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Spring Cleaning: 5 Tried and True Green Cleaning Hacks

NSF’s consumer product safety expert provides tips for simple, safe and environmentally annual spring cleaning including those germy hot spots!

Want to put some TLC into your annual spring cleaning? Think vinegar. Love lemon and don’t be shy about baking soda.

Lisa Yakas, a consumer product safety expert and trained microbiologist at NSF, shares some tried and true ways to keep your family safe and your home sparkling while showing some love to the environment. The ideas, says Lisa, were inspired by an NSF Germ Study, where NSF's microbiology team analyzed several kitchen appliances and tools for the presence of foodborne pathogens. The study revealed that our kitchens are one of the most gunky, germiest rooms in our homes. If not cleaned properly, our kitchens can make us sick.

“We’ve got to be especially diligent to keep the highest trafficked areas of our homes clean,” Lisa says.

To make the cleaning task lean and mean, Lisa offers the following tips for cleaning in a simple, safe and environmentally friendly way (see list below for EPA-suggested safer choices) without the side effects of the chemicals used in some commercial cleaners and detergents:

1. Clean the microwave with lemon

Slice a lemon. Squeeze the juice and drop the lemon halves into a bowl of water. Microwave for about three minutes until the water reaches a boil. Let stand for five minutes. Remove the bowl and wipe the inside of the microwave clean starting with the inside top and sides. Take the turntable out and wash with soap and water separately.

2. Add vinegar to the refrigerator water dispenser

First turn off the water supply to the refrigerator and then loosen the screw connecting the water supply line to the refrigerator. Once disconnected, use a small funnel to pour three to four cups of distilled white vinegar into the tube. Wait five to ten minutes and then reconnect the water line. Turn the dispenser on to allow the vinegar solution to flow through the dispenser’s system and spill out through the waterspout. To clean the waterspout, use a bottle or baby bottle nipple brush dipped in distilled white vinegar. Brush the inner side of the spout, then open the waterspout and allow it to run to clear of any dirt and excess vinegar solution. Close the lever when there are no traces of vinegar.

3. Sanitize sponges in the microwave

Zap your wet sponges in the microwave for two minutes to kill all the microbes that accumulate on them. Replace sponges frequently.

4. Odor bust stinky drains with baking soda and vinegar

Mix 1 cup vinegar, ½ cup baking soda and 1 cup hot water, and pour down the drain to loosen up the sludge and get rid of yucky odors. Rinse with hot water.

5. Say goodbye to streaky shower doors

Rub vinegar into the stains of hard water to make your shower door sparkle again.

If you are looking for environmentally friendly ways to clean other germy spots in your home, there are cleaning products that are safer for you, your family and the environment. Lisa recommends looking for products with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice label. It can help you identify products with safer chemical ingredients, without sacrificing quality or performance, she says.

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