Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Clean... REALLY Clean

Let's say, just for conversation's sake, that you were to take a spoonful of grape jelly and smear it all over your kitchen counter tops with a paper towel or an old rag. Just wipe that whole counter down really well until the grape jelly is in every nook and cranny and has dried to the touch. Would you consider that counter top to be clean?

That's pretty much what you're doing every time you smear chemical cleaners on them, in the name of "cleaning."

Think about it - would you care to ingest any of the chemicals that are in a bottle of Mr. Clean or Formula 409? Have you read the warnings on the bottles to not only not ingest them, but to use them in well ventilated areas? That means you're not even supposed to breathe them. How can anyone consider that to be clean?

Of course, there are products out there, such as the GreenWorks stuff, that claim to be better for the environment. This is where the term "greenwashing" comes in. Look at the label. If some of that got on your food, would your food still be edible? I'm going to guess that "In case of ingestion, drink a glassful of water. Call a doctor or poison control center." on the label means no.

I make the majority of my own cleaners for this reason. If I drop a cookie on the counter, I want to know that my counter is truly clean and that nothing poisonous has gotten on that cookie, because dang it, I don't like to waste cookies. Along those lines, if there is something that I can't make, or choose not to make due to money/time/space constraints, I try to choose products that are better choices for the environment and my family. I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

First up - you need a good all purpose cleaner. I make mine by mixing 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup lemon juice (strain out the pulp), 1 tablespoon tea tree oil, and 6-10 drops of essential oil in a 24 oz spray bottle. I use grapefruit oil because I think it smells nice and clean, but you can use anything you like. Mix it up, then fill the bottle with water the rest of the way. The tea tree oil has antiseptic properties, and is all natural. It will even clean toxic molds!

If you have something that's really dirty and needs a good scrub, make a paste of liquid dish soap and baking soda. Spread it on half a lemon and you can use that to scrub your sink, bathtub, etc. I like to use the Seventh Generation dish soap because it's biodegradable. I also use it to fill the soap dispensers in my bathrooms. Not only are those lovely smelling goodies from Bath and Body Works full of chemicals that will be in our water supply forever, using antibacterial products when not needed (soap and hot water kill most germs) contributes to super bacteria that get harder and harder to kill.

Do you know someone who is sick a lot and is always demanding antibiotics from their doctor, even for a simple cold? They probably helped to do it to themselves, by lowering their immunity with all that crap. Take it when you need it, and just deal if you don't. Antibiotics don't kill viruses like the common cold anyway, so you're just dumping crap in your system to make your mind happy at that point.

The next thing is dusting - specifically your wood. Mix 2 tablespoons lemon juice (strain the pulp!) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small spray bottle. I use those little pump ones from the travel toiletries section at Target. Give it a good shake right before you spray it on a soft cloth and use that to dust and polish all of your wood furniture. It works SO much better than Pledge or Olde English or any of that stuff and if you make a salad later on... well, okay, maybe not. :)

Laundry - if you're one of those people who tends to do four or five loads at a time, look into getting some soap nuts. They're the husks of berries from the Sapindus tree and contain a natural substance called saponin that will clean your clothes. They're biodegradable, compostable, and work really well. They even used to take that cement like dried baby cereal from Bubba's bibs when he was smaller. The only issue I have with them is that they last 4-5 loads, and those loads have to be done consecutively. I tend to do just one load a day. You can also use your soap nuts to make other household cleaners, such as all purpose cleaner and even shampoo, if you are so inclined!

Go ahead and get rid of your fabric softeners and substitute vinegar. I promise you that your clothes will not smell like you were bathing in pickle juice! Regular fabric softeners work by coating your clothing. This makes towels be not as absorbent and your clothes to become dull. Also, if you use sheets in the dryer you're adding all those to the landfill, and the liquid is just another chemical to put in our water. Finally, the thought of the baby chewing on a blanket or shirt coated with that crap kinda makes me gag. I just fill the softener dispenser with plain old white vinegar when I load the machine.

Those are just a few small ideas to get you started and give you something to think about.



Blogger Samara Link said...

Sara, there are some great ideas here. It's an excellent topic for a post. I think it's so critical to think about what we're adding to the water supply! (I've gotten a little OCD about it myself since becoming aware of that a few years back.) And you're so right. Why use a bunch of toxic, nasty chemicals to clean your house? Those are all surfaces I want to feel good about coming into contact with! My hands used to get so tore up after cleaning. Then, I switched to non-toxic products, and I'm good to go. No dried out, cracked fingers.

I have switched out almost all my products around the house for ones that are natural or non-toxic. I've never made my own though, and these sound excellent and easy. Plus, I'm thinking it's gotta be a money saver, too. I love my Method products, and I use Mrs. Myers for laundry detergent and liquid softener. I think I'm definitely going to give the vinegar instead of liquid softener. And I'll give that all purpose cleaner a try, too. If it works just as well, it'll save money and mean I'm adding less junk to the water supply. I'll let you know what I think of it once I have the opportunity to try it for a bit.

I do use Shout spot remover for stains and OxyClean in each load of laundry. Those are two of the only (few) things I haven't given up. Your thoughts remind me that I need to rid myself of that habit. What do you use for spot treatment on clothes? Thanks for the thoughts and tips!

8:23 PM  
Blogger Katy and Chris said...

Thanks for all the great tips! I'm going to have to save this!

6:16 AM  
Blogger Brooke said...

You have such great info in your blog! Thanks for dropping by to say hi. :) Although we hardly ever say "no" to our little guy, he picked up on the fact that it is an effective way of communicating your desires. It is SO cute and I have to keep from laughing every time he says it.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Olivia said...

Thank you so much for the ideas. I'm definitely going to incorporate these changes into my household routine. This has got to free up a few extra dollars in the budget too. :)

9:31 AM  
Blogger Hooptee said...

Awesome, these are great! I am reading Slow Death By Rubber Duck right now and it's totally freaking me out. I am definitely going to try these.
I learned the vinegar trick during a stomach virus. It gets rid of smells too!

6:53 PM  
Blogger AZAnjanette said...

ok I love the smell of 409 but now I'm all freaked out! My husband can't even eat bagged salad because he *swears* there is a chemical preservative on it that makes his stomach hurt.

Now I'm gonna be thinking about my love of 409 and clorox cleanup wipes! YIKES!

3:18 PM  

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