After a long winter indoors, we throw open the windows, shake out the rugs, and dust off the knick-knacks. Spring is the time to clear out and cleanse but it’s not always easy to find the right tools for green cleaning.

A clean home has psychological as well as physical effects. When you walk into a space that has been cleared of clutter and smells fresh, it revitalizes your sense of wellbeing. Some of the harsh chemicals typically used for cleaning can, on the other hand, cause headaches and asthma.

Here’s your guide to green cleaning… made super-simple!

When I was teaching for the Urban Nutrition Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, I did a workshop at one of the local high schools on green cleaning products. My teenage students were pretty skeptical about the efficacy of white vinegar and essential oils on hard-core kid grime.

So they took the products we made to the cleaning staff for in-school testing.

A couple months later, I learned that the professional cleaning crew from the high school had applied to University of Pennsylvania for a grant so that they could switch over to all eco-friendly, green cleaning products.

Not only were they convinced that green products could clean, but they had also noticed personal health benefits when they made the switch. One woman reported reduction in asthma symptoms and another’s chronic skin irritation cleared up.

Most of us aren’t cleaning buildings the size of a school and we’re not cleaning for hours at a time on a daily basis, so you may not notice the adverse effects of the chemicals in your current cleaning regime. But even if you’re not conscious of damage being done, your body will thank you if you switch to green cleaning.

What’s my secret formula for cleaning dirty high schools without damaging lungs and skin?

It’s a formula I learned while studying in Ireland and I’ve never been able to improve upon it! Start by creating a concentrate which you can then add to white vinegar, water, or baking soda to make a variety of green cleaning products.


  • 50 drops thyme essential oil
  • 50 drops lemon essential oil
  • 50 drops lavender essential oil

Mix in small glass bottle. Add 10 drops to one quart of white vinegar for an all-purpose cleaner, to water for a window wash, or to baking soda for a scrub.

(My mother asked if “10 drops” was a typo.  Essential oils are concentrated: that’s really all you need!  And for those of you who are concerned about germ-killing, thyme essential oil is a master!)

Get your Green Cleaning Handout here!

Then let me know your green cleaning secrets in the comments below!


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