A few traditional, safe, simple, effective, and ecological tips for a clean, fresh-smelling home adapted from an excerpt from Growing Green Families: A Guide for Natural Families and Healthy Homes.

Cleaning with baking soda

spruc-up-tips-for-the-green-familyTo unclog kitchen drains

Pour into drain:

  • ½ cup baking soda
  • ½ cup white vinegar.
  • After foaming stops, 1 quart boiling water.

To remove sweat stains

  • Add water to baking soda to form a paste.
  • Rub paste into stain, and allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Launder as usual.

To clean ovens safely

  • Spray oven surfaces with water.
  • Sprinkle with baking soda.
  • Allow to sit overnight.
  • Re-spray with water and wipe clean.

To clean off dried-on food from dishes, pots, and pans

Add to dish water:

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons baking soda
  • a squirt of any natural dishwashing soap
  • leave to soak.

To freshen sponges, work baking soda well into the wet sponge. For extra cleaning, pop sponge in the top rack of the dishwasher or place in microwave for 30 to 40 seconds.

For non-abrasive microwave cleaning, place a small amount of baking soda on a damp cloth or sponge. Wipe down and rinse well.

For easy carpet deodorizing, sprinkle baking soda on the carpet, allow to sit overnight, and vacuum the next day.

Deodorize your refrigerator by leaving an opened box of baking soda sitting inside it.

Vinegar cleaning

Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the final rinse for a natural fabric softener.

To reduce that “vinegar” smell, simmer aromatic herbs for 15 to 20 minutes in the vinegar, strain out the plants, and then use as fabric softener.

Remove perspiration odors and stains by spraying with full strength white vinegar, leave for 5 minutes, before adding  to usual laundry.

To clean coffee pots, fill with warm water, and add ½ cup vinegar and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Allow to “fizz” and rinse clean.

For sparkling windows, add ¼ cup vinegar to 2 cups water, and wipe with soft cloth or unbleached paper towels.

For general cleaning, mix equal parts of distilled water and white vinegar. Store in a spritzer bottle for easy use.

Lemon juice cleaning

spruce up tips womenshealthtodayDilute lemon juice with half water to remove waxes and pesticide residue on produce.

To clean cutting boards, cut a lemon in half and scrub directly with the raw lemon or use undiluted lemon juice.

Coarse salt for abrasive cleaning

When rust or built-up food accumulates, scrub with coarse salt.

Herbal infusions for cleaning solutions

spruce-up-tips-for-the-green-familyHeat 1 cup water to simmering (not boiling).

Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of dried organic herbs and steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

Strain out plant material and allow to cool.

Store in dark glass jars. If you are preparing infusions for later use, distilled water will increase the length of storage times.

Herbs that are especially suited for cleaning infusions:

  • lavender
  • rosemary
  • sage
  • oregano
  • thyme

Also good to include are dried lemon or orange rinds.

Add the infusions to water with vinegar for germ killing and a clean, fresh smell.

Pest repellants

Ants: Sprinkle cinnamon, coffee grounds, or cornmeal in areas where ants appear.

Lemon juice mixed with water in a spray can deter ants.

Vinegar spray

  • 1 teaspoon boric acid
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups water

Dissolve the boric acid and sugar in water thoroughly. Soak cotton balls in the solution and place in a paper bag with small holes punched in the sides.

Place where required and change cotton balls once a week. Dispose of bags when filled with deceased varmints.

Fruit flies: pour a glass of sweet wine, add a drop of soap, and leave near the flies.

Spiders: place hedge apples around the outside of the house.

Mice: peppermint essential oil may deter rodents.


Air fresheners

Rather than use synthetic room deodorizers or plug-in scents, which often contain phthalates, keep a bowl of pine needles, mint leaves, aromatic herbs, or flower buds wherever needed.

For bathroom freshening, place a few drops of sage, lavender, or lemon essential oil on the inside of the paper toilet roll.

When the weather is temperate, open the windows!

Houseplants are natural air filters. Some plants that are especially good filters are:

  • Boston ferns, which remove formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • Philodendrons, spider plants, and pathos were found to be the most efficient in the removal of formaldehyde.
  • Gerbera daisies and chrysanthemums were found to be effective in the removal of benzene, a known carcinogen.

As a rule of thumb, allow one houseplant per 100 square feet of living area. The more vigorous the plant, the more air it can filter.

Another simple tip is to cut an “X” into the top of a fresh lemon, and place it in a bowl close to the bed to allow the citrus oils to naturally freshen the air.


More details

Essential oils can be diffused into the air, 10 to 15 drops added to a bath, diluted in a massage oil (20 to 30 drops in 1 oz base oil), or diluted in water as a mister. Alternatively, place 3 to 5 drops on a cotton ball or aromastone to keep at your desk or bedside.

Essential oils known to have a relaxing effect are:

  • lavender
  • chamomile
  • rose
  • geranium
  • ylang ylang
  • patchouli
  • sandalwood
  • clary sage

Essential oils for uplifting spirits are:

  • citrus (lemon, orange, tangerine, bergamot)
  • peppermint
  • neroli
  • rosemary.