An incredible 92 percent of Americans are considering what they can do to make their spring cleaning practices friendlier to the environment and healthier for their families. As consumers become more aware of toxic, synthetic chemicals in conventional cleaning products—and just how much waste can go into cleaning a home—the demand for eco-friendly alternatives continues to grow.
Here are 20 smart spring cleaning tips to get you started on freshening up your home without unnecessary toxins.
1. Donate, Don’t Toss
It can be tempting to simply throw away old furniture, clothing, or toys that you don’t use anymore. However, most of these items can be donated or upcycled instead of ending up in a landfill. Contact local charities to see if they will pick up your items, drop off clothes and toys at Goodwill, or list furniture for free online. In many cases, donating these items is simpler than hauling them out to the curb.
2. Swap Conventional Products for Eco-Friendly Picks
Ditching conventional products with synthetic ingredients and fragrances can improve the air quality in your home and reduce risk of allergic reactions. Instead, choose concentrated, biodegradable, environmentally friendly products, which can reduce your water use and make the product last longer—and better clean your home. You can even make your own cleaning products out of vinegar, lemon, essential oils, and baking soda.
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3. Use Reusable Cloths and Rags
Disposable paper products such as cleaning wipes and paper towels account for 13 billion pounds of waste annually. Instead, invest in reusable cleaning cloths and dusting rags. You can even reuse old clothes, towels, or sheets as cleaning rags around the house to save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
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4. Improve Indoor Air Quality Naturally
While an air purifier can certainly improve your indoor air quality, you also can do your part to bring more oxygen and reduce toxins indoors by adding greenery. Plants such as snake plants are low-maintenance options, don’t need much light or water, and naturally introduce more oxygen into indoor spaces. You also can choose plants such as succulents (think aloe) or pothos, both of which are low-maintenance greenery that can improve air.
5. Repair Items Instead of Tossing Them
If you have a broken appliance, lamp, exercise equipment, or furniture, don’t immediately think of purchasing a new product. Instead, look into repairing options. Repairing items can be more cost-effective than replacement and prevents items that are still in good condition from ending up in landfills or in recycling centers.
6. Start a Composting Regimen
Composting is an excellent way to prevent food scraps from ending up in landfills, as food accounts for more than 63 million tons of waste each year. You don’t have to live on a farm or have a big yard to start composting. There are compost containers, such as the Utopia Kitchen Compost Bin (a favorite in our researched best compost bins guide), that allow you to start a small compost pile to use for helping indoor plants or your garden outside.
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7. Responsibly Dispose of Old Medications
Part of spring cleaning is clearing out your medicine cabinet and disposing of expired medications or those you no longer use. Whether it’s a prescription or over-the-counter medication, disposing of these items responsibly is essential to protect children, pets, and the environment. Check out this FDA guide to find ways to get rid of unused and outdated medications in your area safely.
8. Hang Laundry to Dry
Instead of using the dryer, hang the laundry you wash during your spring cleaning outside or inside to dry. Doing so can reduce your carbon footprint by 2,400 pounds every year, lengthen the lifespan of your dryer, and lower your energy bill. Install a clothesline; hang clothes, rugs, or towels over a balcony or deck; or purchase a drying rack to use inside for hanging laundry when the outside weather isn’t ideal.
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9. Sign Up for Electronic Communications
Recycle any paper you don’t need during your spring cleaning process, and anything that comes in the mail that you can get electronically—such as bank statements, credit card statements, and bills—sign up for through electronic communication. Visit the website of the company, log in to your account, and sign up for e-statements or e-bills. Doing so can reduce paper from being used in the first place, and reduce waste and sensitive information from lying around your home—a win-win spring cleaning tip.
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10. Repurpose Old Items for Cleaning
For items that are outdated, broken, or just need replacement, consider upcycling them around the house for your spring cleaning process. For example, old toothbrushes can scrub grout, old socks and T-shirts can be used to clean windows, and old sponges can be repurposed to tackle particularly grimy jobs before being thrown away.
