Toolshed: Spring Clean, Green Clean

By Nancy Sleeth

Flourish magazine, Spring 2011

“I love a clean house.  I just don’t like cleaning.”

That’s a direct quote from our 20-year-old daughter, Emma, who recently graduated from college and is now living in her first apartment. Emma is honest enough to express what most of us feel: We want our homes to be uncluttered, fresh, and inviting, but getting there can seem daunting.

People of faith who care about God’s creation face another confounding factor: How we do we tend our homes without hurting the planet, and our families, with the non-biodegradable, toxic substances found in so many cleaning products? Fortunately, it is getting easier than ever to care for our homes with cleaning solutions that aren’t hard on human health or the environment. The added bonus of homemade and “green” cleaning products? You’ll save money while exposing your family to fewer harmful chemicals.

Here are my top ten spring cleaning tips for saving time, money, and God’s green earth:

  1. Clean the house together as a family every Saturday in preparation for the Sabbath. The anticipation will make this day of God-ordained rest all the more precious.
  2. Institute a “no shoes inside” policy. Keeping the dirt outside will make a dramatic difference in the amount of cleaning you need to do.
  3. Purchase “green” cleaning products. The prices for these have dropped dramatically in the last couple of years, and they now can be found in most grocery, “dollar,” and home improvement stores.
  4. My universal (and cheapest) cleaning solution: Fill a spray bottle with 1 quart warm water mixed with ¼ cup vinegar. Use it in the kitchen, bathroom—just about everywhere!
  5. Baking soda is my other “must have” cheap and “green” cleaning product. Use it to scour toilets and bathtubs, scrub nonaluminum pots and pans, deodorize the refrigerator, and clean the kitchen sink.
  6. Clean from the top down. Save floors and carpets for last, so dust has time to settle.
  7. Go through one closet per week and give away anything you haven’t worn in the last year.  “If you have two coats,” he replied, “give one to the poor.” Check to see if your local Goodwill will give “credits” for your donation to local charities—a great way to give twice!
  8. If I know something is going to a family that needs it, I am much more likely to give it away. Get to know the folks at your local refugee ministry; many people come to our country with nothing, which is a big motivation for me to clean out the garage, attic, and basement.
  9. If you don’t have a compost pile, start one. We used two inexpensive ($20) flexible containers made from recycled tires. We fill one pile and let the other sit. Every few months, we had a new crop of “black gold.” Once the compost is ready, get the kids outdoors and start cleaning up the yard!
  10. Invite some friends over for a laundry detergent-making party:

1 cup washing soda (such as Arm & Hammer)
1/2 cup borax
1 bar soap
Approximately 3 gallons water

* You’ll also need a container to mix this in, such as a five gallon bucket, a large wooden spoon, another pot to boil soapy water in, and a box grater to cut up the soap.

  • Put a pot on the stove and fill with about four cups of water. Heat the water to boiling, and then reduce it to a simmer.
  • While the water is heating, take the bar of soap and cut it up into little bits using the grater.
  • When the water is boiling, start adding the soap a bit at a time, stirring until all the soap is dissolved. Divide into containers and celebrate!

A final thought for parents: The Proverbs continually warn us about the dangers of spoiling our children.  These warnings are more relevant today than ever. Many parents are afraid to ask their kids to do any chores, and yet we wonder about the rise of childhood obesity, the overuse of entertainment technology, and children’s lack of responsibility. Show your children how much you love them by expecting them to be contributing members of the family; their future roommates (and spouse) will thank you!

P.S.—I’m happy to report that Emma’s apartment is impeccably clean—and green!  She even saves money (and five pounds of greenhouse gases per load) by hanging her laundry on the line.

Instead of This:

Use This:

Glass cleaner and paper towels White vinegar and lint-free cloths
Powder bleach Borax (great for baths and showers)
Carpet cleaner Cornstarch or baking soda
Scrubbing powder (like Ajax) Baking soda
All-purpose cleaner Liquid castile soap and baking soda or borax. Dilute for floors, walls, and counters.
Drain opener Try plunging before using any chemicals. If plunging doesn’t work, pour one cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by one cup of vinegar. On minute later, add one pint of hot water. (Stand back because the liquid can come back up toward you!)


Nancy Sleeth is the author of Go Green, Save Green:  A Simple Guide to Saving Time, Money, and God’s Green Earth and co-founder of the nonprofit, Blessed Earth. For more money earth and money saving ideas, visit


  1. Toolshed: Spring Clean, Green Clean | The Just Life says:

    [...] Read full original post. [...]

  2. [...] Toolshed: Spring Clean, Green Clean How to spruce up your home and keep creation clean at the same time. [...]

  3. [...] Stewarding Resources 1. Take some steps to save water indoors and outdoors. 2. Do an energy audit and commit to shutting off lights, changing lightbulbs, winterizing your house, and any other energy-saving steps you can think of. 3. Install rain barrels and use the water on your garden or landscaping. 4. Keep track of how much waste you produce and brainstorm ideas to reduce it. 5. Cut down on your use of plastic. 6. Use natural cleaning products. [...]

  4. [...] co-founder of the non-profit Blessed Earth, Nancy Sleeth, thinks it does. In her article “Spring Clean, Green Clean” published in the Spring 2011 issue of Flourish Sleeth writes: People of faith who care about [...]

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