I took my Christmas cards down last week, which I consider full-blown spring cleaning.
I’m not good at spring cleaning. I think it’s a great concept — get all the winter dust, grime and cobwebs out, freshen, wash and paint things, open all the windows and doors and bring in that fresh spring air.
And I start. So far I’ve hit the cobwebs pretty hard, washed a few windows, cleaned a few cabinets and painted a few steps — four of the 11, in fact, but you have to start somewhere.
I know the only reason I’ve accomplished even as little as I have is that it’s been too cold to work out in the gardens. Until the past couple of days, it’s been too cold to open up the house. And the airing-out part is the part of spring cleaning I’m best at. I have a theory that a fresh breeze running through the house might just blow some of the winter grime out.
Whether it blows more out than it lets in is debatable. But opening windows is key during spring cleaning, because cleaning products are toxic. Better yet is to avoid those toxic cleaning products and make your own. It’s a lot cheaper than using commercial cleaning products — a different one for every task — and better for you and for the world.
You can check online for recipes, but in general all you really need is vinegar and baking soda, and a few spray bottles. Some recipes also call for borax.
My go-to is vinegar spray — about 10 percent vinegar in a spray bottle. It cleans mirrors and windows, even those your kids have written on in wax. It works just as well as that blue window cleaner my husband used to bring home, and smells much better. I use rags for cleaning cloths, and do the final wipe-down with newspaper or coffee filters to get rid of streaks.
The vinegar spray also works on carpet or upholstery stains, if they’re not too bad. Spray, wait half an hour, then brush off with a cleaning brush or even a dish towel. I’ve cleaned heavier stains off the chair the dog loves to sit on with a baking powder-and-vinegar paste — mostly baking powder moistened with a bit of vinegar. Spread the paste on the stain and let it sit a few hours or overnight. Then brush out and vacuum.
The only problem for me is that the formerly stained spot ends up cleaner than the rest of the cushion. Maybe spring cleaning this year will involve the entire chair.
Cleaning tile and bathroom corners with vinegar spray also helps to get rid of mold. The combination of baking soda and vinegar gets rid of even more: scrub tile and grout with baking powder, then spray with the vinegar solution and let it sit for a while before you wash it off with water.
You can make a maintenance bathroom cleaner by mixing a quarter cup vinegar and a quarter cup dish soap into a 16-ounce spray bottle. It helps keep the tub and sink stain-free. And a spray bottle of vinegar solution is good to have in the bathroom and kitchen for everyday cleaning.
And it’s about time to shift back to maintenance mode anyway. There’s too much to do outdoors now — gardens are calling, the woods are calling, the mountains are calling. Who has time to devote days to cleaning indoors?
Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on April 29. Reach Margaret Hartley at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.