Every spring I get the urge to clean, clean, clean! Winter in Indiana means spending too much time indoors, tracking in mud, snow, dirt, and dealing with dust from the furnace running all the time. As soon as there is even a glimpse of spring, I get ready to clean the house room by room, from ceiling to floor. The first step is to gather the necessary cleaning essentials and then create the attack plan.
I believe in cleaning the natural way whenever possible. I have sensitive skin, asthma, and a special needs child, so chemical cleaners do not exist in my home. I also believe we need to be good stewards of the earth and do all we can to protect it for our children and grandchildren. As a farmers daughter I developed a close relationship with the land. I know if I take care of my land, it will in turn take care of me. It is to my advantage to protect it from contamination or abuse. With that said, I use only natural products to clean my house. They work effectively, are inexpensive, and are readily available at the grocery store.
Let’s begin with gathering the necessary cleaning essentials. What do you need to clean your house? If you are going to make your own cleaning agents, you will need containers to store them in.
- Plastic squirt bottles, plastic spray bottles, and shaker top containers are helpful items to store and dispense your cleaning agents effectively.
- Coffee containers with lids and wide-mouth glass mason jars are great for storing powders, pastes, and waxes.
- Cotton or microfiber cloths are great cleaning tools and can be washed and reused again and again.
- Rags can be made from old t-shirts, or discarded cotton items such as clothing or sheets. Discarded towels and washcloths take on new life as rags.
- Natural scrubbing pads
- 2 gallon cleaning bucket
- broom, mop, sweeper, and steam-cleaner
- old toothbrushes, and cleaning brushes of various sizes and shapes
Essential Oils and Herbs
Essential oils and herbs have cleaning qualities as well as aesthetic benefits. Gather a few items to begin with, then add additional items over time to prevent budget busting.
Some good essential oils to start with are: lemon, lime, or sweet orange, tea tree, peppermint, lavender, & rosemary.
Good herbs to gather are: basil, lavender, lemon balm, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme. These herbs are easy to grow (except lavender) and I will address growing your own herbs in a later post. I generally use dried herbs when preparing cleaning agents but when they are growing outside, its easy to clip and use fresh when making all varieties of cleaning formulas.
Cleaning Agents-Your local grocery should have most everything you need.
- White vinegar; I buy vinegar by the case and store
- lemon juice
- Baking Soda-can be purchased in 10 pound bags and stored
- Borax-Check out 20 Mule Team Borax
- Washing Soda-Check out Arm and Hammer’s brand
- Fels Naptha bar soap, Castile Liquid Soap, Murphy’s Oil Soap
- Cream of Tartar
Items found at craft or specialty stores and on-line:
- Lanolin, glycerin
- Diatomaceous earth-available at garden, hardware, and agricultural supply stores. It is a powder made from the skeletons of fossilized algae and is used to kill soft-bellied insects and as a scouring powder. Most toothpastes contain diatomaceous earth.
- Citrus Seed Extract
The Attack Plan
I find when faced with a large project it is always best to break it down into smaller chunks. This makes success come quicker and prevents burn-out from taking over. When cleaning the house, I clean room by room. I prioritize by listing the most frequently used rooms first because life feels much easier when our environment is clean and uncluttered. The next step is to be aware of what actually should be cleaned. Remember to clean from top down to prevent going back over what you have already cleaned because debris fell on it from previous cleaning.
Here are suggestions of cleaning approach order. Please remember to be aware of how to safely clean the textiles, wall coverings, furniture and floors in your home!
- Ceilings-sweep. Paint if you want to freshen the look. In the bathroom I might need to remove mildew with hydrogen peroxide and water.
- Ceiling light fixtures and bulbs
- Window dressings-sweep, wash, dry clean or replace.
- Walls-sweep and wash. Paint to freshen look or touch up scratches. Replace light switch covers as needed.
- Windows-wash inside and out including the sash. Wash screens, fix or repair as necessary.
- Furniture-dust, sweep, steam clean, wash, & polish as necessary.
