Callie’s Cabin: Spring into Tahoe-ish house cleaning

Cal Orey
Special to the Tribune

Before I left for a trip to Victoria, Canada, my seventy-three-year-old South Shore cabin was cleaned — and I used whole herbs to do the job. While I kenneled the dog, leaving the cat to hold down the fort is one reason why I used nature’s cleaners — not stuff with chemicals.

Bunch of lavender flowers and sachets filled with dried lavender. <em id="emphasis-bd23dea96aa86bf0ef4ea5c8c7ad5d17">Getty Images</em>

I filled a jar halfway with sprigs of dried herbs: lavender flowers and thyme, two favorite herbs of springtime. Next, I added a half and half ratio of white vinegar and tap water to cover the mixture. Not only did it do the work of refreshing the bathroom and kitchen sink and floors, the fragrance in early spring was wonderful thanks to plant power.

Upon my return, it was a lingering aroma that welcomed me when I repeated, “There’s no place like home.” And my Siamese kitty Zen greeted me with purrs, kneading my chest, and cuddling me to sleep after a long journey.

Aromatic herbs for spring cleaning

Using fresh or dried herbs for house cleaning is as good at it gets. Some herbs used for an eco-friendly way to freshen up a room and make it dirt-free and tidy include cloves, marjoram, and thyme. But other herbs can be used, too, such as cinnamon, citrus peel, lavender, rosemary, and sage. And mixing plant power with water and vinegar provide the perfect solution to clean it up with a scent.

Herbs provide antimicrobial, antiseptic, and antifungal properties. If you have used commercial cleaners, you know like I do, they work but the chemical residue smells bad and lingers. Plus, it can affect your nasal membranes and throat if you’re sensitive to certain chemicals. It’s better to feel good about freshening and cleaning your home with green stuff, rather than the chemical liquids and powders.

Indoors spring formulas Tahoe-style

Here’s a checklist to get you started:

•Kitchen: In a spray bottle, combine 2 tablespoons thyme, crushed or a couple of sprigs, ¼ cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, and 1 cup water. This solution can be used to spritz on countertops, inside a microwave, refrigerator, and windows.

•Living Room/Dining Room: In a spray bottle, combined ½ cup apple cider vinegar with 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and sprigs of fresh lavender. Add 1 cup water. Use a cotton cloth and dust wooden furniture with scratches and smudges. Wipe and buff.

•Bedrooms: Add potpourri sachets in drawers of chests and nightstands. Use the springtime mix (recipe is below) for best results.

•Bathroom: In a plastic container add ¼ cup baking soda, 2 teaspoons lavender, crushed, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Add ½ cup water. Mix well. Use as an abrasive cleanser for the shower or tub, sink, and toilet.

Freshen up spring sachets

Some folks believe potpourri is a trend from the seventies and sort of a thing of the past. Not so. Sure, it’s not found in every household bathroom, drawers, or bedroom on a nightstand. But potpourri still has its place in the household – and spring, a time of renewal is the perfect time to incorporate it inside your home. Do it the sachet way!

Recipe: In a sachet bag or two (available online) fill it up with spring dried herbs. Combine 2 teaspoons each dried lemon peels, parsley, and thyme. Add star anise for the presentation. Place in mason jar and pour the potpourri into sachets when you need to rejuvenate a room or more in your home. Put in a place where children and pets cannot reach the mixture. And note, enjoy nature’s herbal helpers to get and keep it clean in your mountain digs during the season of renewal. Sniff, ah. Springtime fresh!

Adapted from The Healing Powers of Herbs & Spices: Timeless Treasures, Kensington

Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, Essential Oils, Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is

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