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A few days ago, I got my first sign of spring—a red-winged blackbird calling from the hedgerow. Other than that, evidence that winter is over in these still-quite-frozen parts exists solely on calendars and in fevered imaginations. Still, spring will eventually show up. And with it the toughest challenges of the cleaning season.
Whether it's the archeological oven, with baked-on layers of dinners past forming a near-permanent record of every supper since your 10-year-old wore diapers, or the self-lathering shower, whose massive scum deposits contain enough soap to mint several hundred new bars, you know what I mean.
These housekeeping hotspots have always been natural cleaning's bugaboo. Sure, the thinking goes, baking soda and vinegar are fine for the simple stuff, but to slay the serious homemaking monsters, you gotta reach for the harsh chemical weapons. That's not true, and the proof is in these solutions for major messes like these:
- Clean mold and mildew stains with a simple solution of two cups of water and two teaspoons of tea tree oil. Combine in a spray bottle, shake well, spray, and wipe the surfaces down in a few hours.
- Musty odors respond well to vinegar or lemon juice. Mix one part water to one part vinegar. Spray the infected area with generous amount of vinegar and allow it to sit for a few hours. Go back over the area with some soapy water. This serves two functions, cleaning the area once again while also helping to dilute the vinegar smell. Similar to vinegar, lemon has a very high acidity. Take some natural lemon juice (no added sugars) and mix one part lemon juice to one part water and spray the infected area. Allow it to sit for a few hours and then clean the area once again with some soapy water.
- White vinegar is also an excellent remedy for cleaning soap scum. Warm some vinegar in the microwave and pour it into a spray bottle. Apply a good amount of this warm vinegar on the tough stains and wait for about half an hour. Then scrub the scum with brush and wash off with clean water.
- Self-cleaning ovens waste energy and can produce nasty smoke. Baking soda is better. Sprinkle it generously to cover the oven floor and spray with water until super damp. Keep it wet for a few hours then let sit overnight. Scoop out the soda and rinse in the morning. Voila!
- Get rid of rust stains with salt and vinegar and/or citrus juice. Sprinkle rust stains with salt and rub in white vinegar, lemon or lime juice, or some combination. Use the fruit itself as a scrubber if needed. Let this sit overnight then scrub rust away.
- Windows are tricky. Conventional glass cleaners leave behind waxy films that bedevil natural strategies. To remove this build-up, mix 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of dish liquid, and two cups of water. Spray, scrub, and squeegee the works. Then maintain windows with a 4:1 solution of water to white vinegar.
- Grease and grime, even aged varieties, respond well to straight vinegar. Let soak for a few minutes and wipe clean. For extra scrubbing power, add some baking soda. For the really scary stuff, slowly add dish liquid to 1/2 cup of washing soda until you have a thick paste. Apply with a sponge (except on fiberglass, which scratches) but wear gloves—baking soda is natural but caustic!
Combine these approaches with your usual Seventh Generation spring cleaning tricks for a spotless house that's not a Superfund site. Then get outside and enjoy some sunshine. You'll have earned it!
Photo: Blue Yonder