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5 Simple Ways To Go Green When You Clean

Deanna Caswell
November 15, 2010
Cleaning green can seem really complicated and expensive, but it’s not. Going green, when done correctly, should simplify our lives and reduce our expenditures.
Going green “correctly” can seem like a laundry list of specific behaviors, but it’s not. Going green is a value, not a list. Each person may have a different expression of that value.
It’s similar to valuing education. Though parents want to make sure their children are educated, they go about expressing that value differently. Some choose public school, some choose private school, some choose home school, private tutors—the choices are as nuanced as the families choosing them. Same for going green.
So in light of that flexibility, let me tell you five ways to go green in your housecleaning.
Daily swipe and wipe. You can almost eliminate your need for high-powered bathroom cleaners with a daily swipe. When you’re getting ready in the morning, swish the toilet with the brush. While you’re in the shower, wipe down the stall. While you’re brushing your teeth, wipe out the sink. After dinner, wipe the counters and table, and scoot a damp towel around the kitchen floor. If this becomes a daily habit, spray cleaning will become a ceremonial experience and not a necessity. Most high-powered cleaners are for buildup. If it never builds up, you’ll never pass the point where a shot of vinegar can’t freshen up the whole room.
Keep harsh cleaners to a minimum. If you can’t maintain the daily swipe and wipe, do your weekly cleaning with a spray bottle of half vinegar and half water. Scour with baking soda. Reserve that high- powered stuff for rare occasions, like when the kids have drawn on the counters with markers. It may cost a little more elbow grease, but it will save you money and spare everyone’s lungs.
Go phosphate-free. Making your own detergents is fun and economical; however, if you’re a forget-the-laundry-in-the-washer-overnight person like me, those preservatives in conventional laundry detergent come in really handy. I waste three times the water and homemade detergent just trying to get rid of that musty smell on wet, neglected towels.
But these days, plenty of detergents are phosphate free. Their production isn’t as green as the make-your-own variety, but they are an improvement over conventional detergents and cleaners.
Paperless kitchen. Rags work better, last longer and don’t have to be bought every week. In my home, one parent (me) is paperless, while the other (hubby) isn’t. When he cooks, he pulls out the secret stash of paper towels, and at our dinner table he distributes paper napkins. I don’t nag him about it. It’s his choice.
But when it’s just me, there’s no paper.
Compost your paper products. If you choose to continue to use paper products in your kitchen, one way to go green is to compost them when you’re finished. Paper with food grease on it is nonrecyclable, but it’s 100 percent compostable. There’s no reason to pack the landfill with trash that can replace your fertilizer costs in the spring.
Truly green living should be simple, economical, and flexible. Use rags, wipe down the kitchen and bathroom frequently, spray diluted vinegar—it’s all much cheaper than high-powered cleaners and an endless supply of paper towels, mop covers, and dusters. But, most important, pick and choose what fits your family, and don’t stress about the rest.
Deanna Caswell is a local writer who blogs at Her first book, “First Ballet,” was released this year by Hyperion. Caswell and her husband, Jeff, live in Collierville. She practices eco-friendly living while raising their three children, along with pygmy goats and chickens.

More green

Check out Going Green—the weekly digital environmental edition of The Commercial Appeal—at goinggreen.commercial
Upon registration, home delivery subscribers to The Commercial Appeal receive access to the digital product at no additional cost. Nonsubscribers can obtain access at a cost of $10 per month.
We’ve also posted the current and previous editions of Going Green at Search Going Green Memphis for any Sunday date from Aug. 8 until today.
Originally published by Deanna Caswell.
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