Canada's Condominium Magazine
By Sassa Brown —
Spring is in the air. The birds are chirping, the pollen count is high, lovers are gazing adoringly into one another’s eyes, and people everywhere are frantically scrubbing every square inch of their homes and shrieking in horror as their kids track mud onto their newly polished floors.
Spring cleaning time has come again, and now we must cleanse our homes and our lives of all the filth of the past. Okay, so maybe we cannot sweep away all our problems, but it would certainly be nice if things were that simple.
Clean, but safe
In the meantime, we can focus our efforts on making our environment as clean, safe, and healthy as possible. Unfortunately, once we become enthralled in the chaos that is spring cleaning, we tend to overlook the impact of unnecessary chemicals with which we complete our mile-long chore lists. Air fresheners and furniture polish contain toxic, flammable chemicals. Bleach is highly corrosive, as well as a skin irritant. Almost any cleaner that is sold at your local store will contain harmful substances such as ammonia, hydrochloric acid, and formaldehyde. 
Luckily, we have access to a wide range of products and methods for cleaning which are not only effective but also quite safe. Appliances such as washing machines can be cleaned out with vinegar. Pour some into your empty washing machine and run it through a cycle. Vinegar has a particularly strong, unpleasant scent that may cause you to be wary of using this highly versatile product. Do not let that deter you, though. This problem is easily solved with several drops of essential oils, many of which have a calming effect as well as a pleasant aroma.
However, it is important to remember that while vinegar can double as a powerful cleaning agent, it is not reliable in all instances. Do not use vinegar or citrus fruits on floors, granite, marble, or other similar surfaces. The acidity will do far more harm than good on surfaces such as marble and granite countertops. It is also not recommended for use in removing egg spills, as it will cause them to coagulate. 
Odors in the dishwasher
Odors build up quickly in dishwashers, but cleaning them is not as difficult a task as one might think. If you have some baking soda on hand, the dishwasher can practically clean itself. Placing a cup of baking soda in the dishwasher and running a full cycle will eliminate pesky odors and leave the dishwasher running much more smoothly. 
Microwaves are also extremely easy to clean, and they do not require any chemicals or special homemade cleaning concoctions. An old trick that was passed down to me does wonders and makes the entire process take less than five minutes, no matter how filthy it is. If it can tackle a microwave splattered with chili and cheese that my son forgot, then it can handle anything you throw at it. Simply place a bowl full of water in the microwave, set it to cook for two or three minutes, and remove the bowl and turntable. Microwaving the bowl of water in this way softens up food and grime so that it can easily be wiped away. Afterwards, you need only use warm, soapy water to quickly clean out the microwave so that it is sanitary. Wash the turntable and place it back in the microwave.
The dreaded oven
Spray the inside of your oven with warm water, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over any spills or stains, and leave it to set in for a few hours. When you return, you should be able to wipe away the mess fairly easily using a damp cloth. If it takes a couple attempts, that is okay. Melted cheese and other similar messes are notoriously difficult to clean up. Refrigerators, floors, and other areas can be cleaned using hot, soapy water.
The throne: toilet cleansing
You have finished the kitchen, so what is next? Begrudgingly, you realize you must now tackle the one room you dread over all others. You make your way down the hall, cleaning materials in hand. You arrive at your destination, inhale deeply, and slowly open the door. You find yourself staring straight into the Throne Zone… the porcelain throne, that is. (Cue horror film score and flashbacks of the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.) Thankfully, defeating this monster of a room does not have to be so deadly… or dramatic.
As foul-smelling as it may be (especially if you share your home and your heart with rambunctious little boys), the washroom is easily conquered without the use of industrial-strength chemical agents. The commode, for instance, simply needs to be soaked in a formula comprised of a small amount of baking soda mixed with vinegar for half an hour.
Afterwards, scrub thoroughly to ensure it is clean and sanitized all over. Repeat the process if necessary. Then gently wipe down the outside of the commode once more before moving on. The rest can be cleaned with a vinegar-water solution. This is particularly helpful on mirrors and glass, as it does not streak.
Toothpaste and microfiber magic
With the largest, most gag-inducing tasks behind you, the spring cleaning to-do list should be a breeze. Rather than using chemical sprays for dusting, wipe down fans and other dusty areas with a microfiber cloth gently spritzed with juice from a lemon or a few drops of essential oils. Use toothpaste to remove any crayon marks that have mysteriously appeared on your walls. Hydrogen peroxide is immensely helpful in cleaning balconies, eliminating mold and mildew, and cleaning tile grout.
Eucalyptus, peppermint, and other essential oils all make excellent deodorizers. My favorite method is to place lemon and orange slices in bowls of water and add a few tea leaves. Place the bowls around the house and leave them there for a few hours. Once you are finished with all the deep cleaning, you are ready to start tossing some things and organize your space.
Making way for the new
The best part about spring cleaning is getting rid of the old to make way for the new. Rather than simply throwing away old clothes and items, donate them to non-profit donation centers and programs such as Big Brothers. Recycle or upcycle things that spark your creativity or hold sentimental value. Anything that is truly unsalvageable should be disposed of properly. With your spring cleaning officially completed, you can relax and bask in the satisfaction of a job well done.
 Poisons Under Your Sink: Hidden Danger of Cleaning Products, Mama’s Health
 6 Things You Should Never Clean with Vinegar, Good Housekeeping, Dec 2015
 Cleaning Appliances with Baking Soda and Vinegar, Mother Earth News, April 2014