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Debra Lynn Dadd

Spring Cleaning as a Spiritual Act
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.

Home Safe Home by Debra Lynn Dadd

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 every house."

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 summer clothing.
  • 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 spots.
  • 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 every room.


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 needed)
  • biodegradable (returns safely into the ecosystem)
  • concentrated (saves on packaging and fuel used in shipping)
  • effective in cold water (again, energy savings), and
  • 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 imagine.

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.


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 needed.

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 sink.

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.


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 the spirit.

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
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 first issue.

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.



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