Spring Cleaning as a
by Debra Lynn Dadd
For me, cleaning is a spiritual act. It is an
opportunity for me as a spiritual being to bring more
order, beauty, and harmony to the physical environment
in which I dwell. With this viewpoint, cleaning is
never a drudgery and is always a joy.
There is a wonderful passage from Volume One of The
Life and Teachings of the Masters of the Far East,
by Baird T. Spalding. He writes of the Masters:
After tramping all day...Whereas we were begrimed,
dust-laden, and perspiring, they were cool and at
ease, their garments were as white and fresh and
spotless as when we started out in the morning.
We had noted during all our journeys with these
people that none of their clothing became soiled. We
had remarked about this a great many times but had
received no reply until this evening when, in answer
to a remark made, our friend...said, "This may
seem remarkable to you but it seems far more
remarkable to us that one speck of God's created
substance adheres to another of God's created
substance where it is not wanted and where it does not
belong. With the right concept this could not happen,
for no part of God's substance can be misplaced or
placed where it is not wanted.
Then, in an instant we realized that our clothing
and bodies were as clean as theirs were. The
transformation...had taken place instantly...
As we go about our cleaning and organizing, we are
doing the spiritual work of restoring substances to the
places where they belong. We may do it physically with
mops and buckets and soap and sponges and brooms instead
of as-yet-undeveloped spiritual powers, but we are
bringing order, beauty and harmony nonetheless.
The Shakers have a saying, "Clean your room
well, for good spirits will not live where there is
dirt." I believe they are right.
Cleaning is also a way to enliven your home with your
own loving spirit. You probably have noticed that the
first thing most people do when they move into a new
home is give it a good cleaning. This cleans away more
than dirt--it clears away the old thoughts and energies
that has been left by the previous occupants. Reaching
into every nook and cranny and bringing your caring
touch to every surface makes the place feel fresh and
new and yours. In this same way, every time you
clean your home--especially a good top-to-bottom spring
cleaning--you clear away energetic residues of your old
thoughts and experiences. A place cleaned with love and
care becomes filled with that love and care.
There must be something about cleaning to welcome
spring that dwells deep within our instincts. Just as
the windy storms of early spring scour the land before
new growth arises, and new seedlings shake off dirt as
they shoot up through the soil to greet the sun, so too
do we humans feel the impulse to open the windows and
clear away the dust and cobwebs of winter on the first
warmer days of spring.
Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition in
cultures around the world--and for purposes beyond
simply removing dirt. In China, for example, the
agriculturally-based springtime New Yearís celebration
is preceded by a thorough housecleaning, both to remove
accumulated grime and to rid the dwelling of any evil
spirits that have taken up residence so they donít
come into the new year.
Martha Stewart has written, "There was a strict
tradition of spring cleaning in our house. The process
began as soon as the buds on the maple trees that lined
the street began to show signs of leafing out. It was
the unspoken duty of every homekeeper to thoroughly
prepare for the advent of spring by dusting, washing,
and polishing just about every square inch in each and
Cleaning is associated with spring in other ways,
too. In colonial America, women made soap every spring
from stockpiled winter ashes, tallow, and lard. If the
idea of soapmaking appeals to you, spring is the natural
time to make a supply of soap for the year.
Spring cleaning goes beyond normal everyday cleaning.
It's a major project of home revitalization: to make
everything new by removing dust and dirt, to make sure
everything is in good repair, and to put things in
order, so that you will have everything in your
household in working condition for the coming year.
Here are some tasks that are traditionally included
in a major spring cleaning:
- Put away winter clothes and take out spring and
- Sweep and vacuum floors, walls, and corners.
- Wash floors and carpets.
- Clean window panes, sills, and frames. Replace
thick winter curtains that keep heat in with light
summer curtains that allow breezes through. Remove
storm windows, hang up screens.
- Brush or vacuum stuffed furniture and remove
- Wash every surface in every room that has
accumulated dust or grime.
I like to finish a spring cleaning by bringing in
loads of spring flowers and placing them in vases in
NONTOXIC & NATURAL CLEANING
The more aware I become as a spiritual being, the
more aware I become that a natural characteristic of
spirit is a desire to support the whole of life--beyond
one's own individual self. And so, when I clean, I use
products that are simple, safe, and sustainable.
When choosing a cleaning product for a specific job,
I use the least-toxic most-effective product, in the
smallest effective amount.
The real safety or danger of cleaning products is
difficult to assess because manufacturers are not
required to list exact ingredients on the label.
Hazardous ingredients are required by law to be listed
on Material Safety Data Sheets (also called MSDS,
available from the manufacturer and now often posted on
the Internet), but I have found that some ingredients I
wish to avoid, like artificial colors, are listed
neither on the label or the MSDS.
