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House Beautiful

Tips for cleaning with natural household cleaners

With Earth Day fast approaching, we’re all a little self-conscious about our carbon footprints this week. One easy step toward greening our lives, of course, is switching to eco-friendly household cleaners. But once you’ve ditched the petroleum-based for the plant-derived and the solvents for the vinegar, how do you actually get things clean?

The truth is, you have to put a little more muscle into the job. You can’t just point and spray, and expect the plant-based cleaners to eliminate the germs and grime the same way conventional cleaners do. We were lucky enough to have an in-home Green Housekeeping 101 session with Seventh Generation’s green cleaning guru Ivette Melendez, who shared the following tips and tricks:

Oven grime: Liberally wet the inside of your oven door with a natural all-purpose cleaner. Use a single-edge razor blade to scrape up baked-on build-up. Move the razor blade carefully in one direction (not back and forth).

Crevice gook: Reach the nooks and crannies of appliances, shower frames, and fridge seals with a flathead screwdriver or small putty knife; cover the tip with a cloth, spray with a natural all-purpose cleaner, and slide in one direction to clean hard-to-reach areas.

Rust stains: Apply a paste of water and baking soda to a dry rusty spot. Rub in small circles with a wet pumice stone. Repeat if necessary.

Gum, stickers, and pricetags: Lift adhesives off of glass surfaces by thoroughly wetting the area and, with even strokes, carefully scrape in one direction with a razor blade.

Shower soap scum: Create an abrasive scrub of baking soda and water and apply to shower tiles with a damp scouring sponge.

“Remember,” says Melendez, “the three great myths of cleaning:

Myth #1: Clean Smells Good.
The Truth: Clean has no scent. If you smell something super-fresh when the work is done, it’s most likely artificial fragrances or volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Myth #2: Clean is Shiny.
The Truth: Clean means clean and nothing more. That blinding shine is often the result of synthetic chemicals in conventional cleaning products.

Myth #3: If a Product Doesn’t Make Suds, It’s Not Working
The Truth: Suds have little to do with cleaning power and everything to do with the synthetic sudsing additives many formulas use just to make us think they’re working harder.”