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Smart Spending: Spring cleaning, homemade style

By TALI ARBEL

NEW YORK (AP) a¿¿ With spring emerging from a seemingly never-ending winter, I wanted to clean my New York City apartment. But without cleaning products.

I've been trying to eliminate unfamiliar chemicals and the consumer products stuffed with them from my life when feasible. So I got advice on how to clean without them from Cori Morenberg, the owner of the Ms. Green-Clean cleaning service in New York, and Mary Findley, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Green Cleaning" and a seller of green cleaning products.

They had a few key ingredients for me: White vinegar, baking soda, dish detergent, essential oils, rubbing alcohol and water.

So can I clean without Clorox, Windex and Murphy Oil Soap? (Yes.) Is it harder? (Kind of a¿¿ it's an extra step to mix cleaners together rather than just spraying from a package.) Does it smell better? (Yes.) Is it easier on my skin? (Yes.) Cheaper? (A little.)

ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER

A one-size-fits-all soapy mixture works for most surfaces, both Morenberg and Findley say.

Morenberg likes warm water, dish soap a¿¿ she likes a brand called Ecover a¿¿ and a few drops of an essential oil in a bucket. Findley pushes warm water, Biokleen dish soap and about a quarter-cup of distilled white vinegar, and she puts the whole mixture in a spray bottle.

Morenberg recommends dipping microfiber and cotton terry cloths, available at grocery stores and hardware stores, in the solution, wringing them out and then attacking floors and other surfaces.

Exceptions: Findley says the vinegar mixture should not be used on stone floors or countertops because the acid in it can dull the surface. So stick to hot water and soap. On wood or laminate floors, avoid soap. Clean those with warm water and vinegar.

I filled a large plastic container halfway with warm water, poured in less than half a cup of white vinegar, added a few drops of some lavender essential oil and a squirt of my dish soap. I tried cleaning my window sills, which got grimy over the winter, with paper towels dipped in this mix. That didn't work so well a¿¿ the windowsills are less dirty, but aren't sparkling, either. Using paper towels with the solution didn't work well for me on really dirty surfaces.

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