- Room lighting-shades swept & wiped with cloth or replaced, lamp fixtures wiped, bulbs wiped or replaced.
- Remove clutter.
- Floors and floor moldings.
Specific Room Ideas
The Kitchen is the hub of our home and gets cleaned frequently throughout the year. A thorough annual cleaning always makes me happy though.
- Cabinets washed/polished. Cleaning the inside of cabinets is done when I have the energy and motivation. Remember to gift/discard/donate items rarely used to reduce clutter.
- Appliances cleaned inside and out: refrigerator, dishwasher, stove top and oven, range hood, microwave.
- Walls, back splash (especially near stove), & counters washed and polished if appropriate.
- The sink and facets washed and polished if appropriate.
The Bathroom must be clean or I will not use it! It gets a good cleaning every week but annual cleaning gets the walls and cabinets clean too.
- Tub and sink; now is the time to clean and polish these surfaces. I wax the sink and tub to make weekly cleaning easier. It also restores the finish to a glossy shine.
- Toilet; go the extra mile and wipe every surface. You might think of cleaning the water tank too to remove rust and mineral deposits. Replace the tank hardware if things are not working quite right.
- Cabinets, mirrors, and light fixtures. Dust, wash, polish, as needed. Now would be a good time to go through cabinets and drawers to remove items not needed or rarely used. Supplies can be organized into baskets, containers, and drawer organizers.
- Old medication. Check with your local pharmacy or police department to see if they collect outdated medications to properly dispose. Do not flush medications down the toilet or throw away in the trash!
The Bedroom is another room that needs special attention. This room is responsible for providing an environment that ensures peace, tranquility, and quality sleep. Don’t forget this room on your spring cleaning binge!
- Window coverings and windows.
- Walls, furnace vents and air return vents. I remove the vent and sweep the duct as well as the grate.
- Bedroom furniture.
- Bed coverings and mattresses. I use a steam cleaner to thoroughly wash traditional mattresses each year, then air dry. We have a waterbed which needs conditioner added to it each year. While I have the bed stripped I wash the surface with a gentle cleaner then spray with a disinfectant.
- Closets and drawers. Now is the time to wipe down surfaces and while you have the clothes out, sort and recycle items out-of-size, or not worn for the past year. Replace lost buttons, fix or replace broken zippers, etc. so what you do have is usable.
The Laundry Room or laundry area should be a quick clean. The most important thing to consider are cleaning the washer and dryer themselves.
- Wipe all outside surfaces. Carnauba paste car wax can be applied to the outer surfaces to provide protection.
- The inside should be cleaned in both appliances. Wipe the dryer drum and clean the lint catcher. Washing the lint catcher gently with a toothbrush will remove small particles trapped in the screen.
- The washer tub can be cleaned by running a wash cycle with the addition of borax or washing soda. Adding white vinegar to the rinse will aid cleaning. After the completion of the wash cycle, wipe the drum with a clean cloth to remove resilient washing detergent or fabric softener. The fabric softener dispenser also needs to be cleaned. Take it apart and remove any buildup. Use something that works on grease as most liquid softeners are oil based. Washing soda is a good choice. Toothbrushes come in handy for small spaces.
Other Living Areas-Living Room, Dining Room, Family Room, Hallways and Stairwells also need attention. Use the ceiling to floor model in these areas and don’t forget the nick-nacks, bookshelves, and pictures that adorn the walls and shelves.
The Basement also needs cleaning. Don’t let 10 years of life collect in your basement like me, and then be faced with a daunting task! Look for a future post sharing my success at cleaning the basement.
Putting it all together
Gather your cleaning agents and supplies, prioritize room cleaning in order of your preference, check for suggested cleaning approaches for the textiles, wall coverings, furniture, and floors in your home; then set a time-line to get the job completed. Don’t be afraid to enlist family members to help with the task because they live in your house too and will be responsible for the cleaning of their own homes one day.
Look for Spring Cleaning Part Two in the near future. I will provide natural cleaning product recipes to be made at home.