Branch’s Non-Toxic Spring Cleaning Guide
It’s early spring here in Georgia! The daffodils and pansies are blooming and more flowers will be soon! Lovely isn’t it!
Except, spring also means it will be ‘pollen season’ here soon. Are you ready? For most people pollen season means the annoyance of a yellow car, house, sidewalk, clothing, and park benches. (Yuck! My pants are yellow!) For allergy sufferers, ‘pollen season’ can be a nightmare of headaches, sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes. Fear not! Your home can be a refuge when pollen season arrives!
Come learn how to use our non-toxic cleaning solutions, cleaning routine, and make your home an oasis of clean for your family, your friends, and yourself this spring!
Keeping it Clean – What and When
Your home is your sanctuary, your oasis, your retreat. A clean home feels inviting to friends, family, and of course to you! How can you keep your home clean, but not feel like you spend too much time cleaning? What chores are only done occasionally? Will you remember to do all those little but important cleaning chores? Of course you can, and you will! You can use our cleaning guide to help!
Daily and Weekly
Once a week cleaning is great, but it’s easier when you schedule things to do each day of the week instead of all at once. There are hundreds if not thousands of websites dedicated to cleaning your home and cleaning routines. There are even Apps now to keep track of chores completed! You can choose a routine or app from our favorites in the ‘For More Information’ section at the bottom of this post.
To be sure you know just what areas can be a problem for mold, pollen, and other indoor air pollutants, here are our daily and weekly tips.
Beds and Bedrooms
- Weekly (or more often if you have allergies) wash mattress pads, sheets, and pillows in hot water (if possible) to remove dust and dust mites. If your washing machine has an ‘allergen’ cycle, use it! Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s washing instructions. Wash curtains and vacuum drapes and blinds. Vacuum floors, furniture, and behind beds. Vacuuming with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is best. Using HEPA filter a on your vacuum helps remove particles smaller than 0.3 microns or larger (the size of most allergens) and helps keep the air clean.
- Dust builds up everywhere, but especially long uncleaned places such as the tops of cabinets, refrigerators, ceiling fans, window frames, walls, air conditioner grills and vents, light fixtures, and ceilings, especially popcorn ceilings. A long pole duster helps reach high places, but a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter is best when dusting. The filter keeps the dust particles from returning to the air.
- Toss any old food or expired items each week in the pantry and the fridge. Clean appliances such as the coffee pot, toaster, microwave, etc. Clean the microwave by adding a damp to wet rag to the microwave and heating it for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Let the steam loosen all the stuck on food for a few minutes. Then, wearing gloves, wipe down the microwave with the hot, damp rag. Wash the turntable plate with soap and hot water.
Carpets and Rugs
- Carpets and rugs are havens for dust, dirt, and dust mites.
- Dust and dirt come into your house on your feet and shoes. An easy way to reduce dust and dirt is simply to ban shoes in your home. Have a location near the door for shoes, bags, hats, and coats that are only used outside the home. Be sure to have room for guests shoes as well. Imagine how much more relaxed visitors will be when they know they can kick off their shoes!
- Vacuuming carpets often is important, especially for those with allergies, but at least once a year, steam or deep clean carpets. This can be a DIY project. You can rent steam cleaners, and make your own cleaning solutions. For more information go to: How To Deep Green Clean Your Carpets – Apartment Therapy
- One of the best ways to reduce dust, dust mites, and dirt in your home is to get rid of carpets and replace them with solid surface flooring. What should you choose if you are ready to ditch your carpets? There are many, many options for hard surface flooring. How do you choose the best flooring for you?
- For some really wild, cheap, recyclable flooring options, check out Just Floored! 15 Totally Unexpected DIY Flooring Alternatives on Bob Vila’s website.
- For more traditional flooring options and how they measure up, check out Pros and Cons of 5 Popular Bedroom Flooring Materials on The Spruce.
- Clean showers, tubs, sinks, and floors. Wash mats, and dust or replace decorative items. Be sure to ventilate the room routinely to prevent mold growth. For more information about cleaning moldy surfaces to our A Simple Guide To Cleaning Mold and check out our How To Prevent Bathroom Mold post.
Laundry Rooms, Mud Rooms, and Appliances
- Laundry rooms and mudrooms are where we wash our clothes, take off our shoes, and leave our stuff, but let’s be honest y’all, they can get really nasty. Between the dirt our shoes track in and the water from the washer and dryer in the room, it is a great place for dust, dirt, and mold. A ‘mudroom’ is an ideal place to leave all these things, but it will get dirty fast!
- Laundry rooms and mudrooms should be cleaned top to bottom and machines disconnected and moved, so that the floor can be mopped at least once or twice a year. Vacuum dust and dirt, clean out old rags, bottles, and stray things (rocks, change, receipts, etc).
