Cleaning With A Hint of Green

Spring Cleaning With A Hint of GreenNatural Products and Methods Keep a House Clean Without the Toxic Side Effects

By Vandy Vela-Schneidt

The lemony scent of a magnolia blossom and the sweet sound of native songbirds signal the arrival of springtime on the Emerald Coast. Southern hospitality is alive and well, but with the joy of entertaining comes the responsibility of getting the house in order. This year is the perfect time to put a little twist on spring cleaning and “go green.”

Combing through the many eco-friendly articles on the Internet, I was surprised by the sheer simplicity of green cleaning. It is nothing more than reverting back to yesteryear, the simple life and using the products, tools and methods from our grandparents’ generation to tidy our homes. In fact, it’s so straightforward that you will find yourself saying, “I knew that.”

Green cleaning is the first step in the right direction for green living. Being eco-friendly is not following a laundry list of things to do; it’s a shift in your mindset, emphasizing taking small steps to create a healthier hearth for your family, improve air quality, conserve electricity and, when possible, use all-natural products.

The harshest chemicals found in our homes are under our kitchen sinks or in our cleaning caddies. What’s ironic is that the natural alternatives are only a few feet away in the pantry. Save yourself a trip to the store and a few dollars in your household budget – shop at home. You’ll rediscover the products used by your grandmother: baking soda, tea tree oil, lemon juice, salt, cream of tartar, vinegar and olive oil.

Of course, the most powerful, all-natural cleaning agent is available in every home without exception. It will get out the most difficult stain, has been around since the beginning of time, and is absolutely free. Have a guess? Elbow grease! No commercial cleaner or eco-friendly alternative will ever be a substitute for hard work; a little concentrated effort works wonders.

A fringe benefit of green cleaning is getting fit. All the scrubbing and sweeping will firm your biceps and increase your stamina. Turn your cleaning up a notch and trade in that gym membership.

You can save time when going green. However, you may not be able to see the hours saved by watching the clock. Green methods keep you healthier – you’ll have more time spent well than sick. You’ll feel energized and invigorated, wanting to spend quality time with the ones you love the most.

I told you this was simple – it’s common sense. Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

  • » Create a plan. Tour your home and lawn to compile a thorough list of chores you want to complete.
  • » Schedule a spring cleaning time, preferably a weekend. Clear the calendar of other appointments.
  • » Involve the whole family: As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.”
  • » Gather all your cleaning supplies and tools ahead of time.
  • » Celebrate small successes with scheduled breaks. This is a great opportunity to regroup and reprioritize.
  • » Play your favorite music to liven up the atmosphere and keep the energy high.
  • » Designate a corner of the garage for giveaway and consignment items.
  • » Know your limitations. Get estimates on jobs that are best left to professionals, such as roof repairs, outside painting and tree trimming.


Below are a few green cleaning suggestions and recipes.

Front Door
I can hear my grandmother’s voice: “Wipe your feet.” Taking your shoes off at the front door was a common practice that has been abandoned. The most harmful toxic substances found in the environment are carried into our homes via our feet and shoes.

The best way to keep your floors a healthy place for the little ones crawling about is to put preventive measures in place: Position floor mats at every entrance, both inside and out. Near your busiest door, create a washing station, stocking it with a water hose and towels. On the coast, the washing station also serves as a great place to wash off the sand that continually makes its way into every corner of our homes.

Deodorize your carpets or rugs by sprinkling a little baking soda. Get out that broom that has been banished to the closet and get in the habit of using it again. A simple damp mopping with a half cup of vinegar to a gallon of water keeps your tile and vinyl floors clean.

Without a doubt, the most caustic chore is cleaning the oven. Rather than sucking in those harmful vapors, try this alternative. Mist the oven with water until damp. Sprinkle with baking soda, being careful to avoid the heating element, and let it stand overnight. The next morning, you should be able to wipe it clean. A steel wool pad will take care of any tough, baked-on spots.

What the kitchen counters need most is very eco-friendly – decluttering. Once you have all the canisters and “stuff” removed, mix a little baking soda and water, rub, rinse and the kitchen counters glisten. Use the same paste on the kitchen sink with a scouring pad.

In our humid coastal environment, it’s likely that at one time or another you will have mildew in the shower. Rather than using bleach, try spraying on this mixture: 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil and 2 cups of water.

When washing the windows, we are reminded of why we are going green: They are Mother Nature’s digital frames. You have probably used this tried and proven glass cleaner: 2 teaspoons of vinegar and 2 quarts of water, then wipe with newspaper.

Keeping the windows open is paramount to improving air quality. Turn on the ceiling fans and keep the air conditioner off as long as possible. You enjoy breathing the fresh air; let your house breathe as well.

Air Fresheners
Honeysuckle, gardenia, the crisp Gulf breeze … with the abundant supply of fresh coastal scents to enliven our homes, why do we even bother with aerosol sprays? Of course, nothing compares to the savory aroma of a home-cooked meal, like Grandma used to make.

Over time, wood becomes dull. Restore the original luster to your grandfather’s dresser with this homemade polish: 1 cup of olive oil and ½ half cup of lemon juice.
Did you wear your big sister’s or brother’s clothes? I did. Hand-me-downs are now appropriately termed “recycled clothes.” When clearing out the closets and chest of drawers, give to family members or a charity.

Being charitable avoids filling our landfills with perfectly good clothing that is simply a size too small.

Green Cleaners
If these kitchen substitutes just don’t “cut the mustard” when it comes to your cleaning standards, there is an ever-growing supply of green commercial cleaners available. Resist the temptation to order online and shop your local Emerald Coast merchants.

Organizational Tips
Even if we spot-shine our homes from top to bottom, it quickly collects dust and appears messy if overcrowded with things. Rearrange furniture, giving all your rooms a new decorative touch without spending a dime. And remember the decorator’s rule of thumb when it comes to accessorizing: Group in clusters of three. Put that unwanted furniture and knick-knacks in a consignment shop, earning some extra cash.

Outside the House
Raking the yard removes the dead grass and breaks up the hard ground, encouraging new grass growth. To keep your lawn and landscaping lush and green, consult your local conservation office for suggestions on natural fertilizers and other alternatives to pesticides. Water plants and the lawn during the early morning or evening hours to maximize water usage.

Now that your home is as good as new, reward your hard work and invite some friends over to enjoy it with you. Make a memory filled with the sights and sounds that are unique to an Emerald Coast springtime.

Raised on the Mississippi Gulf coast, Vandy Vela-Schneidt and her family owned and operated a cleaning business for 18 years. Today, she is proud to call Destin her home and to offer these tips for making the most of life on the coast.