By Kim Robson:
Hubby and I finally bit the bullet and had new flooring installed in our home recently. (Before and After photos.) Afterwards, of course, we had to ask ourselves, “Why did we wait this long?” New floors are so hard to keep pristine, though. Especially living up here in the woods, it’s so easy to track in dirt, rocks, leaves, burrs and stickers.
Determined to keep our new floors as nice as possible, we did some research, and found that most linoleum and vinyl cleaners are a toxic brew of chemicals. Considering we and our pets will be in close contact with the flooring, we wanted to find cleaners that are as chemical free as possible.
With the arrival of spring and the inevitable “spring cleaning” that comes with it, everything from floors to curtains to furniture gets a thorough cleaning after a long winter shut up in stuffy homes. For floors, there are products for spills, stains, odors, carpet, ceramic, linoleum, wood, vinyl . . . You name it, there’s a cleaner for it. Most of these products are awful for the environment and your family’s health.
Thankfully, there is a variety of “green” methods for cleaning floors.
Carpet can be a magnet for attracting and retaining dirt, pollen, pet dander and mold. Frequent and regular vacuuming will eliminate most of it and lengthen the life of your carpet, as dirt is abrasive and breaks down carpet fibers. For odors, spray the area with some water mixed with a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Lavender smells wonderful and is antibacterial as well. For stains, you’ll need three common ingredients found in most pantries. Combine the following into a paste: ¼ cup each of salt, white vinegar, and borax. Apply the paste directly to the stain and rub it in. Allow the paste to dry, then simply vacuum it up!
Hardwood floors are gorgeous and a major investment for your home. Instead of cleaning them with harsh chemical cleaners, try this simpler method. First, bring a quart of water to a boil in a saucepan. While the water is heating, give the floor a good sweeping to remove the largest particles of dust, dirt and hair. When the water starts boiling, pour it into a bucket and steep two or three plain tea bags in the water for five minutes. Remove the tea bags. Soak a rag in the tea and wring it out so that it is just damp to the touch, then wipe down your floors. The tannic acid in the tea helps to deep clean your hardwoods, bringing out their natural luster.
My husband swears by coffee for this same reason. Try it next time you’re at a restaurant and find a schmutzy tabletop or other nonporous hard surface. Dip a napkin into your coffee, and rub away the offending dirt. You’ll be amazed at how well it works.
Did you know that choosing linoleum for your home is an eco-friendly and sustainable flooring choice? I always assumed it was made of petroleum products, but in fact, linoleum is largely made up of renewable materials like solidified linseed oil, pine rosin, ground cork dust, wood flour, or mineral fillers such as calcium carbonate, and formed onto a burlap or canvas backing.
Unfortunately, being a relatively soft and flexible textured surface, linoleum is susceptible to damage from dirt and grime. Again, simply sweeping regularly will extend the life of your linoleum, as dirt and small rocks are abrasive and can become ground in to the textured surface.
To clean, thoroughly sweep the linoleum first to remove larger particulates. Then mix about ½ cup white vinegar with a drop of all natural dish soap like Dr. Bronner’s. Place a lightly moistened mop into the mixture and start mopping. The vinegar acts as a polishing agent, leaving your linoleum with a great shine. If you have stubborn stains that just don’t want to come off, a mixture of water and baking powder should make easy work of them.
The solutions mentioned above can be made with ingredients most people usually already have on hand. It’s so easy to make your own nontoxic cleaners, and you’ll save money, too! So, no matter what kind of flooring you have – whether hardwood, linoleum, carpet, or a combination of all three – there’s no reason you can’t give them a good, thorough cleaning without using harsh chemicals that are bad, not only for your family’s health but also for the environment.