- If you have banished shoes from inside your home (and we highly recommend you do) you will need somewhere to put them. A shoe rack like this one from Amazon may be just what you need.
- To learn how to clean your washing machine go to our post called Monstrous Mold! The post explains how to clean not only washing machines, but tells you the top 5 places where mold hides in your home.
- Empty the refrigerator, spray and wipe surfaces with white vinegar every month. Place a fresh box of baking soda in the fridge every other month to keep it smelling fresh. Check out our post Monstrous Mold to learn how to clean the top 5 places where mold hides in your home including your dishwasher!
- Oven Cleaning – This particular appliance gets its own section because of the dangerous chemicals that are sold as oven cleaners. Most commercial oven cleaners contain toxic chemicals that can potentially cause cancer, reproductive harm, skin allergies and irritation, along with allergy and asthma symptoms. The self-cleaning feature many ovens have today is not much safer. The oven temperature is raised to 6000F, and any food or grease are supposed to turn into ash. However, this can cause the oven to smoke and release a terrible smell.
- To safely clean your oven, you only need two simple ingredients – baking soda and vinegar. Make a paste of baking soda and water and add it to the oven walls, door, and floor. Allow it to sit for at least 20 minutes or up to 12 hours. Wipe down the oven with a damp cloth, removing as much baking soda as you can. When finished, spray down the interior of the oven with white vinegar. Wipe clean. For more information about DIY oven cleaners go to: Finding The Best Oven Cleaner: 8 Homemade Natural Oven Cleaners Tested & Rated – Bren Did OR Cleaning Never Tasted So Good – EWG
- Dust (vacuum) electronics, and be sure all wires are connected properly and safely. No wires should be where people could trip and/or pull them out.
- Surge protectors should be used for computers, televisions, and other expensive devices. Surge protectors should NOT be used for space heaters.
- Clean your computer keyboard and mouse using compressed air to remove crumbs, dust, and other particles. Use a damp (not wet) microfiber cloth to wipe the keys and mouse down. Use a dry microfiber cloth to dry.
- Cell phones are havens for germs! Following the manufacturer’s instructions, remove the case for your phone, and clean it at least once a month.
- We look out our windows all the time, but do we really look at them? Take a glance at (rather than through) your windows, and you may find they need a good cleaning! First, vacuum sills and window treatments. You can make your own window cleaner with white vinegar and/or add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Use a very dry rag each time you wipe the surface to prevent streaking. For more information about using essential oils for cleaning see our post titled: Essential Oils for a Healthy Home.
Change Air Filters
- Every 3 months be sure to change the air filter in your HVAC system. If the filter has mold growing on it, it may be time to have the system cleaned. Mold can adversely affect your health even if you are not allergic. Using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter on your system helps remove more allergens and keep the air clean. For more information on how mold can affect your health, even if you don’t have allergies, go to: When Mold Is More Than Allergies.
Rarely moved furniture and appliances
- At least once a year, pull out your refrigerator, so that you can vacuum and mop under it. Be sure to vacuum the coils as well. The same for furniture, washers, and dryers. You wouldn’t believe all the dust, dirt, and mold that can hide behind and under them! For more information about how to clean away mold go to: A Simple Guide to Cleaning Mold.
Smoke Detectors, Fire Extinguishers, Batteries, and First Aid
- This is a good time to test those batteries! Smoke detectors can save your life, but only if they work. Batteries for lanterns and flashlights should also be checked in case of a power outage. Fire extinguishers should be checked for their expiration date, and be conveniently located near or in the kitchen. First aid kits should be checked for expiration dates and missing items replaced. For more information about what should be in your first aid kit got to: First-aid kits: Stock Supplies that Can Save Lives – Mayo Clinic.
Twice a Year
Personal Care Products
- Makeup, lotion, and other personal care products expire and should be replaced. Check the dates on these products every 6 months to a year. One of the reasons personal care products expire is because over time, bacteria and mold can grow in them. You don’t want that on your skin! Clean all makeup brushes, and replace them if needed. Go to FDA – Shelf Life and Expiration Dating of Cosmetics for more information.
- It is good to go through clothing at least twice a year, and decide what to keep and what to donate. A good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t worn it in the last 6 months to a year you probably won’t wear it, and don’t need it. There are several great local organizations that help your donations get to people who need them, including: ACTS (Area Churches Together Serving) and Habitat for Humanity. Remember to dust and vacuum in the closet as well!
Basements and Crawl Spaces
- Crawl spaces and basements are areas where we find a lot of hidden mold and water damage. These perhaps little used areas of your home are important to clean and inspect periodically. If you have a crawlspace, especially here in the Southeast, you’ve got a great hiding place for mold. It’s an area that does not get much traffic and stays damp and stagnant. On top of that, any small leaks travel down and end up in the crawlspace.
