Monday, April 6, 2009

Green Recipes for Spring Cleaning on the Cheap & 5-Bean Salad

Green Recipes for Spring Cleaning on the Cheap
Step 2: Spring-Cleaning, Day Two

I have been inundated with emails from a lot of ‘wonderful’ chemical-based cleaning product companies, trying to get me to buy their products. Spring is a great time to clean out the cobwebs & get those windows sparkly…but who says you have to buy a $5 bottle of poison to get those windows clean???

Vinegar is a great multi-purpose liquid. If it’s safe enough to consume, it won’t be harmful to you as a cleaning agent, either. Throw together this salad in the morning, it will be chilled and ready to eat when you’re done with your spring-cleaning. Goes great with grilled skinless, boneless chicken breasts.

5-Bean Salad
1½ cup sugar
¾ cup vinegar
1 can yellow wax beans
1 can green beans (not French-cut)
1 can red kidney beans
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can navy beans
1 medium onion (white, yellow or red) sliced and separated into rings or 1½” long slices

Combine sugar and vinegar in saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until it boils, stirring constantly to dissolve all the sugar (do not allow it to over-boil). Boil until mixture is clear; remove immediately from heat.

In a large bowl or Tupperware container, combine all of the canned beans and onion. Pour vinegar syrup over all, mix well and refrigerate. Serve cold.

Because of the vinegar content, this salad will keep in the fridge for a long time – at least one whole week if not longer (it usually doesn’t last that long at our house!)

One thing I always keep on hand is a good, old-fashioned jug of white vinegar. I know the smell isn’t the greatest, which is why we do the windows first. Dilute the vinegar about 50/50 with some water, spritz on your windows & wipe with yesterday’s newspaper. The newspaper will be absorbent enough to clean the glass without streaking, and is lint-free. If you choose not to go the newspaper route, remember those old, mismatched socks, doomed to never be reunited with their mates? They’re also great rags. Once the windows are clean, wipe down the frames and sills. For the outdoor side of your windows, a squeegee is a great investment. A sponge mop works well to scrub the dirt off (using the vinegar solution), rinse with a garden hose & then squeegee from top to bottom.

Now that your windows are clean, open them up! Nothing airs out a stuffy house like an open window. That fresh air is way better than a can of air freshener! This will also help to clear the vinegar smell as well.

Vinegar is also great for cleaning your automatic-drip coffee pot. Run a cycle of the 50/50 vinegar/water solution through your coffee pot, and then run a cycle of clear water. I clean the basket with a baking soda & water paste on a toothbrush (a cheap toothbrush is a handy tool to keep in your cleaning arsenal).

I also keep baking soda in the house at all times. It will clean just about anything – from your teeth to your kitchen sink. Make a paste of baking soda and water, and use it wherever you have a stained countertop or baked on grease. I use it to clean the baked-on grease on the chrome burner rings on my stove. This is also effective and safe to use on uncoated pots and pans. If you want to add a little fragrance for the household applications (I don’t recommend this one for your cookware), add a drop or two of essential oil – I like oil of sweet orange or oil of lemon. Texas cedar is great-smelling oil, too – but unfortunately my allergies don’t care for that. If you are allergic to something, remember that you may also be allergic to the essential oil, as well!

Soft Surfaces
I clean from top to bottom, because that’s the direction the dirt will go. If you have curtains, take them down and shake them out - if you can hang them on a clothesline or balcony rail for an hour or two, great. Upholstered surfaces have a sneaky way of gathering dust over the winter, and absorb smell as well. Some draperies need to be dry-cleaned, but if yours don’t, spring-cleaning time can be a good time to launder them.

Thoroughly vacuum your upholstered furniture. If you don’t get in between those couch cushions often, now is the time to do it! You may even find enough spare change to buy that squeegee you need for your windows. This is a great chore to give to the kids. The prospect of finding loose change may be enough to motivate. The furniture part is where I enlist help. We have a huge sectional, which is heavier than I can possibly move on my own. Lucky for me, my three boys do not have a choice when it comes time to help. After the vacuuming part has been done, we move furniture around so the floors can get really clean. With the size of our couch there is only a limited amount of arrangement possibilities, but spring-cleaning is a good excuse to rearrange. Not only does the floor get really clean, but I also make sure the baseboards that are usually hiding behind furniture get wiped down and corners get vacuumed out, too.

Finally, pick up a bright spring bouquet at the grocery store (if you can’t pick them outside yet), and put it in a spot where you will see it. No need for a fancy vase: a mason jar from canned tomatoes or even an old piece of stoneware works. It will make the house smell good, look cheery, and help get rid of those residual winter blahs.


  1. Some good ideas. I use baking soda all the time, even add a little to the laundry. And I always have vinegar on hand.

  2. Boy, if I wasn't hungry when I started looking at your blog, I sure am now!!!

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