Spring Cleaning - The right way to get rid of your things and green cleaning

Spring Cleaning - The right way to get rid of your things and green cleaning

Spring seems to be a time of reawakening not only with the emerging critters and plants but also in our own lives. There is a sense of refreshment leading people to become more active both outdoors and indoors. You know what that means - household spring cleaning and purging are underway! We’ll walk you through the most waste wise ways to purge items from your home and tackle spring-cleaning.

Tip: You can always use the Zero Waste Hierarchy below as a tool to guide you in your decision making.

Zero Waste Hierarchy

The clean-out

Whether you are working on purging your garage or your wardrobe, there are a few steps you can follow to make the process easier and more environmentally friendly!

  • Make a pile or a list of all of the items you are considering getting rid of.
  • Ask yourself why you might get rid of these items (broken, don’t use it, don’t like it, etc.)
  • Identify items that are clean and in good condition.
  • Identify items that are broken but could potentially be repaired.
  • Identify items that you do not think are able to be reused anymore.
  • Organize into categories of keeping, donating, and recycling

Anything that you determine is in good condition and clean but you truly won’t use, please donate it to a local thrift store so your “trash” can become someone else’s treasure! We are fortunate to have a diverse network of thrift stores throughout our community. Check out the local reuse network to find locations for reuse. 

Check to see if you can recycle any of the items that you determine are not in good enough condition to be donated to a thrift store. Use our searchable A-Z Recycling Guide to see if an item is accepted in curbside recycling, at our Drop-Off Station or the Recovery Yard. If you search on our A-Z Recycling Guide and there is no return, please email us at info@recycleannarbor.org or give us a call at 734-662-6288 - we are continuously adding items and terms to make this guide as comprehensive as possible!

The clean-up

First things first - you can reduce waste by identifying the cleaners and cleaning supplies you already have so you don’t make a trip to the store to buy unnecessary new supplies.

TIP: Use rags, microfiber cloths, and cut up old t-shirts instead of disposable paper towel for cleaning.

If you determine that you have cleaning supplies that you need to dispose of, you can bring them to the Washtenaw County Household Hazardous Waste collection program for proper disposal if you are a resident of Washtenaw County. They accept all household cleaners through their program in an effort to reduce water pollution.

Often times a special cleaner for each type of surface is not necessary and contributes to increased packaging. This packaging is typically single-use plastic. Fortunately, there are many all-purpose cleaners that can be used on multiple surfaces. You can actually use a few common household items that may be in your pantry already to make all of the cleaning solutions you need! Remember, with any new solution you try you should always test it out on a small area first.

Here are a few cleaning recipes to get you started:

All-purpose cleaner

2-ingredient recipe:

Mix equal parts water and distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle. For a 1 cup solution, add 10-15 drops off an essential oil (tea tree, lemon, and orange essential oils are great!) Be careful using vinegar on marble and granite because the acidity of the vinegar can cause it to eat away at the surface.

You may be thinking, isn’t my house going to stink like vinegar? Well, yes, but the smell dissipates fairly quickly and you can expedite that process by opening windows and/or turning on a fan. Adding essential oils to your solutions also helps.

No vinegar all-purpose recipe:

Put 1 teaspoon borax and ¼-½ teaspoon of washing soda in a spray bottle. Add 8 oz. of hot water. Shake to dissolve. Add ¼ teaspoon liquid castile soap. Optional - add 10 drops of essential oil.

Toilet bowl cleaner

Sprinkle ½ cup of baking soda into your toilet. Pour 1 cup of distilled white vinegar into your toilet. Optional - add 10-15 drops of tea tree essential oil for its antibacterial properties. Let sit for 30 minutes. Scrub as usual and flush!

TIP: Buy baking soda in bulk in your own reusable container.

Glass cleaner

Pour equal amounts of distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Wipe dry with crumpled newspaper, a lint-free soft cloth, or use a squeegee.

Drain cleaner

Put ½ cup of baking soda down your drain. Pour ½ cup of distilled white vinegar down your drain. The mixture will bubble. Once it has stopped bubbling, run hot tap water down the drain. If it is still clogged, repeat the baking soda and vinegar process and once the bubbling stops pour boiling water down the drain. Please be careful with boiling water - we recommend using a kettle for this to avoid burns.

TIP: Save spray bottles to reuse for when you make your own cleaners.


While we have focused on the waste perspective of why you should make your own cleaning solutions, our sister organization, Ecology Center, has a great article on this subject from the lens of toxic chemicals in cleaners. Additional cleaning solution recipes are included in their article.

We hope you now feel equipped to tackle the spring-cleaning process with an environmentally clean conscience!