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Spring Cleaning with Herbs

Whether you’re digging into seasonal sprucing-up projects or giving a room its weekly once-over, herbs can make cleaning tasks pleasant and rewarding. Making your own cleaning products is inexpensive, effective, and safer for you and your family, your home and the environment.

We asked Ellen Bouchard, Bulk Category Manager at Frontier Natural Products Co-op, to weigh in with her thoughts about the more commonly asked questions people have about natural cleaning solutions.

Q: Can I put all of my homemade cleaning products in spray bottles?
A: Anything that you can spray onto a surface will be handy in a spray bottle. Keep in mind that if your recipe contains baking soda, borax, washing soda, or other minerals, they can clog the sprayer. The trick is to mix these with hot water until they’re dissolved before adding them to the bottle. Also be sure to strain well any herbs before adding your herbal ingredient to the recipe.

Q: Which herbs are best for making cleaning products?
A: That depends on what your purpose is, but you can use almost any favorite herb in your spring cleaning.  Just adding scent to a plain cleaner, for example, can make the job more fun and the results more pleasing. If you’re looking for antiseptic properties as well, you can choose herbs like myrrh, peppermint, thyme, rosemary, lavender, mint, cloves, and eucalyptus. By the way, it’s best to store herbal cleaning products in a cool place (or the refrigerator) between cleaning stints, unless you’re going to use them up in a few days.

Q: What other natural products are good for cleaning?
A: Essential oils make excellent additions to homemade cleansers (you can choose them for their cleansing as well as their aromatherapeutic properties). Good options include citrus oils, cinnamon, rosemary, tea tree, balsam, cedar, nettle, citronella, chamomile, eucalyptus, and any with a fragrance you enjoy. You may also want to experiment with arrowroot powder (finer than cornstarch, with excellent drying ability), baking soda powder (which deodorizes, absorbs odors and is slightly abrasive), borax (a mineral that helps lift dirt), clay powder (which draws out stains), cornstarch (a fine, absorbent powder), cream of tartar (for cleaning drains, metal, porcelain and glass), salt (an abrasive), vegetable glycerin (an emollient that helps oil and water mix and removes stains), vitamin E (a few drops will help preserve your products), washing soda (or soda ash, a cleanser), and white vinegar (dissolves grease and mineral buildup, inhibits mold, and freshens).

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Here are a few of Ellen’s favorite cleaning recipes; you’ll soon find it fun and easy to concoct your own products with whatever you have on hand.

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Caution: Always test your homemade cleaning product in an inconspicuous spot before using, to make sure it won’t stain, fade, or damage carpet, woodwork and other surfaces.

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