t say that I will make all of my cleaning supplies for this year’s spring cleaning either, but I can tell you that vinegar will have a place in my arsenal.

Best of luck with your spring cleaning. Remember that if you do even one thing to make it a little greener, it will help. If you have any suggestions for greening spring cleaning, please let us know in the comments.

Photo Credit: amy_b


  1. My theory is that, if there were no flat surfaces, there’d be no clutter! Thanks for the link to the green cleaning kit.

  2. Amen on that! Thanks for stopping by. I have your book, Big Green Purse, and refer to it often. What a great collection of useful information.

  3. I haven’t been making my own laundry detergent, but have been buying a new eco-friendly detergent. I think I’ll give making my own a try!

  4. Best of luck if you give it a try. I’ve enjoyed making my own and it’s certainly been much less expensive.

  5. excellant list of references to check out – thank you

  6. Thanks! I hope they’re of use to you.

  7. Mary Hunt says:

    Thanks for the links and the reminder to take the Spring Cleaning Doctor’s oath, “First, do no harm.”

  8. Good point, Mary. It would be great if we could all follow that oath a little more closely in everything we do.


  1. […] Beth of Smart Family Tips shares her thoughts on Clutter (reducing and reusing) & Cleaning (using safer products & going waste-free). […]