DIY Spring Cleaning

I live in Austin, Texas, where spring smells like…grape soda. The Sophora secundiflora or Texas mountain laurel, is a popular native shrub whose flowers smell exactly like the Grape Nehi my grandpa used to drink. In my neighborhood, their sweet scent is a surefire sign that spring has arrived.

I live in Austin, Texas, where spring smells like…grape soda.

The Sophora secundiflora or Texas mountain laurel, is a popular native shrub whose flowers smell exactly like the Grape Nehi my grandpa used to drink. In my neighborhood, their sweet scent is a surefire sign that spring has arrived.

This year, I’m going to make sure that good smells are harbingers of spring on the inside of my house as well. I’m very sensitive to scents, so I’m going to mix my own DIY solutions and also make sure that any pre-made products I purchase are scented with plant-based ingredients.

If you’d like to join me, you will need:

  • Baking soda
  • Organic white distilled vinegar
  • Your favorite essential oils

All-Purpose Spray

A simple 1:1 solution of water and vinegar makes an effective and affordable all-purpose cleaner. Here’s the problem: I like the smell of vinegar, but I don’t love the smell of vinegar. Luckily, Kate Payne, author of The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking , has a fantastic fix:

Add about 10 drops of a pure essential oil (no synthetic fragrances or you’re defeating the purpose of non-toxic cleaning) to your half vinegar-half water spray bottle. Of all the essential oils I’ve tried, peppermint is one of the few that actually masks the odor of the acetic acid in vinegar. 

If you’re not a mint fan, Kate also suggests eucalyptus or clove essential oils.

Hidden Odors

Ironically, the laundry room is one of the main sources of bad smells in my house. I bought a high efficiency (HE) washer because I wanted to conserve resources, but it turns out that some HE washing machines need regular cleaning in order to avoid mustiness. My washer actually came with a little cleaning tablet, but I’ve been hesitant to use it, because I’m not sure what’s in it. (The US government does not mandate full disclosure of ingredients on cleaning products.)

To tackle this problem, I called on the dynamic duo of DIY cleaning supplies: vinegar and baking soda. Acidic vinegar helps break down soap scum, while baking soda provides mild scrubbing power and helps combat odors. To maximize their effectiveness, I filled my washer with hot water and then added 3 cups of distilled white vinegar. Once that solution swished around for a few minutes, I added a 1/2 cup of baking soda and ran the washer to combine. After a few more minutes, I stopped the washer and let the mixture sit for half an hour. Finally, I allowed the cycle to resume and rinse. Voila! Bad smells be gone!

Taking It Easy

Sometimes you don’t have time or you’re just not feeling the DIY option. You may want to turn to a store-bought product, but (as I mentioned above) the US does not require companies to disclose all the ingredients on the labels of cleaning products. That’s why Whole Foods Market created the Eco-Scale® Rating System — to help consumers make informed choices in the cleaning aisle.

In order to be rated orange or above on the Eco-Scale®, products must disclose all of their ingredients on the label. (Whole Foods Market doesn’t carry any cleaning products that don’t achieve at least an orange rating.) Most importantly for my sensitive nose, products rated yellow or green must use 100% natural fragrances.

There are more than 650 Eco-Scale®-rated products from several manufacturers. I’m a big fan of Whole Foods Market™ All-Purpose Cleaner. The fresh, citrus scent is derived from essential oils.

Your turn! Do you have a favorite DIY cleaning solution?  Share your tip in the comments section below.

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