Published April 10, 2009
It is almost time to open up the windows, let in the fresh air and clean up our homes after a long, cold winter season. Since having my daughter, I've become more and more aware of the chemicals that are in cleaning products. The baby books tell one to crawl around on the ground to see what is at a child's eye level when baby proofing a house. It leads one to think "Hmm, my child will be touching the floor, eating things lying around and gnawing on furniture. Areas that I'm cleaning with chemicals!" It doesn't take much to begin reading the ingredients on any cleaning product before you see "Warning! Do not ingest! Do not put near eyes/skin/animals!" Wow. If these ingredients are so bad, why would I want them around the most precious, priceless thing in my life?
Thus began my journey into chemical-free cleaning. I am still very much the novice but thanks to my Holistic Moms Group meeting last week, I am learning more and more about this topic. Our meeting began with a background of the various, unpronounceable, by the lay person who isn't a chemist, ingredients in everyday cleaning products. We all know the brands and grew up with them - Comet, Clorox, Drano, Tide, etc., etc., etc. Very few of us remember the day when our immigrant relatives used white vinegar and baking soda for most of their cleaning needs. The great marketing minds (and budgets) of multi-national companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Unilever and Clorox have done a great job at making us think that only their products can kill germs, anti-bacterialize our lives and keep our families healthy. Thanks to groups like Holistic Moms and Women's Voices for Earth, people are learning about the multitude of natural options.
After this run-through on the lack of information that is available for the ingredients on even the latest "green" product lines like GreenWorks and Simple Green, we set out to learn how to make our own cleaning products. I have a link for all the non-toxic cleaning recipes here rather than list them out ad nauseum. Net, net, there are a few basic (cheap) ingredients in almost all of these recipes: white vinegar & baking soda (bulk cheaply bought at Sam's Club), Borax (cheap at Marc's), castile soap products (at any natural foods store and Whole Foods), vegetable glycerin (as a preservative), sodium bicarbonate (can be purchased at pool supply stores), olive oil + more. It is all so incredibly easy.
I started my greenification with my all purpose cleaner made from 50% white vinegar and 50% water. However, I learned at our meeting to add a few drops of an essential oil (lavender, lemon, grapefruit - whatever your fancy) to make the smell more pleasant. By the way, the vinegar smell doesn't linger if you don't have any oils on hand. Essential oils can be purchased at our local health food stores, too. I feel so good about using this natural spray around my daughter. I used it to clean her high chair, her toys, anything in the kitchen and don't worry about breathing fumes, accidentally spraying my cat (um, yes, purely by accident - hee, hee) or my now 2 year old getting her hands on the spray bottle and turning it on herself.
A huge caveat to all these green, naturally made products is that you don't worry if your child gets their hands on them and ingests or sprays something on themselves. We all would love to think that with locking up our cleaning products and having eyes in the back of our heads (as all mothers do), we can keep things out of the reach of clever, curious little ones. But, we all know that it takes a second to run to answer the phone (in the midst of cleaning), our child takes note of our distraction and gravitates to the one thing they shouldn't be touching.
I confess that the All Purpose Cleaner and Drain Opener recipes are the only ones I've been using for the last few months but am eager to try the other recipes I received at our meeting. I can't wait to make my area, in the basement, to begin mixing my concoctions. It's easy, it's safe, it's cheap and it's green!
For more natural cleaning tips (there are tons, just google):
Care2 Make a Difference
Green Living Ideas
Have more recipes, advice, good places to get ingredients, let me know! :)