Welcome to my new column; here I’ll answer your questions and give tips about how to deal with everyday cleaning tasks and the occasional cleaning nightmare scenario, as well as how to accomplish these tasks in an eco-friendly way. Ten years ago, I was out of work and getting desperate. I needed a job STAT, and all I was finding were server jobs. I am incredibly, unbelievably bad at waiting tables. But as luck would have it, I’m a bit of an obsessive cleaner and pretty good at it. I come from a long line of anal-retentive cleaners who have an uncanny knack for keeping immaculate homes. So the idea of picking up some cleaning jobs began to percolate in my mind. Because I am extremely sensitive to the fumes in chemical cleaning products, I decided that I would use only eco-friendly products. On a whim, I put an ad on Craigslist advertising green cleaning. I got one response asking if I cleaned topless. And then requests for (clothed) green cleaning started rolling in. Thus, Eco Clean Cleaning Service was born. With this whole insanely-scary pandemic stuff happening now and for the foreseeable future, I figured this was the perfect time to share some cleaning wisdom with you fine folks. So, let’s get this party started! 

What should I do first when cleaning my house? 

Always, always, ALWAYS start by dusting from “top to bottom” (from the highest places in a room to the lowest), and then sweep up or vacuum this dust. For example, dust the light fixture or fan in a room, then the picture frames, then the window sills, and so on and so forth. If you start by cleaning the floor and move up, you’ll undo all the work you just did when dust from the ceiling area snows down all over the room. 

Any secrets on getting grease out of cotton clothing? 

In eco-friendly cleaning, white vinegar is your best friend. It’s a great natural disinfectant and deodorizer that you can use to clean most surfaces (Warning: do not use on marble. Vinegar will destroy it). So for this particular problem, you’ll need baby powder, baking powder, or cornstarch, colorless dish soap, and white vinegar. Cover the stain with the powder for 30 minutes or until the grease is dry. Next, rub the colorless dish soap and white vinegar lightly over the spot with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Follow this by soaking the garment in warm water for 20 minutes. If the grease stain is still visible, repeat this step again. Finally, rinse the garment off with cool water and hang it to dry. 

Any tricks for getting pillows clean from body oils without misshaping them? My husband has skin that’s extremely oily and I can get the sheets and pillowcases clean, but I’m scared to tackle the actual pillows. 

For this you’ll need a half cup of white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and Castile soap (a versatile cleaner made from vegetable oils; the most well-known brand is Dr. Bronner’s). Toss your two pillows in the washing machine and set to soak. Washing two pillows at a time balances the washing machine so they clean evenly. Add the hydrogen peroxide and vinegar to the drum of the washing machine (the hydrogen peroxide is a natural whitener, and the vinegar tackles deep-set stains). Next, place the pillows in the sun to dry. If you dry them in the dryer, add a tennis ball; the ball will help to fluff them while drying and keep them from getting misshapen. 

How do I clean mirrors without leaving streaks? 

Fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water. Spray the mirror with this solution, and then wipe the mirror with a microfiber rag or old cotton t-shirt. Use another microfiber rag or t-shirt to buff any streaks or remove lint that might remain. I like to look at the mirror from different angles to check for streaks. If you see any streaks, buff them away with the dry rag or t-shirt. 

I’m moving out of my apartment, and I noticed that I spilled some candle wax on the carpet. Help! 

OK, this may sound a little crazy, but it works. You’ll need an iron and a paper bag. Place a paper bag over the wax. Put your iron on a low heat setting and run it over the bag on the waxy spot. The wax will be absorbed by the paper! 

My glass stovetop has hardened grime on it. How can I get this off without scratching the glass? 

You’ll need the following items to tackle this job: baking soda or Bon Ami (Bon Ami is my favorite eco-friendly cleanser, and it’s very cheap), a spray bottle of distilled white vinegar, a clean towel, your clean sink or a bucket filled with hot water, and some microfiber cloths. First, and most importantly, make sure the stove top is cool. Next, spray the surface with vinegar. Now, you’ll sprinkle baking soda over the vinegar. After this, dip your clean towel in the hot water and wring it out, then place the rag over the baking soda and vinegar on the stovetop. Let this sit for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the towel and wipe away the baking soda and vinegar with a microfiber cloth. Finally, spray the surface with vinegar again and use a clean microfiber cloth to buff any streaks out. If needed, repeat the above steps to remove any stubborn gunk.

Got cleaning questions? Email 

illustrations by Ben Claassen III | @dirtfarm

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