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Do Your Part: Try these 7 green cleaning secrets

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Spring is here and that means it’s time for a good cleaning.

Instead of bringing in chemical cleaners to do the dirty work, opt for a deep, green clean. Using safer cleaning products helps create a healthier home and a healthier family.

Here are seven green cleaning secrets to help you do your part for your environment during the annual spring tidying ritual.

1. White vinegar works wonders. White vinegar is a natural disinfectant that works just about everywhere. Mix a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water for a germ-busting disinfectant to clean kitchen counters, bathrooms and most floors. You can bring this mixture to a boil in the microwave to loosen stuck-on food and grease. And 1 cup of vinegar in the dishwasher will clean its inner workings. One warning: Don’t use vinegar on marble or other porous surfaces.

2. Baking soda solutions. Baking soda works well on most things in the kitchen because it doesn’t scratch. That makes it a good choice for countertops, oven tops, stainless steel and the sink. If you have stubborn stains, use a baking soda paste of three parts baking soda and one part water. Let it sit for a while, scrub the area, and then wipe clean.

3. Tackle bathrooms with borax. Borax is an effective mold killer and works well on hard-water deposits. Use a paste to scrub the sides of the tub to a sparkling white, or mix a solution of 1 cup borax with 1 gallon of hot water to eat away at mold in tile grout. A cup of borax left in the toilet bowl overnight leaves it fresh and clean.

4. Choose air fresheners that don’t pollute. Many popular air fresheners contain a host of man-made chemicals that can contribute to indoor air pollution and the manufacturers aren’t required to list the ingredients on the label. These “air fresheners” can actually leave dangerous levels of hormone-disrupting phthalates or formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) behind. Fresh air, baking soda (sprinkled in everything from garbage cans to tennis shoes), soy candles or essential oils are healthier options.

5. Green your laundry routine. Green up laundry day by switching to a phosphate-free plant-based detergent. For softer clothes add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle as a natural fabric softener (use less for HE machines). The smell of vinegar disappears as the clothes dry.

6. Break the paper-towel habit. You can wean your family off paper towels by keeping a drawer of reusable cloths nearby. Whether you choose kitchen towels, washcloths, or cut up old T-shirts, the key is in quantity. Make sure you have plenty of options on hand for wiping down the counters or cleaning up an unexpected coffee spill.

7. Safely dispose of household hazardous waste. Household hazardous waste refers to items such as old paints, chemical cleaners, used motor oil and more. These items should never be thrown in the trash where they can contaminate our air, land and water. Locate a full-service recycling facility in your area by using the search engine at Earth911.com.

When you spring clean this year, there’s no need to pollute your home or the planet. Instead, find nontoxic solutions to tackle every project on your list. You can find a complete list of green cleaning recipes at DoYourPart .com/Columns along with a list of must-have items for every green cleaning kit.

-Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, eco-expert and author of “Do Your Part: A Practical Guide for Everyday Green Living.” Buy the book and read more tips at DoYourPart.com.

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A cheaper clean

The AARP views the annual spring cleaning ritual as a way to not only save, but also to make extra money. The organization’s ideas about how to do that are below. Or check out its website (aarp.org) for articles about this and other budget-minded topics.

Vacuum your refrigerator’s coils. Keeping the coils clean increases energy efficiency, saving you about 6 percent of your fridge’s electric bill, according to a recent study.

Clean or replace the AC filter. An air conditioner with a dirty filter can suck up 5 percent to 15 percent more electricity than it would with a clean one. Filters on most models are easy to swap out β€” simply slide out the old one and insert the new one.

Clean your vacuum. Even your household’s most valuable cleaning appliance β€” your vacuum β€” occasionally needs some TLC (“tender loving cleaning”). Once a year, wipe down the canister inside and out with a damp rag; use an old brush or comb to remove string and other debris stuck in the rollers and check the belts for wear and tear.

Don’t buy unnecessary supplies. Before you spend a bundle on cleaners, look in your cupboards. Not only are these homemade cleaners inexpensive, they’re easier on the environment.

Cash in on clutter. Have a yard sale, or donate unwanted items to charity.

-Elana Ashanti Jefferson

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