Greener Springtime Cleaners

While having to clean this season may be irritating, your cleaner doesn’t have to be. Metal cleaners, glass cleaners, and wax removal products often times contain ammonia, which can severely irritate the lungs, eyes, and skin. Ammonia, a naturally occurring substance, is also manmade for a wide variety of products. At high concentrations ammonia is a corrosive hazard and can burn the skin and eyes. People with asthma or other sensitivities are more easily irritated by ammonia.

Instead, use solutions of citrus or vinegar to cut the grease and grime on grills, patio furniture, windows and screens.

Degrease: Citrus oil is a natural and nontoxic degreaser—good for tough cleaning jobs, such as dissolving remnants of last summer’s luau still layered on the grill or dried up on the lawn chairs. Try Ecover, Earth Friendly, or Seventh Generation brands for effective citrus cleaners that don’t have harmful chemicals. Or make your own:

  • Citrus spray: Fill a wide mouth jar with citrus peels. Cover with white vinegar. Let steep 2-3 weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain. Dilute 50% with water (Use undiluted for tougher jobs). Pour into spray bottle.
  • Citrus scrub: Mix to paste: ¼ cup baking soda, 3 Tablespoons liquid castile soap, 1 Tablespoon water, 20-30 drops orange oil. Use a stiff-bristled brush or wire scrubby for hard grease removal.

Remove rust from outdoor furniture, grills or other metal. Here’s a tip from Karen Logan, author of Clean House, Clean Planet: “Sprinkle a little bit of salt on the rust,squeeze a lime over the salt until it is nicely soaked in lime juice. Leave the mixture on for two or three hours. Use the leftover rind as a handy scrubber. Rust is gone.” And the unused portions will make a zingy marinade!

Home-made and store-bought solutions for cleaning screens often contain ammonia. But, soapy water, some simple supplies, and a warm afternoon are all you need.

  1. Clear the ground of any stones to prevent stretching or piercing the screen. Lay down old towels or a drop cloth.
  2. Remove screens and lay flat on cloth.
  3. Spray soapy water (add some white vinegar for extra punch) on front and back of screens.
  4. After spraying the last screen go back to scrub the first. This gives the cleaner time to dissolve the dirt. Gently scrub both sides with a soft brush. An old toothbrush is handy for cleaning corners.
  5. Hold the screen upright and rinse with the hose.
  6. Gently shake the water from the screen and let air-dry.

Now is a good time to wash the windows and frames.

A solution of 50% vinegar and 50% water in a spray bottle is hands down the most popular and most effective homemade remedy for window and glass cleaning. Indeed, it is the only one that Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Home Safe Home recommends. Ms. Dadd ensures the solution’s effectiveness with some simple tricks.

  • Wipe it off with an old terry-cloth towel or crumpled newspaper.
  • Terrible streaks indicate the surface may have wax build up left over from your previous chemical glass cleaner. Remove the waxy layer with rubbing alcohol.
  • Seek shade: Avoid washing windows when the sun is shining directly on them; the cleaner will dry too fast and streak.
  • Change directions: Wash one side of a window with up-and-down strokes, the other with side-to-side strokes.  This way you will know which one may need extra polishing.
  • Foggy windows: Wash windows with plain soap rubbed onto a soft, damp cloth. Rinse and dry. The soap leaves a transparent film causing the water molecules to bead up instead of sticking to the glass as a mist.

More Home Cleaning Recipes

1. Karen Logan, Clean House, Clean Planet. Pocket Books, 1997.
2. Christina VanGinkel, “How to Clean Window Screens the Easy Way”, Pagewise, 2002.
3. Debra Lynn Dadd, Home Safe Home. Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1997.

-Melissa Cooper Sargent
March 2012

Printable pdf: Greener Springtime Cleaners

Published on March 26, 2012