How to Clean Green in Your Toronto Condo

How to clean green

Toronto’s become more and more environmentally conscious—and when you’re twenty floors up, and it’s that much harder to vent chemical fumes out the windows, a commitment to green and non-toxic living can become that much more personal.

While you’re lowering your carbon footprint, raising your walk score, and otherwise living a sustainable lifestyle, drop these green cleaning tips into your routine: They’ll make sure Chore Day is easy on your sinuses as well as the finishes and materials in your rental condo.

Embrace the household products of our ancestors

Vinegar is magic.  Your grandparents had a big bottle of it under the sink for a reason.  It’s acid enough to kill germs dead, and gentle enough to not wreck the place while you’re at it.  You can use plain distilled white vinegar—the cheap kind you find in your neighbourhood grocery store—for everything from cleaning windows to unclogging the showerhead to getting rid of that bathtub film.  It’s good to check first how much—or if—you need to dilute your solution, and getting your measurements right might take a try or two, but a surprising amount of household cleaning tasks can get done chemical-free with a little patience and a two-litre jug of white vinegar.

Likewise, when it comes to those tougher jobs, baking soda is your new best friend.  A mix of baking soda, vinegar, liquid soap and water will beat the pants off of most commercial bathroom cleaners when it comes time for scrubbing the shower walls, and baking soda in your drain, rinsed through with hot water, can stop clogs before they start.  It’s also great in a paste to remove grease stains from fabric, instead of chemical spot cleaner.

If you need an all-out scour?  Head to the grocery store, put down a couple bucks, and bring home a large cardboard box of Kosher salt.  The crystals are big enough—and abrasive enough—to get dirt right off of tricky, hard-to-clean spots like your bathtub drain, and dissolve absolutely harmlessly into the rinse water when you don’t need them anymore.

There are buckets (literally) of ways to use basic household items to clean without too much fuss—and without smelling chemicals in your bedroom all night.  The David Suzuki Foundation is, unsurprisingly, a fabulous resource for green cleaner recipes.

Get a source

If you’re more of a buy person than a brew person, there are lots of Toronto businesses ready to supply you with tough-but-gentle green cleaning products.  Brick-and-mortar storefronts like Grassroots or The Big Carrot have racks of cleaning products and will refill bulk containers, and online, local startup Greater Goods pre-vets all its products for greenwashing, toxic ingredients, or other unpleasantness, and will deliver your order by bike anywhere in the downtown core.

If you’re buying from a more standard retailer, make sure you check the ingredients lists for any chemical ingredients—or look up that brand with the word “greenwashing”—before you buy.  Unfortunately, green cleaning products is a growing market, and growing markets mean not everything that’s labeled as environmentally friendly actually checks out.

Reuse, reuse, reuse

One of the excellent benefits of that ensuite washer and dryer is that it lets you ditch the J-cloths, paper towels, and disposable sponges—and do easy cleaning with another mainstay of chore days past, the reusable rag.

All it takes is finding a tee-shirt that’s outlived its usefulness, and once you’ve given it last rites, cutting it into comfortably sized squares.  The cotton in most tee-shirts are soft enough to wipe down delicate materials without scratching them, and the fabric is made to get dirty, be washed, and keep on trucking.  Tee-shirt rags are free, reusable, absorbent, easy to clean, and drop your Chore Day trash bag to almost nothing.

When it comes to sponges, it’s not hard to find a reusable, non-synthetic sponge that’ll save you waste on both the manufacturing and the usage end.  Brands like Twist offer plant-based sponges that’re not just chemical-free, but clean so much more easily than your average scrubber: a little hot water and vinegar and they’re back in action.

When it comes to hardwood or linoleum floors, trade in that Swiffer’s disposable sheets for a microfiber mop or dusting pad.  They’re just as easy to use as the disposable dry mop refills, work dry or wet, and are will stand up to hundreds of machine washes.

Swapping in just these few small changes—one every week or two, to ease yourself in—is a great way to save your wallet and your nose when it comes to cleaning house.  And it’s an even better way to keep the chemicals off your surfaces—and make sure they last longer.