- You should head down to your crawlspace at least once a year to check for mold and possible foundation problems. Pull back the floor insulation and look at the floor joists and decking. If mold is there, it will be easy to spot. Make sure you check a few places throughout the crawlspace, and look around the areas below the kitchen, laundry, and bathrooms.
- It’s a good idea to call in the pros for crawl space mold. Because it’s a labor-intensive job to do really well, it is not better not to DIY. Be aware, crawl spaces are areas that a lot of companies know you won’t be going behind to check. If you see a deal that’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Special Note About Mold
- You may be able to clean surface mold on the walls, ceilings or floors of your home that are less than ten square feet by using gentle detergents and water. For more information about cleaning moldy surfaces to our Simple Guide To Cleaning Mold.
- If you see areas larger than ten square feet, or there is a musty smell you can’t identify, it may be time to call Branch Environmental.
- Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts not only at mold removal, but at determining and remediating the underlying causes. From hidden mold sources to major contaminants. We can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good.
Keeping it Clean – How To Clean
Should I be concerned about what is in household cleaners? Doesn’t the government regulate them?
No, household cleaners are not food, drugs, or firearms, so the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate them. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) only requires manufacturers of cleaning products to list ingredients that are active disinfectants or could cause potential harm. Manufacturers of commercial cleaning products for homes and businesses are not required to list all of their ingredients for consumers by any agency of the United States. They can claim that ingredients are a trade secret, and not disclose them on the product labels.
The truth is that they can legally use just about anything in a cleaning product leaving you the consumer in the dark about its true safety and effectiveness.
What cleaners can I use around my kids and pets?
I have asthma or allergies. What cleaners can I use safely?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.” EWG has created a database and guide for healthy cleaning in an easily searchable format called ‘EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.’ The EWG Guide can help you to find safer cleaning products and check products that you already use for safety. You may find that the products you already use are not safe or that they can cause respiratory distress.
The EWG Guide “contains information and hazard assessments for 2,109 products, 197 brands and more than 1,000 ingredients.” Product ingredients are rated with a high, moderate, or low risk based on different categories. Products are given a final rating of ‘A’ to ‘F’ based on the safety of chemicals present in the product and whether or not the ingredients are listed completely on the label. Ratings of ‘A’ being the safest and ‘F’ being the most dangerous or that have the least information available. To learn more about how the EWG guide was created go to About EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
Remember that smelling good does not indicate that something is clean! In fact, ‘fragrance’ can be anything in a product that gives it a smell from essential oils from plants to industrial petrochemicals. Cleaning and personal care product manufacturers are required to list their ingredients on the label of the products. However, because of a loophole in government regulations (specifically the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973), they are not required to list any fragrance ingredients. This means that they can use any chemical they choose to add smell to a product, including dangerous, allergenic, and even toxic chemicals. To learn more about hidden fragrance chemicals in personal care products go to: Not So Sexy – Hidden Chemicals in Perfume and Cologne.
Our government does not regulate personal care products or cleaning products in a way that allows consumers to have all the facts about a product before they use it. Because of this, we urge you to learn all you can before using a product in your home or on your skin. Cleaning products affect air quality, especially if ventilation is not used during cleaning. Remember whether sanitizing or disinfecting, use good ventilation when using cleaning products.
We’re Here When You Need Us
Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts at mold removal and indoor air quality. We can determine and remediate the underlying causes of poor indoor air quality from hidden mold sources to major contaminants. We can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good. We want you to feel healthy and breathe easy in your home, your sanctuary, your oasis.
Armed with knowledge, you can safely and effectively clean your home, and return it to the retreat you love! We hope we have given you some great information on keeping your home truly clean and inviting! Happy spring and happy cleaning!
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
Blog information is NOT intended to provide or replace medical advice. NO information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition.
*We are an Amazon affiliate company and we do occasionally receive compensation for products that you purchase through links on our website.
Suggestions for products to use are just that, suggestions. You know yourself and your home best. Please do your own research on any product you use in your home or on your skin, and learn all the facts for yourself. Thank you.
For more information go to:
The 20-Minute Daily Clean Routine That’ll Give You Your Weekends Back – Apartment Therapy
What Are the Top Spring Cleaning Apps? – HelloTech. The Plug: Tech News You Can Use
How To Deep Green Clean Your Carpets – Apartment Therapy
A Simple Guide To Cleaning Mold – Branch Environmental
How To Prevent Bathroom Mold – Branch Environmental
Monstrous Mold: Top 5 places where mold hides in your home – Branch Environmental
When Mold Is More Than Allergies – Branch Environmental
First-aid Kits: Stock Supplies that Can Save Lives – Mayo Clinic
Where to Donate Used Clothing Locally