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12 Tips for Health-Friendly Spring Cleaning

You many not realize it, but your house is hazardous to your health. Insect droppings, dust mites, bacteria-laden sponges, spoiled food – all contribute to a plethora of health problems ranging from allergies and asthma to gastrointestinal upsets. Plus, many cleaning products contain volatile organic compounds (VOLs), which pose a number of health risks. There is a solution. Here’s what the leading green cleaners recommend.

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1. Clean in an Organized Manner

There’s no point in mopping the floor only to dust the ceiling fan next and deposit a grey film over everything again. To clean well – and that means to clean healthily – you need to clean efficiently, avoiding going back and forth around a room. Instead, work using a systematic approach. Think in terms of left to right, top to bottom. Begin with ceilings and walls, and work your way down to windows and furniture, finishing with the floors.

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2. Clean Things You’d Never Think to Clean

For instance, your mattress is a magnet for allergy-causing dust mites. Washing the mattress cover in very hot water (60 degrees C or more) every month, and wiping down the top of the mattress with hot water, can go a long way towards reducing morning stiffness. Other ignored areas include indoor rubbish bins, shower curtains, automatic dishwashers, the fireplace and HVC filters.

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3. Dust With Old Wool Clothing

Wool creates static when rubbed on a surface. One wipe can keep your furniture dust-free without polish or spray.

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4. Polish Silver With Toothpaste

Some silver polishes contain petroleum distillates, ammonia or other hazardous ingredients. Instead, dab on toothpaste with your fingers or rub it on with a cloth. Rinse with warm water and polish with a soft cloth. For larger trays and bowls, use a paste made of bicarbonate soda mixed with water on a wet sponge.

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5. Clean Your Drains the Non-Toxic Way

Chemical drain cleaners are extremely corrosive and dangerous, containing such toxic ingredients as lye or sulphuric acid. Even the vapours are harmful. Instead pour a pot of boiling water or toss a handful of bicarbonate followed by 125mL of vinegar down the drain weekly. Also effective, particularly in preventing blockages, are many brands of enzymatic cleaners found in pet shops.

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6. Clean Your Windows the Easy Way

Try this homemade solution: add 80mL of distilled white vinegar and a spoonful of dishwater detergent to 1 litre of water and try these tips:

• Use a sponge wand to soak the window in suds rather than a spray bottle. Wet the windows thoroughly and let the solution do its work for about 5 minutes.
• Avoid cleaning your windows in bright sunlight. The sun dries the solution too quickly, which can cause streaks.
• Use a black rubber squeegee to dry the window. Make sure every iota of water comes off, or you’re leaving dirt on the window.
• For serious dirt, try an oversized razor blade and wet it with soapy water.

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7. Sanitize Your Toilet Bowl Safely

To clean the toilet safely, turn to your vinegar. Fill a spray bottle with straight white vinegar. Pour a capful of white vinegar into the toilet, then spray the sides of the bowl. Also, sprinkle sodium bicarbonate in the toilet, wait 15 minutes and scrub with a bit of bicarb sprinkled on the brush. Once a month, pour 250mL of vinegar into the toilet and leave it overnight. The vinegar dissolves any alkali build-up and prevent hard-water rings in the toilet.

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8. Clean Your Kitchen Floor the Easy Way

Don’t try to disinfect it. Unless you disinfect your feet, there’s no point. Instead, use these homemade cleaners:

• Hardwood and laminated floors: add 60mL of white vinegar per litre of water. Use only 100 percent cotton terry towels on hardwood floors and don’t use self-wringing or microfibre mops. Microfibre is made from 80 to 85 percent polyester, which is plastic. Plastic scratches and will eventually scratch the sealant off the floor.
• Marble, tile and granite: just use very hot water. Cleaners of any kind will pit these.
• Linoleum floors: use hot water with just a bit of liquid soap if needed.

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9. Disinfect Your Chopping Board

Research shows that there is 200 times more faecal bacteria on the average chopping board in the home than on the toilet seat. To get it clean, run it through the dishwasher or spray it with straight 5percent vinegar and let it set overnight. Alternatively, microwave on high for 30 seconds or swab it with alcohol.

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10. Clean Your Washing Machine and Dryer

When researchers washed sterile cloths in non-bleach laundry detergent, they found that 40 percent emerged contaminated with E.coli bacteria – with enough extra to contaminate the next load. Try adding 250mL of hydrogen peroxide to your load instead of bleach.

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11. Microwave Kitchen Sponges 30 Seconds a Day

Household sponges may contain 320 million opportunistic bacterial pathogens, enough of which could be transferred from the sponge to your eyes or mouth to make you sick.

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12. Clean Tough Dirt Without Chemicals

Keeping a box of borax around for extra-tough cleaning jobs is a good start. Borax is a natural product made of sodium, boron, oxygen and water and it’s unbeatable for tough cleaning jobs, as a bleach substitute.