Guide to cleaning your home the Green way
Your home is your castle. If you’ve ever visited a castle, you’ll know that they’re damp, draughty, and every surface is covered with dust and grime of the ages. You want your castle to be the opposite – warm, comfortable, cosy, clean, and safe for your family.
A regular cleaning routine will prevent the build-up of grease, dirt, dust, and bacteria and viruses that can cause illness. However, there’s more to cleaning your home then just giving it the once-over with a vacuum and duster. In this article we take a look at the surfaces you’re dealing with, the types of cleaning products you need, why you should consider green alternatives, and how you can use organisation to cut back your cleaning hours.
What you need to clean in your home
The reason we clean our homes is because we want to create a warm, dry, and comfortable environment. If we don’t clean regularly, dust, dirt, and grime build up on surfaces, and with them comes bacteria and viruses that can make us sick. Cleaning regularly also helps preserve and maintain our furnishing and surfaces so they last longer.
When cleaning your home, look out for these common culprits:
Dust: Tiny particles (usually of flaked dead skin) that settle on surfaces and objects. Dust carries allergens and can decrease the air quality in your home. A wipe down with a damp cloth is usually all that’s needed to remove dust. Don’t forget to dust surfaces you can’t see, such as the tops of ceiling fans and light fittings, cupboard doors, and picture frames. Vacuuming carpet regularly gets up dust and other particles embedded between the fibres.
Mould: If damp is allowed to collect in areas of your home, mould can grow on surfaces like curtains, ceilings, windows, and tiles. Inhaling mould is bad for your health, and it should be dealt with as soon as possible. Try to prevent mould from returning by eliminating damp. You can use draught-stoppers, air the house, use a dehumidifier or extractor fan, and try over-the-counter mould prevention products.
Bacteria and viruses: It’s awful to think about, but our homes can be a breeding ground for germs that can make you or your family sick. Bacteria and viruses are present in our food (especially as it goes off), and in our urine and fecal matter. They can survive on surfaces for up to a week, and they’re invisible to the naked eye, which is why it’s important when cleaning bathrooms, kitchens, and tables that are used for eating to use a product that cleans and disinfects.
Dirt and grime: Our homes are surrounded by nature, and sometimes that nature gets tracked inside. Whether it’s muddy footprints by the front door or a streak of grime down the wall from where your kid wiped against it, dirt and grime can be mopped and wiped away.
Stains: Fabrics can be stained or discoloured when they come into contact with liquids that get lodged between the thin fibres. Some stains are easier to remove than others. It’s important to understand the different properties of common stains. For example, keeping stains wet will usually help prevent them “setting” into the fabric and becoming permanent. However, when trying to remove mud stains, you should let the mud dry before treating the stain.
Pet hair: Pets are wonderful additions to our homes. If you have a furry friend, it’s even more important that you clean regularly. Pets moult and leave their fur everywhere, and their fur often contains pollutants, irritants, and pests like fleas they bring in from outside. Regularly vacuuming the floor and other surfaces like sofas where pets moult helps to keep these irritants out of your home, as does ensuring you regularly worm and flea-treat your pets.
General cleaning supplies
Most general cleaning supplies use chlorine bleach, methylated spirits, and ammonia to clean and disinfect surfaces in your home. These chemicals do an effective job of cleaning – but those results come at a price.
Bleach, methylated spirits, and ammonia are irritants, and they can make household cleaning an unpleasant experience for many people. You may experience coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, headaches, itchiness and skin rashes from inhaling or coming into contact with these products. Scientific research also suggests fumes from these chemicals make the air inside your home more polluted than that outside.
Many products containing these chemicals are also highly flammable, and toxic if they were swallowed. When you have young children or curious pets around it’s important they’re stored out of reach and/or in cupboards with child-safe locks.
And, of course, there is a wider environmental impact to using these products. Harsh chemicals in these cleaning products require intense, petroleum-based manufacturing processes that contribute to greenhouse gases. As you rinse away the products, chemicals like ammonia find their way into waterways, where they can kill plant and animal life and irreversibly alter ecosystems.
