Dearest readers,

Dog mopAh, spring is on the calendar and in the air. Birds are singing, bees are buzzing, flowers are making me sneeze—or perhaps it’s this dust that’s been building up all winter. Time for the annual washing, scrubbing, wiping, sweeping, and general expunging of stuff known as spring cleaning. I scoured the archives for some past advice on all things tidy, hygienic, and sparkling. Got any special tips for getting the grime out? Hit me up in the comments below.

  • DIY not?
    Forgo commercial chemical cleaners, and make your own. All homebrew cleaning recipes involve four simple ingredients: white vinegar, castile soap, baking soda, and water. Baking soda is the scrubber. Abrasive, soluble in water, and anti-fungal (or at least anti-some-fungi), baking soda requires a bit more elbow grease than chlorinated powders but leaves you with a working windpipe. Vinegar is the deodorizer and sanitizer; its mildly acidic nature is anathema to bacteria and mold. Soap is the…soap. It cleans away dirt. Don’t mix it with vinegar. Other components of a good, healthy cleaning regimen include hot water and arm strength. You can even put your old toothbrush to use with your homemade creations. Get the full Ask Umbra answer and video.
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  • Break the mold.
    Give those nasty black spots in the bathroom the boot without toxic chemicals. A mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water may do the trick; let it sit a few hours, and then wipe away with impunity. Borax is another option. Of course, the best solution is to avoid mold in the first place by regularly cleaning your bathroom with a basic vinegar/baking soda/hot water cocktail. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.
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  • Method to the madness.
    Eco-cleaning lines like Method have proliferated on the shelves at Target and Whole Foods, and while they’re a better option than their toxic chem–ridden counterparts, that doesn’t mean you need to stock up on the vast pastel parade of pump bottles. Yes, we need non-polluting laundry detergent and soaps, but almost all of our other general household cleaning can be done with DIY cleansers. Individual grapefruit-scented wipes (non-toxic and bamboo-based or otherwise) are, basically, silly. Don’t get sucked into the shopping vortex. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.
  • Bleach: Not just a Nirvana album.
    Bleach is bad. Let’s start there. Reserve it for only the most necessary disinfection emergencies (MRSA or, um, copious amounts of blood, for example). Chlorine bleach eats at your lungs and mucus membranes. The production of bleach results in the production of dioxins. Do I need to say more? Probably not, but just in case, you should know that as you use the bleach, it may produce trihalomethanes, which are linked to cancer, and absorbable organic halides, which are harmful to marine organisms. If all that you seek are grime-free, shiny surfaces, our old friends vinegar, soap, and baking soda will do you proud. Get the full Ask Umbra answer.

Scrubbing bubbles-ly,