Maintaining your new home means keeping it clean. By using natural cleaning products -- like lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar and salt -- you can eliminate the use of harsh cleaning chemicals.
By Patricia L. Garcia
Now that you’ve moved into your new home, you want to maintain it so that even a few years down the road, it will feel like you just moved in.
One way to that is to clean your home sans harsh chemicals. In honor of Earth Day (that’s April 22), we’d like to share easy ways to clean your home naturally — and the best part is you probably already have some of these ingredients around your home. Here are just a few ways to make use of The Big Four — baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice and salt — plus one more, to clean your new home naturally:
Baking soda has a variety of uses aside from baking, from deodorizing to fighting grease on dirty pots and pans. This handy cleaning ingredient is both natural and cost effective. For even greater cleaning power, add hot liquids to the mix. “When you add a little heat to baking soda, you activate its power,” says Leslie Reichert, a nationally recognized green homekeeping expert. “Its chemical properties make it great for lifting dirt off a surface, so all you need to do it wipe it away.”
You’re probably familiar with the notion of putting baking soda in the refrigerator to prevent smells and the same holds true for any area of the home. One well-known way to use baking soda is to fill a small dish with baking soda and place in rooms where bad odors can be found, err, smelled. You can also sprinkle baking soda onto carpets, sofas or pet beds to help freshen them up — let it stand for 15 minutes (longer for tough odors) and then vacuum. You can also mix baking soda with water to make a paste that can be used to clean grout, polish silverware or remove crayon stains from a wall.
Vinegar is not only great for dyeing Easter eggs; it’s also a great household cleaner. “Vinegar is a natural acid,” says Reichert. “It works to remove dirt and stains.” Its acidic properties can be effective in killing many types of bacteria, mold and viruses.
White vinegar can also be used as a fabric softener (don’t worry, your clothes won’t smell like vinegar). Reichert suggests combining vinegar with baking soda to create a solution that will help remove buildup from surfaces. If you have a smelly garbage disposal, drop some vinegar into your drain to help deodorize it. To disinfect eating surfaces such as counters and tables, spritz some vinegar on those surfaces and wipe clean.
“Lemon juice is a bleach that you can use to remove stains on countertops, sinks and even laundry,” Reichert says. Pour some lemon juice in your laundry to brighten whites (but don’t use it on silks and delicate fabrics). Much as vinegar can be used to deodorize garbage disposals, so can lemons: drop half a lemon down the disposal and turn it on. You’ll get a delightful lemon scent in no time at all.
Reichert says you can use lemon juice to polish copper: place some lemon juice and table salt into a small container. Use a cloth to wipe a tarnished copper item with the solution — you’re copper item will look like new. You can also use the same solution to spruce up chrome faucets and fixtures.
For minor clogs, pour baking soda down the drain, then add some lemon juice. The foaming reaction should help clear the drain.
This flavorful substance is a natural scrub, making it a great choice for those cleaning moments when you need some scrubbing power. “You can use different salts for different dirt,” Reichert says. (She says her house has “big” dirt, so she uses a lot of sea salt.)
Salt is also a great absorber and can be used to remove buildup from a surface (just mix with water to form a paste). To help make cleanup easier, sprinkle regular table salt onto gunky pots and pans immediately after cooking. The salt with make it easier to clean it off. For cast iron pots and pans, simply heat some oil (not too hot!) and then add in a few teaspoons of course salt. The paste will clean the cookware; simply rinse with water and dry.
And for a mixture that’s hard to beat, combine salt with baking soda as natural toilet bowl cleaner.
It’s not quite as “green” as the other items on this list, but borax can help boost the power of the Big Four. “If you’re having trouble getting something clean with the other ingredients above, just add some borax,” Reichert says.
By adding just a tablespoon of borax to your laundry detergent, you could cut down on it by 50 percent, Reichert says. But, if you use it to clean eating or food prep surfaces, be sure to rinse them well.
As more people begin to look toward healthier ways of living that include more sustainable practices, a more natural lifestyle is moving higher on people’s lists. While this article (and the ideas) is in no way exhaustive, it does provide alternatives to many commercial cleaning products that you may be moving away from. By using natural cleaning products, you can maintain your new home healthfully and naturally.
Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.