11. Go Natural for Your Air Freshener
Conventional air freshener contains toxic chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which include synthetic fragrances that have been linked to allergies, asthma, and even cancer. Go natural for your air freshener for your spring cleaning. Open doors and windows to let in fresh air (remember indoor air typically contains more toxins than outside air), use an essential oil diffuser, boil lemon peels for a fresh clean scent, or boil old spices (such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves) for a warm and comfy scent.
12. Check Appliances and Plumbing
Spring cleaning is the perfect time of year to check the efficiency of your appliances and plumbing. Keep appliances efficient by cleaning and servicing them. Don’t run your dishwasher or washer unless they are full, fix leaky faucets, and install low-flow toilets or shower heads to reduce water consumption and lower your energy bills.
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13. Seal Drafty Doors and Windows
Drafty doors and windows can compromise your indoor energy efficiency and lead to more pests in your home. Sealing drafty and doors and windows (or replacing them if it’s that time) can reduce your energy consumption and keep your home more comfortable. Also, have a roofer check your attic insulation to be sure you aren’t losing or gaining more heat than necessary because your home lacks adequate insulation.
14. Properly Recycle Electronics
Many electronics can’t be put into home-collection recycling bins. However, many electronics manufacturers offer ways to recycle their products, and Best Buy stores offer in-store recycling for laptops, cell phones, and chargers. Properly recycling your electronics can reduce landfill waste and conserve resources. For example, for every million cell phones recycled, 35,000 pounds of copper can be salvaged.
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15. Use Baking Soda as a Carpet Deodorizer
Baking soda is a natural deodorizer, and you can combine a jar of baking soda with a few drops of your favorite essential oils to create a natural carpet and rug deodorizer with a lasting scent. Unlike conventional carpet deodorizers, using baking soda and essential oils allows you to avoid synthetic fragrances and protect children and pets, who are often on the floor. Simply sprinkle the homemade deodorizer, let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, and vacuum.
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16. Skip Vacuuming and Mopping When Possible
Although vacuuming and mopping are, of course, part of any spring cleaning checklist, they aren’t strictly necessary in every room or quite as often as you think. Instead, try sweeping where you can. Daily sweeping can keep dirt and debris under control in frequently used areas such as kitchens and mudrooms, and sweeping garages and driveways doubles as a calorie-burning chore.
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17. Use Olive Oil as a Furniture Polish
Instead of purchasing conventional furniture polishes—many of which contain toxic ingredients—use just a bit of olive oil on a clean rag as a furniture polish. For a fresh, clean scent, you can add a couple drops of lemon essential oil. You won’t need to purchase a separate bottle for a furniture polish spray and you can use items you have in your kitchen or pantry for a more eco-friendly clean.
18. Switch to Biodegradable Trash Bags
Yes, you have to contain and dispose of household trash somehow, but plastic trash bags end up in landfills and contribute to plastic waste worldwide. Instead, switch to biodegradable trash bags, like our choice in this guide to the best trash bags. Most biodegradable bags are made from non-genetically modified (non-GMO) corn and naturally decompose in the environment. As do plastic trash bags, the biodegradable equivalents come in a variety of sizes to meet your specific needs.
19. Swap Your Sponges
Many conventional sponges you can buy at the supermarket are made with plastic, especially the scrubber part of a soft sponge. As the sponge breaks down, plastic can end up in drain water. Instead, try eco-friendly sponges, which use natural fibers such as cellulose or bamboo fibers to help get dishes and countertops clean. Our guide to the best dish sponges offers conventional and eco-friendly options.
20. Time for New Linens? Go Organic
Part of many people’s spring cleaning checklist is replacing linens that have been worn, stained, or ripped. When it’s time to replace dishcloths, towels, and sheets, go organic, and start with this guide to the best organic sheets. Cotton, the primary material used in many linens, uses more pesticides than any other crop. Those with sheets that are blended with polyester may not know that it is a synthetic fiber made from fossil fuels. Look for organic cotton, linen, flax, or hemp fabrics to outfit a more environmentally friendly home.