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Freshen up your apartment with these eco-friendly tips for green spring cleaning.

3 Eco-Friendly Tips for Green Spring Cleaning

BY JENNY ADAMS
It’s time to open the windows, air out those stale rooms closed up for winter, switch out your wardrobe, and give everything a good wipe down. In other words, it’s time for spring cleaning. 
If you haven’t already, it’s also time to start making conscious choices about the products you use to ensure you clean your space without leaving harmful chemicals behind. If the idea of swapping out your cleaning supplies feels daunting or expensive — and given how many high-priced products market themselves as “green” these days, that’s completely understandable — you’re not alone. 
But going green can be easy and affordable if you start small, stay focused, and find out what works best for your specific household, says Kara Armstrong, founder of
The Conscious Merchant
, a Denver-based purveyor of eco-focused home products. Armstrong, who has a master’s degree in public health, pointed us to products and methods that will help you clean well and clean cleanly.
Think of this as your green checklist for spring cleaning and eco-friendly cleaning products.

1. DECIDE WHAT ECO-FRIENDLY CLEANING PRODUCTS TO TRY FIRST

“I don’t think you should do a full overhaul of your cleaning products,” Armstrong says. “That’s expensive, and you may not even end up needing all of the things you purchase. I recommend that people start by looking at what they use every day to clean. Then, consider the question, ‘could this be better?’” Once you’ve identified the things you reach for first, look for one or two specific cleaning items that are running low or that you’re not in love with. If you get that meh feeling about the brand, then it’s an excellent opportunity to find something that’s better for the planet. This can mean an eco-friendly cleaning product that doesn’t contain harmful chemicals, that comes with packaging that’s either minimal, compostable, recyclable (or none at all) — or, better yet, both! 
With these couple of products or needs in mind (remember, a single cleaning product can serve a wide range of uses), find a shop where you can sample or buy small amounts of products to test them out and see if you like them before investing in more.
“I think it’s important to let people feel and touch a product,” Armstrong says. “That’s always been our idea for those living here in Denver, to see if you like something, without first committing to it. If you buy a product and never use it, that’s not green. It’s the opposite.” 
If you have a zero-waste store near you, stop in and see what’s on hand in its bulk section — you can often find everything from shampoo and conditioner to dish soap and laundry detergent. Purchase a small amount to test it out. If you don’t have any store options nearby, there are also several online brands like
Blueland
or
Grove Co.
, that offer reusable glass dispensers and spray bottles paired with refillable cleaning products that come with little packaging to decrease waste. 
You can also try making your own cleaning products.  

2. MAKE YOUR OWN GREEN, SUSTAINABLE CLEANING SUPPLIES 

Just lemon, salt, and water can go a long way as eco-friendly cleaning products.
With a little time and expert insight, you can easily make useful eco-friendly cleaning products from common household and food items you likely already have. For example, did you know that you can clean high-touch brass surfaces like doorknobs and pantry handles with
lemons and salt
“To clean non-lacquered cabinet pulls, tiles, bathroom fixtures, and more,” Armstrong says, “dampen a sponge with lemon juice (or white vinegar), then sprinkle on salt. Lightly rub over the surface. Rinse thoroughly with water, then immediately dry with a clean soft cloth.” (The vinegar can corrode some surfaces after a while, so don’t forget to rinse and wipe off!) You can also sprinkle some coarse salt on the cut part of half a lemon and use the lemon itself as a scrubber. 
Baking soda is also your friend when it comes to fighting off scum and smells. From unclogging a drain to soaking up odors in your fridge, polishing silver or stainless steel to cleaning a toilet bowl,
baking soda can be used to clean a variety of things
around your home.  
Another simple swap using some of nature’s natural germ fighters is a DIY all-purpose cleaner for counters, handles, floors, and more, like Armstrong’s recipe below.

All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe

Ingredients
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water (distilled recommended)
  • A lemon rind or 15-20 drops essential oil (Armstrong recommends tea tree, orange, or a four thieves blend, which often includes clove, cinnamon, lemon, rosemary, and eucalyptus)
Directions
  1. Combine all ingredients into a spray bottle and shake.
  2. If using a lemon rind, let it sit in the solution overnight before use.
  3. Shake well before using and then spray on surfaces to clean.
Whip up a batch of this cleaner, and you’ll be good to go on most surfaces (Bon Appetit shares
18 surfaces vinegar cleans here
).

3. CHECK THE BACK LABELS

Finally, be aware of what you are using on yourself and how it could be affecting you. From laundry detergent to hand lotions, we often lather up with chemicals that are not only bad for the planet but also aren’t all that good for our hormones and our skin.
“My top recommendation is to always avoid synthetic fragrances,” Armstrong says. She advises flipping the bottle over and reading the ingredient list. If you see ingredients with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), methylisothiazolinone, or anything with “paraben” at the end, there are healthier solutions out there. SLS is often used to make products bubble and foam, like dish soap, and may include 1,4 Dioxane (a possible carcinogen) depending on the manufacturing process. Methylisothiazolinone is found in a lot of common household cleaners, paints, and glues, and is an allergen that can cause skin irritation. Parabens, meanwhile, are a group of preservatives that have also been linked to skin irritation and
potentially cause hormone disruption
.
While these ingredients may help make powerful, long-lasting cleaning products, they’re not necessary when we have other ways of cleaning more, well, cleanly. 
It’s also important to remember that these types of chemicals can cause damage even when we’re done with them. It’s important to dispose of any remaining products or containers properly (another reason why you should read the labels — they’ll tell you how to store, use, and throw away the products). This often means not dumping anything down the drain or toilet, or pouring out into the ground as chemicals can then leach into the environment and groundwater. 

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