Go back to basics for spring cleaning

Making Ends Meet

Making Ends Meet


I do not spring clean the way my mom did.

I remember the cool, sunny days when she would throw open the windows, shove the furniture aside and take down the drapes. She'd snap on her bright yellow gloves, grab a rag, and have a go at the ceiling, walls and floors with Spic-n-Span.

She went room to room, day after day, in a ritual passed down from her mother.

I've had the urge to clean with such fervor less than a handful of times in my life. Each time it happened, I was nearly ready to give birth and chalked it up to the nesting phenomenon.

I'm more of the "Let's just keep it 'cleaned up' on a regular basis and if it starts looking dingy, paint it" crowd.


Just as my cleaning philosophy strays from convention, so does my bucket of cleaning products. Glance under the kitchen sink in an average American household, and you'll likely find an army of chemical cleaners. Among them might be an abrasive scrub named for a solar body or a liquid cleaner with the visage of an earring-clad, bWeby, bald man.

In my home, you'll find few such brand name concoctions. If the product contains an exhaustive list of substances I haven't heard pronounced out loud since high school chemistry class, I probably don't need it. And I see no sense in paying for it.

Most everything I use to clean to my heart's content can be found in my pantry and costs a few bucks or less. Chief among my favorite cleaners are white vinegar and baking soda. I pick them up at area stores for about $3 per gallon and 75 cents per pound respectively.

Baking soda does double duty. An open box absorbs odors in the refrigerator and cupboards. Change it out, and the same box cleans the stovetop, dishes, faucets and floors.

Undiluted vinegar kills germs in bathrooms and on doorknobs. Dispensed from a dollar-store spray bottle, vinegar removes all sorts of grime, from fireplace soot to hard water deposits. Mixed with baking soda and ammonia, it cleans walls and woodwork like the best of commercial products.

For cleaning windows, water does the trick. But for the most satisfying clean, I like to douse windows with vinegar and wipe them dry with yesterday's newspaper. Why waste pricey paper towels when the newspaper leaves glass lint-free and coats it with a dirt resistant film?

Heavy, smelly, "air freshening" products kick up my son's allergies. For a fresh scent, I put out a bouquet of flowers, brew a pungent pot of coffee, or run lemon and orange rinds through the garbage disposal with a dose of hot water.

For most every cleaning need, there is a common household item to get the job done. A back-to-basics approach will prevent harsh chemical exposure and save a pile of pennies.

For more ideas, look at the library for books on natural cleaning products or search for suggestions online. For example, check out Natural Healthy Home Cleaning Tips (at

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her e-mail address is

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