Preparing Your Condo for Spring: A Quick Guide – Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

It’s closer than we think: butterflies, patios, open jackets, and fresh air.  And spring means, inevitably, spring cleaning.

Spring cleaning isn’t just an old-timey ritual.  Changes in the weather mean changes in our living space as the temperature rises, and that gap between winter and solidly warm weather is our chance to get on top of those changes, stop seasonal issues before they start, and prep our home for maximum enjoyment through the summer.

So with that in mind, here are five tips to get your condo ready for spring.

Clean everything

Yes, everything: the corners of your closets, the gaps between your air vent slats, your furniture, your door knobs and light switches, your walls (with a lightly damp cloth), your washer and dryer, the backs of your appliances, your carpets, your pillows.  Everything.

Winter—and the way it crams everyone indoors—means germs have a happy fun time in your house and dust bunnies frolic in your vents.  Wiping down everything means making sure that you’re not still bringing last month’s TTC into your condo every time you touch the light switches.

Tidy up—so your building can do the work

The great thing about living in a condo is that a lot of the year-to-year maintenance that most homeowners do themselves is done for you: duct cleaning, filter changing, carbon monoxide alarm testing, common area painting, and more.  Since you’re free of those particular burdens, making sure your panels, vents, and alarms are accessible—and your space uncluttered—is just the considerate thing to do.

Spring and fall are when most buildings will send their maintenance staff around for a check on the essentials.  Do your proverbial spring cleaning—and move any obstacles to your vents and panels—before you get the notice of entry, and you’ll make maintenance day that much easier for both you and your condo’s staff.

Keep that gorgeous view clean

Is it a bird?  A plane?  Or just that dead bug from last winter?  With so many Toronto condos boasting big, floor-to-ceiling windows, the dirt buildup that winter leaves behind on outdoor glass is pretty noticeable once spring hits, subtly but substantially getting in the way of all that natural light.

Most condo buildings will take care of inaccessible external windows, but the ones on the balcony are all yours.  Invest in or borrow an extendable cleaner—if it’s tough enough, your Swiffer will probably do—and give your outside windows a good scrubbing.

Air quality in the City of Toronto has improved massively in the last two decades—we hit our first smog-free summer in 2014—but you’ll still want to come prepared for a fight.  Invest in some heavy-duty paper towel or a handful of sturdy cleaning rags to wipe your windows down after a cleaning solution or vinegar-and-water mop.

Get at the grout

We all sweep, and we all mop, but frequently, we don’t get out a brush and scrub down every inch of bathroom grout.  And there’s a reason: It’s time-consuming, it’s meticulous, and it’s a pain in the knees as well as the more proverbial places.

Bathroom and kitchen grout, though, is one of the more porous surfaces in rooms that see a lot of heat and dampness—which means it’s a great place for germs and mold to get started.  And once the weather warms up and the ambient temperature of your condo goes from drier and colder to warm and damp, mold, mildew, and bacteria can expand out from there to create bigger problems.

A hydrogen peroxide and water solution or baking soda and vinegar are your winners when cleaning grout: they’re effective without containing chemicals harsh enough to damage your tiles.  Turn up the radio, promise yourself a great dinner reward, and hit your bathroom and kitchen grout with a fine, stiff brush before the weather turns.  It will suck.  You will be glad you did it.

Seal, caulk, and repair

Even with a relatively mild winter behind us, temperature takes its toll on the things our homes are made of: glass, plastic, steel, brick, concrete, wood.  Cold and dry weather causes materials to shrink, and if you’ve had any incipient cracks around your windows, at your baseboards, or anywhere else, it’s possible they’ve widened during the winter.

Spring is a great time to do a careful inspection of your condo for gaps, cracks, and wear, and ask your landlord to reseal windows or caulk around any gaps.  It means a day or two of disruption and a bit of smell—keep the windows open—but those cracks and gaps create points of entry for bugs, as well as making your heat or air conditioning work harder by letting outside air in.  Put in two days of sealing and upkeep now, and you’ll spend less time this summer fiddling with the thermostat or clearing out fruit flies.