Eco-friendly tips and tricks for spring cleaning

The warmer weather and smell of blossoming trees has us in the mood for spring. It’s time to open the windows, clear away the clutter, and start the new season off fresh with a good, deep spring cleaning. From inside to out, King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks wants to help you wipe away the winter dust in a way that’s good for the planet and for you and your family with these eco-friendly spring-cleaning tips and tricks.

Choose safer, more environmentally friendly products

Household cleaning products often contain harmful chemicals and allergens, even when they’re labeled “green” or “natural.” Some products are flammable, corrosive, or dangerous to health when mixed. To limit exposure to toxic ingredients, read the label and avoid products with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ammonia, bleach, and artificial fragrances. Look for words like CAUTION, WARNING, DANGER, or POISON. Shop instead for cleaners that include the EPA’s “Safer Choice” label that indicates the product is “non-toxic” or contains “no hazardous materials.”

Make your own safer cleaning products

Save money and a trip to the store by mixing up cleaners with ingredients you already have at home. Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, vinegar, lemon, and salt are natural alternatives to conventional cleaning products. Baking soda makes a great tub and sink cleaner with a little water and scrubbing. Mix it with a few drops of dish soap and you can clean the toilet. More recipes can be found on King County Hazardous Waste Management Program’s website.

Fresh ways to clean with lemon

When life gives you lemons, put them to work! There’s so much use you can squeeze out of lemons, as they are surprisingly good cleaners. This video highlights six simple ways lemons can refresh your spring-cleaning efforts and replace harsh cleaning products in your home. Plus, lemons are low cost and zero waste, too. 

Make your home smell great with eco-friendly simmer pot recipes  

Nothing makes a house feel sparkling clean quite like a fresh scent. But before you clear the air with harmful fragrances, candles, or chemical sprays filled with carcinogens and VOCs that are bad for you and the environment, consider using healthier, biodegradable ingredients you likely have in your garden, spice drawer, and refrigerator. These springtime simmer pot recipes are sure to freshen up your home. Add the ingredients to a pot on the stove, a slow cooker, or a simmer pot and take a deep breath and enjoy. When you’re done, store and reuse the ingredients another day, or compost the leftovers. 

Refrigerator clean out

How long has it been since you cleaned the refrigerator? Springtime is the perfect time to pull everything out, check expiration dates, get rid of old condiments, look for freezer burn, wipe down the fridge and freezer with eco-friendly cleaning products, and restock and reorganize the shelves with a few of these simple tips.

How to dispose of old food

When cleaning out your fridge and cupboards, don’t just throw everything in the trash. Edible, unopened food can be donated to hunger relief organizations to feed local families in need. Inedible food scraps and food-soiled paper should be taken out of their containers and thrown in the compost bin. By recycling those scraps you’re helping create compost that will go back into soil and help reduce pesticide use, reduce stormwater runoff and return important nutrients to the soil so more produce and plants can thrive.

Larger amounts of expired cooking oils and grease should not be composted or thrown down the drain. The globs stick to sewer pipes and can build up and lead to a messy, expensive blockage. Fats, oils, and grease should instead be poured into a container, closed with a lid, and placed next to your recycling cart for curbside pick-up.

Store food properly to reduce waste

Wasted food makes up one-third of all waste that comes from households. Buying more than you need, forgetting about leftovers, and improper food storage lead to food ending up in the compost, or worse, trash. Now that your refrigerator is clean and fresh for spring, get your food organized in a way that will reduce that food waste and save money. From how you store your produce, to how to arrange food in the refrigerator, these ten tricks will keep food fresh longer.

Recycle old clothes when you clean out your closet

The change in weather means a winter-to-summer wardrobe swap. While cleaning out closets and dressers you may find yourself with a pile of unpaired socks, stained t-shirts, and torn pants. Nearly 95-percent of old, damaged clothes, shoes, and linens that end up in landfills can be reused and recycled instead. The Environmental Protection Agency found in 2012, 2.25 million tons of textiles were recycled, saving greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of 1.2 million cars on the road for one year. Threadcycle drop-off locations are spread around King County and include many thrift stores. Items will be sorted for resale, reuse, or recycled into new products, such as insulation.  

How to get rid of post-spring-cleaning clutter

Confused about how to get rid of other post-spring cleanout clutter? There’s a website for that. You can look up materials by name to find out who will accept unwanted materials for reuse, recycling, or disposal. King County’s transfer stations accepted old appliances, fluorescent light bulbs, metal scraps, wood, mattresses, yard waste, and more. This handy guide from the Solid Waste Division has all the transfer station information you need to know in one place, including locations, hours, and what each site will accept.

Clutter-free garage ideas

It’s time to get out the camping and outdoor gear, but you may have to find it in your garage first. This step-by-step guide shows you how to clean out your garage, get things sorted, and dispose of unused or unwanted items safely. Products like leftover antifreeze, fertilizers, oil-based paint, motor oil, and weed killer shouldn’t go in the trash or recycling. Instead, take them to a local hazardous waste disposal location or meet up with King County’s traveling Wastemobile the next time it comes to your community.

Wash your vehicle in the most sustainable way

Spring’s sunny days spotlight winter’s road grime still stuck on your car or truck. How you wash your vehicle has an impact on the environment. It might seem like hand washing your car is most sustainable, but it turns out a visit to a commercial car wash is best. At home, harmful pollutants like oil, grease, and soaps run off directly down the driveway into storm drains. Commercial car wash facilities, both tunnels and bays, are required to treat their dirty water first. They also rely on computerized mechanisms to control water pressure for the most efficiency. If you must wash your vehicle at home, park on the grass or gravel to soak up wash water and prevent it from going down the street into a storm drain and use biodegradable, water-based, phosphate-free soap.

Chemical-free gardening tips

Springtime draws us into our gardens to get summer produce and flowers growing. Before you reach for herbicides or chemical fertilizers, consider these natural, chemical-free yard and garden tips to keep you, your neighborhood, and King County’s waterways and ecosystems healthier. Upgrading your soil with compost helps your garden, even your grass, thrive and wood chips help to conserve water and prevent weeds. There’s even a local Garden Hotline with experts ready to answer you garden and yard questions.

Spring yard clean up

That blackberry bush taking over your backyard isn’t just a nuisance to you. King County’s Noxious Weeds team has been noticing more weeds showing up on hiking trails deep in wilderness areas possibly brought there by seeds carried on shoes and pets or hungry birds. If you care about the sustainability and health of our forests, tend to the weeds at home this spring. The sooner the better. King County provides numerous resources on invasive species, including ways to identify them and tips for the best way to control them.

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