Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • May 2017
Written by 

A natural guide to spring cleaning

The sun is starting to shine more brightly and stay around just a bit longer every day. The breeze has started to feel a bit warmer and more welcoming. The vernal equinox has come and gone — it’s officially spring! With spring often comes that desire to throw open windows, invite fresh aromas and a feeling of newness into our homes. The spring cleaning bug begins to strike!

Rather than rushing out to your local big box store to pick up a cadre of chemical-laden cleaning products, why not whip up some of your own natural, chemical-free yet highly effective cleaning supplies? Make enough to keep them on hand for you to have as spring becomes summer too.

White vinegar can be used as a safer bleach alternative for some applications, like cleaning. It is also biodegradable. However, vinegar is not a registered disinfectant and it does not kill some dangerous bacteria, such as staphylococcus. It does work really well for certain things, such as degreasing the range hood in the kitchen, cleaning mold and mildew in the bathroom, cleaning and descaling the coffee maker, and replacing the rinse aid in your dishwasher. A recent study showed the following, “vinegar was more effective in reducing microbial contamination than the other alternative cleaners but was least effective in removing soil.” Thus, it may be best to use vinegar as a rinse to help to disinfect a surface after you have cleaned it with a soap-based cleaner. Hydrogen peroxide has antimicrobial ingredients and can also be an effective household cleaner.

Herbs can provide effective cleaning properties — they aren’t just good in teas!

Here’s a simple, effective and nice smelling basic scrub to clean sinks and bathtubs:

Sink/Tub Herbal Scrub

½ cup baking soda

½ cup dried sage leaves, coarsely ground

½ cup ground rosemary leaves

Mix together and store in an airtight glass jar. Shake well to blend, sprinkle on surface of sink or tub, scrub with a damp sponge.

Essential oils often have great cleaning properties that include being antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral. A word of caution: use essential oils sparingly if you have children <2 years of age and/or four-legged friends in your home — infants, along with cats and dogs, are especially sensitive to some essential oils and they absorb them quite easily through their skin. Remember that essential oils have chemical properties that require the liver or kidney to metabolize, which is hard on babies. Also, if you have older pets, their organs may find it more difficult to get rid of essential oils from their circulation. You can use lemon juice in place of essential oils, or even in addition to them. Lemon juice is less concentrated than essential oil but has similar properties.

Herbal Degreaser

2 cups water

¼ cup Murphy’s Oil Soap

10 drops lavender, rosemary or any citrus essential oil or ¼ cup lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before use. Spray generously on appliance surface and wipe with damp cloth or sponge. Wipe dry with a cloth or towel.

Homemade Deep Cleaning Soft Scrub

1 part castile soap

1 part cream of tartar

Spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide

Mix together castile soap and cream of tartar in a small bowl until a paste forms. Scoop out the paste with a sponge, rag or your hand. Rub over the surface you’re cleaning. Spray the surface down with hydrogen peroxide and then let sit for a few minutes. Scrub to clean and rinse surface off with water.

Citrus Floor Cleaner

1 gallon hot water

2 tablespoons liquid castile soap

15 drops sweet orange essential oil

8 drops lemon essential oil or ¼ cup lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in large bucket. Dip a mop into bucket, squeeze out excess liquid. Clean floor by working in sections, using short strokes and dipping mop as needed. No rinsing needed.

Double Nut Wood Polish

¼ cup almond oil

1/8 cup walnut oil

4 drops lemon essential oil

Combine all ingredients, apply a light layer of polish to wood with brush or cloth. Rub into wood with a soft cloth using a circular motion. Wipe again with a dry cloth.

All-purpose Stain Spray

¼ castile soap

¼ cup vegetable glycerine

2 tablespoons Borax

10 drops peppermint or tea tree essential oil

1¾ cups water

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray generously onto stain, launder as usual.

Enjoy experimenting with fresh scents and natural cleaning products. Happy spring!

T. Heather Herdman, RN, PhD

T. Heather Herdman, RN, PhD is co-owner of Sweet Willow Naturals in Green Bay, where we have over 140 organic herbs and 70 organic spices available for you to craft your own products, or to simply enjoy as tea. Our store focuses on education and we have many classes to help you learn about herbs, aromatherapy, nutrition, and self-care – focusing on safe information backed up by research and experience. We also offer wellness coaching and massage – stop in today! For more information, visit or email [email protected]

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