Cleaning products are the only household products
regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission
under the 1960 Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling
Act, which requires products that contain hazardous
chemicals to carry warning labels. In general, it is
best to avoid using products that say
"Danger," "Poison," or
"Warning" on the label. Many safer products
carry the "Caution" label, even though they
are acceptable to use. Fortunately, I have found that
many of the least-toxic products voluntarily disclose
their complete ingredients on the label, so you can
determine for yourself the safety of the product.
Choosing products that are nontoxic or less-toxic
also helps the environment, as it eliminates or lessens
toxic chemicals used in manufacture and toxic waste. In
addition, we can help the environment by choosing
products that are
- multi-purpose (so fewer different products are
- biodegradable (returns safely into the ecosystem)
- concentrated (saves on packaging and fuel used in
- effective in cold water (again, energy savings),
- with minimal packaging, that is made of recycled
paper or recycled/recyclable plastic (look for 1 or
2 HDPE on the bottom of the bottle).
Nontoxic cleaning actually requires very few
specialized ingredients. I do all of my cleaning with a
squirt bottle of fifty-fifty distilled white vinegar and
water, liquid soap, and baking soda. For laundry I use a
natural soap powder and chlorine-free oxygen bleach.
Other substances I have on hand for occasional cleaning
needs are salt, lemon juice, borax, and chlorine-free
scouring powder. Formulas for combining these
ingredients into cleaning products can be found in my
book Home Safe Home, but the best resources for
homemade cleaning formulas are Clean & Green
and Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond.
Both books are packed with hundreds of simple, nontoxic
do-it-yourself ways to clean almost anything you can
If you wish to purchase cleaning products, check your
local natural food store. Most have a good supply of
generally nontoxic products with various environmental
benefits. I also have a list of nontoxic, natural, and
organic cleaners at http://www.debraslist.com.
SIMPLIFY YOUR CLEANING
While scrubbing away at your spring cleaning, there
are two things you can resolve to do in the coming year
that will make cleaning easier. These will also reduce
the amount of cleaning products you use, saving
resources and money. But the most important thing to me
is that they save time and reduce the amount of cleaning
First, I incorporate preventive maintenance. In the
oven, for example, I put a cookie sheet on the rack
under a casserole that is likely to spill over, which
pre-empts the need to scour baked on food. If the
casserole spills, the cookie sheet can be effortlessly
soaked clean in a few inches of water in the kitchen
I also keep in mind the adage "A stitch in time
saves nine," which means if you take that first
stitch to fix the tear before it gets bigger, youíll
save having to make nine stitches later. In cleaning,
this translates to wiping up the spill when it happens,
cleaning surfaces before they are caked with dust and
grease, and just cleaning as you go while thereís not
much to clean. Itís only when we donít clean that we
may need harsh chemicals to tackle what would have been
an easy job earlier.
CLEANSING THE SOUL
To clear away the old and prepare for new growth is
the essence of spring, whether we are cleaning our
homes, clearing a garden for new planting, or freeing
My experience on my own journey of spiritual
awakening has been that the process of gaining one's
spiritual awareness and abilities is basically an act of
"cleaning"--removing that which obscures our
natural awareness of ourselves as beings of spirit.
I like to use the analogy of the spirit being like
the sun, and the mind being like a window. When the mind
is clouded by fear, hate, apathy, pain, disappointment,
other people's expectations and oppressions of all
sorts, then the light of spirit is blocked, just as a
dirty window blocks the light of the sun. The sun is
still there, though, shining just a brightly as ever.
When we clear away negative thought patterns, then the
light of our own spirit can shine forth into our world.
© Copyright 2005 Debra Lynn Dadd.
All Rights Reserved.
Debra Lynn Dadd has
been a leading consumer advocate in the field of health and
the environment since the early 1980s. She was the first to
comprehensively write about toxic chemicals in common
household products in language meant for consumers, which
created a demand for the many nontoxic products we find on
the market today.
Beginning with her first
self-published book in 1980, Debra's various books have been
continuously in print for twenty-five years. Her book Home
Safe Home is the definitive guide to toxic exposures in the
home and safe solutions. She also publishes Debra's List--a
free online directory of 100s of links to 1000s of products
with health and environmental benefits--and three free
online newsletters: Health, Home, and Habitat, a weekly
recipe using natural sweeteners, and Words of Wisdom--a
daily quotation on nature or spirit. She has been a regular
contributor to Natural Home & Garden magazine since it's
Hailed "The Queen of
Green" by the New York Times, Debra has appeared on
many radio and television shows including Geraldo and the
Today show. She was featured on the cover of East West
Journal (now Natural Health magazine) and Yoga Journal.