Why go green?
If you don’t want to encounter these chemicals, you have a couple of options. You could stop cleaning surfaces in your home and go back to medieval methods in your castle – lay some rushes on the floor and replace them every few weeks, beat the dust out of the tapestries, make your own soap from lard and birch bark...
Or, you could opt for certified natural cleaning products that are safe for your home and the environment.
These products use base chemicals like vinegar, citric acid, essential oils, baking soda, and natural abrasives. No chemicals used in these products are carcinogenic, and they won’t make you feel sick. They’re not toxic to breathe in, and although you still wouldn’t want a child or pet to swallow them, the effects if they did wouldn’t be as tragic.
But the most important reason to choose green cleaning products is to protect the environment for future generations. These products are made using sustainable manufacturing processes, and won’t kill plant or animal life or damage ecosystems when they’re washed into waterways.
Cleaning specific surfaces
When using natural cleaners, it’s important to choose the right product for the specific jobs around your home. It’s important to read the label carefully and follow the instructions for storage and use.
An all-purpose cleaner: These products clean and disinfect surfaces, and they’re good for wiping down benches, stove-tops, tables, walls, door frames, and other areas where dirt, grime, and food spillage has collected.
A product for washing dishes: Whether you have a dishwasher or wash dishes by hand, you need some kind of product that cleans and degreases dishes when combined with hot water.
Glass cleaner: You could clean glass with an ordinary surface cleaner, but you will end up with streaks and residue. A dedicated glass cleaner loosens dirt, dissolves oily streaks, and carries away grime and dust with water. Some cleaners also contain colloidal clays and silica to absorb soil and dry after spreading.
Laundry liquid/powder: Removing stains from clothing in the washing machine will require a product with a unique formulation.
Toilet cleaner: Toilet and bathroom products contain powerful disinfectants to destroy harmful bacteria and viruses that can cling to surfaces.
There are lots of other specialised cleaning products available, including leather cleaner and cleaning products specifically for babies and pets. It’s up to you to decide the cleaning solutions that work for your household.
Keeping your home clean
Part of having an environmentally aware ethos means not just switching to green cleaning products, but being aware of how often you clean and what you can do to eliminate waste.
By making small changes to your lifestyle, you’ll be able to cut back on the time spent cleaning your home, and have more time to do things you enjoy.
Wipe down the shower after you finished. This simple habit can double the time required between cleans. Keep a cloth or squeegee in the shower and get everyone in the family to create the habit.
Only use the washing machine/dishwasher for full loads. It’s more efficient for your time, and you’ll also save on your water and power bills.
When buying new clothing, furniture or other products, make cleaning considerations part of your buying process. Choose low- or no-maintenance products that won’t add hours to your cleaning time.
Clear out the clutter. Removing objects off surfaces and clearing. Objects collect dust and the less you have, the less you have to clean.
Supply heaps of storage. Kids are a common source of mess and clutter. Provide storage bins and other solutions so they can throw toys inside. You can then hide the bins in a closet or under the sofa for a quick tidy-up.
Make a cleaning list/roster. Plan out your cleaning tasks over a month so you do a small job every day. This stops you having to spend hours scrubbing after several small jobs become one big job.
If you’re serious about getting rid of clutter, we recommend Marie Kondo’s book, The life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Now your turn!
There are a lot of different types of dirt, grime, dust, and bacteria that build up in your home. Planning how and when to clean and what to clean with will help you manage your household and keep your time spent cleaning to a minimum.
We recommend eco-friendly green cleaning products because they:
Make your home comfortable and healthy.
Are nicer to use, as they don’t irritate your skin, eyes, and sinuses.
Are made with ingredients that are safer for your family.
Are kinder to the environment.
Do the same job as general cleaning products containing harsh chemicals.
For a complete selection of NZ-made, certified natural care products for your home and family, check out the full range of Living Green products.