How to clear out clutter safely.After the long winter you may be feeling the need to freshen up and rid your home of dirt, debris and germs. Here are tips to make spring cleaning a fun, safe project for your family.
Be Smart, Be Safe
First things first: You most likely have the following products in your home. Here is what you should know about possible poisons before handling and use.
• Chlorine bleach, which is registered as a pesticide by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is one of the most common household substances resulting in poison-control-center calls. Keep bleach containers closed tightly and inaccessible to young children. Neither you nor your kids should handle, splash or inhale bleach.
• Triclosan (white crystalline powder) and triclocarban (antiseptic) are usually present in hand and dish soaps. Commonly found in a broad range of products labeled antibacterial, both are registered as pesticides by the EPA. Note that these chemicals do not destroy viruses, the real causes of colds and the flu.
• Drain cleaners are made from lye and hydrochloric acid, caustic irritants that burn skin and are poisonous if swallowed.
• Toilet bowl cleaner is made from sodium acid sulfate, oxalate or hydrochloric acid. All are corrosive, can burn skin and may be fatal if swallowed. These cleaners may have a sweet smell, and there are many reports each year of children drinking them.
• Window cleaner contains diethyleneglycol and ammonia, which can be toxic to the central nervous system and cause irritation to eyes, lungs and skin.
Create Your Own Cleaning Agents
Many parents are interested in safe products that their family can use for household cleaning chores. It is possible to create cleaning products that are so safe you can actually eat them! Making cleaning agents from food products is as simple as taking vinegar and baking soda out of the cabinet. The added benefit: saving money.
Vinegar is a known disinfectant. In 2000 the Good Housekeeping Institute reported on 48 Hours that “A straight five-percent solution of vinegar kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of viruses.” You won’t see this on the vinegar bottle, as the companies have not registered their vinegar with the EPA as a chemical.
Have a contest with your children to see who can get their area the cleanest. A sponge with full-strength vinegar will shine tub and sinks. For tile and grout, a solution of ¼ cup vinegar in a gallon of warm water will do the trick. An old toothbrush, dipped in full strength vinegar, will get that grout clean and mildew-free.
To get rid of buildup at the base of your faucets, wrap rags, soaked in vinegar, around faucet bases and leave for one hour. Come back and see that everything is now clean again. You can free your clogged drains with a cup of baking soda followed by a cup of vinegar. Kids love to see the foaming action. Follow with a hot water flush for several minutes, and your drain will be running slick.
Clean your oven without the caustic smell we all know and hate! Mix a cup of vinegar and 1/4 cup powdered laundry detergent. Heat your oven for five minutes at 350° F and turn it off . Spread the paste around the oven, applying it more heavily to very greasy areas. Leave on for one hour, then use a plastic spatula to gently scrape the dirt away. Even your children can clean the oven safely!
Make your own “blue” window cleaner. Mix one cup vinegar with five cups water, and add a few drops of blue food coloring. Using newspaper, without color pages, will add to the “green” action. Wear gloves to keep your hands from getting covered in newsprint. Note: Remember never to mix vinegar and bleach, as the results are toxic.
Moving Out the Clutter
Winter can result in huge collections of personal belongings. Each family member can participate in creating more space by clearing out closets and drawers. Have your children organize a fashion show of clothes that no longer fit. Help them fill bags to take to the nearest shelter. You can even decorate the bags!
Encourage your kids to look over their toys to see what they no longer play with. Helping children to recycle may encourage them to become more charitable by giving at an early age.
You, too, need to release what no longer fits, be it your body or lifestyle. Consider discarding a painting from your high school days. Sort through and select the “best of the best” of your children’s artwork. Have an art show with family members and decide on the best pieces to keep.
Clearing out the clutter opens up space in your home and in your heart. Now you’re ready for spring!
Lynn Bakken, MSN, PNP-BC, is a PNP and Associate Medical Director for School Based Clinics and Integrative Medicine at a Community Health Center in Metro Denver. She owns Options in Health, coaching families in health and wellness.