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New season, new clean: Many options when springing into cleaning

ChemDry has several non-chemical solutions for removing spots in between carpet cleanings, Scott Smith said.

As the sun floods in house windows and the ground starts looking more green than gray, spring has come with its cohort - spring cleaning.

There's a growing movement to use more environmentally friendly cleansers.

"Environmentally friendly probably is not using your normal chemicals," said Lisa Daniels, a co-owner of ACE Hardware.

The Red Wing store sells a variety of options for spring cleaning, including a brand called Mrs. Meyers for those who want to avoid harsh chemicals.

"When we look at the label, it's basically water and flower oils and normal everyday stuff," Daniels said of Mrs. Meyers.

Terri Cook is a senior executive leader with Norwex. The Red Wing woman said the company tries to embody the idea of being environmentally friendly.

Cleaning is necessary, she said, but "it's also very dangerous to clean your house -- unless you can have your windows open -- if you're cleaning with tradition cleaners."

Many commercial cleaners emit gases people don't see, Cook said. "Toxins stay in the air and then they mix with other toxins you put in the air from cleaning something else."

Alternatives to industrial chemicals include natural products and even eliminating cleansers. The Norwex mitts are examples, she said. The microfiber rags are woven "together so tightly that when you wipe it over a surface it gets a better clean" and that the antimicrobial silver ions in the fibers make bacteria inactive, making it a "self-sanitizing rag too."

Dust and windows

Cook said the mitts are useful when doing typical spring cleaning tasks such as washing windows and wiping down surfaces. The only substance the rag requires is water, meaning potentially harmful chemicals are cut from the cleaning supplies list -- along with the costs.

Norwex window mitts also boast a streak-free shine. Cook said even using newspaper -- an old-fashioned approach -- isn't always effective.

"There's a lot of ink on the newsprint. You don't necessarily see it when you're washing the windows trying to get those streaks off, and it does work for streaks, but then if you rub your hand over it, you have a bunch of ink on your hand. Kind of defeats the purpose," Cook said.

Dusting is also a spring cleaning task. The warm, sunny beams highlight all the dust that winter shadows once hid. When faced with a whole house, some people may find this task painful. Cook suggests two mitts and three easy steps.

"Number 1: Set out a cocktail of your choice. Nobody says you can't have fun when you clean. Number 2: Crank up your favorite music. Then Number 3: Put one on each hand and start dusting and dancing," she said laughing.

Another way to trap dust in the same way the Norwex dusting mitt does is with a Swifter, recommended by Daniels. These can have extensions to make hard to reach places more reachable.

The floors

After the year's extended winter, carpeted floors may have taken a stomping with slushy boots, soggy snow pants and snowy pets.

Scott Smith, the owner of Scott's ChemDry, said he uses an environmentally friendly for tackling flooring.

"The product we clean your carpets with is 100 percent natural, comes from Mother Nature. The best way to describe it is it's a carbonation process," Smith said. "It's like taking an Alka-Seltzer and putting it in a glass of water."

"When we apply it to your carpet with our rotary jet extraction, it lifts the drift to the surface and we suck it out with our machines," he said.

That means the water doesn't sit on the carpet after the cleaning. This results in a three-to-four-hour dry time in comparison to the average day or two.

"We have these unique features to offer to our customers in-between cleanings," he added. These include other non-chemical solutions for removing spots.

Household cleaners

Some people still prefer traditional chemicals.

"I think if you use it in small doses. everything's going to be fine," she said.

Daniels suggests that regardless of whether you use traditional chemicals or environmentally friendly options, people should not exceed the recommended amount.

"I think they use way more chemical than they need to. They think a little bit more is always better. If it says a cape full, then use a capful," she said.

Another thing to remember is that bleach does not mix well "with pretty much anything else," she said. Mixing causes toxic and harmful fumes.

For individuals about to begin their first spring cleaning adventure, she recommends that they buy a bucket, cleaning supplies they are comfortable using, paper towels, gloves and sponges.

"It's always just fun to open up the windows and get that fresh air in the house after it's been closed up and get that fresh smell in your house," Daniels said. "It just makes it feel clean."