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March 20 — the first day of Spring — has an undeniable appeal; chirping birds, blooming flowers, and laughing neighbor kids are a reminder of the new life that the season brings. Along with the mild weather of Spring comes a chance to renew our homes and our gardens with a little spring cleaning.

This year, focus on spring cleaning in a way that protects the environment, too. Use these green spring cleaning tips to revive your living space with minimal environmental impact.

10 Ways to Make Spring Cleaning Environmentally Friendly

  1. Make your own towels: If you’re sick of sorting mismatched socks, get them out of the rotation by reusing them as rags. You can do the same for old tee shirts or stained bath towels to keep them out of a landfill. Another great option for producing a streak-free shine is to use old newspapers to dry surfaces after cleaning them.
  2. Kick the chemicals: Many of the most common household cleaners on the market are filled with chemicals that may kill germs, but they also cause unnecessary strain the environment (and your lungs). Stop using them and make your own cleaners instead. Use ammonia and water as a glass cleaner, baking soda to scrub and deodorize or lemon juice to kill bacteria for example.
  3. Freshen your air: Candles and room sprays mask odors but don’t clean the air. In fact, many can be as harmful as cigarette smoke thanks to their high levels of lead, according to the University of Michigan. But you can have clean air and a pleasant-smelling home by switching out candles for fragrant house plants. That’s because plants absorb dangerous toxins similar to the way they absorb the sun’s UV rays.
  4. Switch to cold water: Great green Spring cleaning tips don’t just involve saving the environment. You can also save on your electricity bill by washing all of your clothing in cold water and only washing things that are truly in need of a good cleaning. If you’ve only worn that pair of pants once, fold them and put them away instead of tossing them into the dirty clothes hamper.
  5. Ditch the dryer: You can also save money and the environment by drying clothes on a line instead of the dryer. Set up a clothes line directly in your wash room or hang one outdoors if your area isn’t too dusty.
  6. Mitigate mold: Mold and mildew are common problems in areas that are notoriously wet (in bathrooms, under kitchen sinks or around cracks in the foundation for example). Tackle these nasty spots now for a cleaner, healthier living area. A mix of vinegar and baking soda works well for surface mold infestations, but problems that go deeper than that may require professional help.
  7. Go paperless: Don’t let your mailbox go unattended during your green spring cleaning session. Clean it out for good by signing up for paperless statements through your bank or billing services.
  8. Pick the perfect paint: If your spring cleaning to-do list includes a fresh coat of paint, make sure you choose the right kind. The color, of course, if up to you, but the type of paint should be chosen carefully to avoid unwanted toxins in the air. Look for paints that have low VOC levels and breath easily.
  9. Don’t dump your drugs: Don’t toss your expired medicines in the garbage. Instead, dispose of old medicines through a federally-sponsored national drug take-back program. If no such program is available in your area, be sure to throw them away in a sealed bag along with coffee grounds or kitty litter (to reduce their appeal to scavengers) after removing all personal information.
  10. Give it away: One of my favorite green Spring cleaning tips is the suggestions to donate. After going through your closets, cupboards and crannys,  you’ll likely come up with piles of unwanted goods. Don’t toss these treasures, though. Instead, donate what you can, recycle what you can’t then throw the rest away. Because keeping it out of a landfill is one of the best ways to keep your community green for many years to come.

After a long, cold winter, many of us are excited to welcome back Spring. And what better way to do so than with a little Eco-friendly spring cleaning? Before tackling the job using chemically-induced cleaners and disposable products, think of the many ways you can clean your home while protecting your environment. Because your home is your castle, but your environment is your kingdom. Use these green Spring cleaning tips to protect it.

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