Green Spring Clean

Green Spring Clean

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About the Author

Asti Renaut

Asti Renaut (BHSc. Comp Med, BA, Adv Dip Nat, Adv Dip Herb Med, MNZAMH)

Asti Renaut is a degree-qualified medical herbalist and naturopath with over ten years clinical experience. Asti practices in Christchurch, New Zealand, treating a wide range of health issues. She especially enjoys working with infants and children, and finally has one of her own to practice on! One of the cornerstones of Asti's practice and philosophy is the importance of education and sharing information. She believes that empowering clients to understand their own bodies and health, and giving practical tips and tools to use from the garden and kitchen are just as important for wellness as qualified professional care. 

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Like the daffodills and freesias popping up everywhere, the scent of spring cleaning is in the air! But what exactly is it that you are putting into the air and your environment when using cleaning products? And what are the best natural cleaners?

 Many chemical cleaning products you can buy at the supermarket don’t list their ingredients on the label, yet this is the stuff we use to spray on our kitchen benches, clean our ovens with and keep our steamy bathrooms spic and span. You may notice some cleaning products come with warning labels about how dangerous the contents are if ingested. Surely these aren’t substances we want in our homes?

Common household cleaners can have various negative effects on health:

  • Some oven cleaners and toilet cleaners contain ingredients that can combine and react to cause toxic chlorine and chloramine gasses
  • Artificial fragrances are especially reactive for asthmatics and allergy sufferers, and can cause distress to mucus membranes such as eyes, sinuses, throat, skin and effect breathing. Some people also get headaches from fragrance exposure.
  • Some ingredients are known skin irritants, such as sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), which not only can be problematic in its own right, but also makes the skin more vulnerable to the effects of other chemicals.
  • Corrosive or Caustic cleaners can cause chemical burns on the skin.
  • The large group of chemicals known as hormone or endocrine disruptors can impact on reproductive health and thyroid health in both men and women
  • Some ingredients such as formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens, causing unknown effects on immunity and the development of cancers
  • Even if its not directly toxic to you- what happens when you flush it or rinse it down the drain? Many substances are directly toxic to plant, fish and aquatic life. We are all connected, remember “Think Global, Act Local?. Some chemicals don’t break down for hundreds of years.
  • A 2010 study in the USA found an increase in birth defects in children born to women who worked as cleaners. This is really serious stuff.
  • For more information on this visit the Environmental Working Group’s excellent website

Looking on the bright side!

On the bright sparkling side of home cleaning, some old-fashioned common cupboard grocery items are actually superstar cleaning heroes. Not only do these recipes work, they work really well. You will be surprised at how effective the humble baking soda and vinegar combo is for all manner of cleaning, and adding some magic Manuka essential oil gives it that extra special Voom! (that’s a Cat in the Hat reference, not a cleaning product!).

General Spray Cleaner 

Using any spray-bottle you have on hand, pop 1tsp baking soda in the bottom, a few drops of dishwashing liquid (preferably a nice one like EcoStore or similar), and 10-15 drops of your favourite essential oil. Lavender is fabulous, Peppermint, Orange and Eucalyptus are all great options too, but our fave is Manuka Essential Oil. More on that soon! Fill the bottle with warm water, shake it up and spray away!

  • For more stubborn stains on a bench-top, make a thick paste with baking soda and vinegar and massage it into the area, leaving for awhile then rubbing off.
  • For bathrooms, shower doors etc, vinegar is the best thing for soap build-up. Use straight white vinegar or dilute 50/50 with water. Leave on for awhile then wipe off.

Toilet Cleaner

This classic toilet cleaning recipe can be adapted by adventurous parents (thanks Playcentre!) to make a fabulous sand volcano in the sandpit. The basic foaming reaction of baking soda and vinegar is a delightful and satisfying sight, and can be made to look like a convincing overflow of lava. But back to toilets!

1 cup each of baking soda and white vinegar, both chucked into the toilet. Just like that! Leave it for a good ten minutes or so and then come back to do a brush, wipe and flush. Add any essential oils you like or finish with your general spray cleaner to add some lovely aroma.

Manuka Essential Oil

The reason we choose Manuka essential oil as our star additive is that is has phenomenal anti-microbial powers while being very gentle and non-reactive on skin. Manuka essential oil has been identified as having significant anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It’s also made right here in Aotearoa, from sustainable wild-crafted Manuka, employing local people in its production. Make sure you buy 100% pure essential oils, and always dilute and patch test them first of you have sensitive skin.

We hope this helps you enjoy your cleaning if you do catch the Spring Clean bug! It feels great to have a clean-out, sort through the accumulated stuff of life, and wipe down the surfaces to start fresh. Open the windows, let the sunshine in and the breeze blow through. And know that by choosing natural cleaners, you’re not only helping keep yourself and your family in better health, but also looking after the greater environment we call home. 


Green Spring Clean
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