SPRING CLEANING – THE NONTOXIC, DIY, ECO-FRIENDLY WAY
There are plenty of things we can't control in life. Don't you know it. But when it comes to exposure to the toxic chemicals in cleaning products, it's easy to take charge and boot a load of unnecessary, unhealthy products out of your home.
Look down the aisles of any grocery store and you'll see an endless display of household cleaning concoctions. All those sprays and pungent disinfectants have multiplied exponentially over the decades, to the point where there are hundreds of noxious variations on the theme of dust, dirt, grease, germs, and odor removal.
Seems hardly worth it to bomb our homes with products that can cause allergies, asthma, and even cancer when there are harmless, effective alternatives at hand. The same chemicals that do us harm get washed down the drain to do environmental damage downstream too. It's a big waste of money as well, buying all those specialized products that basically perform the same functions. These are the only things you really need to get shiny, sparkling bathrooms, floors, windows and kitchen surfaces:
Perfect for glass, tile, and metal fixtures. One of the oldest known cleaning agents, white vinegar is extremely versatile and works great. To use, I recommend this recipe, mixed in a spray bottle:
1/4 cup white vinegar
5-7 drops of Dr Bronner's castille soap
16 oz. water
Combine ingredients and shake gently before using. The essential oil in Dr. Bronner's will help mask the vinegar smell, which dissipates after 15 minutes or so. Be sure to use a dry cloth to finish the job, as rubbing the cleaned surface will make it shine—especially windows, mirrors and metal.
(What you're not getting exposed to: ammonia and a slew of respiratory, skin, and eye irritants.)
Don't be fooled by the hippy-dippy branding of Dr. Bronner's products. This man was a genius formulator! The all purpose liquid castile soap he invented in the 60's is incredibly multipurpose, eco, and effective.
Plus the company is a leader in the responsible business movement, with a full on commitment to environmental and social sustainability (they're a certified B Corp). The all-in-one soap is made with organic, certified fair trade ingredients and is packaged in 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.
My Dr. Bronner's goes to work in the tub, toilet, and kitchen sink. It dissolves grease and soap scum, and comes in a variety of natural fresh scents. My favorite is lavender. Bronner's is also a nearly miraculous spot remover for stubborn clothing stains. And I swear by it for camping trips - you can wash yourself and cook out pans with it. It's concentrated, so remember to dilute it.
For disinfecting the toilet bowl, you can add neem and tea tree essential oils when scrubbing. Try about 5 drops of each.
(What you're not getting exposed to: chlorine & bleach that irritate lungs, eyes and skin; potential endocrine disruptors and carcinogens including formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform and toluene.)
Like white vinegar, baking soda is a tried-and-true cleaning agent that's so pure it can also be ingested (for heartburn, for example). I like to use it in the kitchen sink for deep cleanings. It's also an excellent pot and pan scrubber, able to remove the most stubborn sticky omelette remnants or other burned stuff.
When you team it up with white vinegar, the mixing of acids and bases demonstrates a classic home chemistry experiment that never gets old. The intense fizzing and bubbling reaction can help loosen clogged drains without any nasty, caustic by products.
(What you're not getting exposed to: synthetic chemical scrubbing agents that irritate skin and cause allergies; undisclosed ingredients under the loophole ingredient "fragrance" that may include carcinogens and hormone disruptors.)
Now you're armed and ready to say goodbye to all those pricey, unhealthy cleaning products. Breathe easy and happy spring cleaning!