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Clean Cleaning

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Clean Cleaning

I am passionate about eating a whole-foods based diet, rich in organic and local produce. I’m a stickler for holistic living for myself and my son. We reduce, re-use, and recycle. But until recently, “green cleaning” had eluded me.

I’m just now “coming out” about the commercial brand cleaners I’ve had in my cupboard. For some reason, I was too disconnected from my knowledge about common household cleaners being hazardous to actually make the switch to safer methods. It’s like getting in a car without fastening my seatbelt. Just a bad habit.

After my son came along, we began using a “green” detergent for his clothes, along with a “green” fabric softener and dismissed the bleach for his clothes. Why did I stop there?

Perhaps I thought that the eco-friendly versions of my old standby soap scum removers, disinfectants and cleaners would not get the job done. Or maybe I thought they would be more expensive. Or more likely, I just didn’t think.

Annie B. Bond writes in care2.com’s article Green Cleaning Disconnect? How to Fix It, “There is one part of a product label that can help you, and that is to look for the signal words such as “Harmful if swallowed.” I recommend nothing stronger than a “Caution.”

Annie’s got a point there. Spraying the countertops (where I place dishes and food) or scouring my floors (where my son spends hours each day) with toxic chemicals doesn’t seem safe. It doesn’t get much more intuitive than that.

Now, you’re definitely wondering how you can start making smarter choices. At our neighborhood health food store, there are copious “green” brands – not to mention the whole aisle devoted to eco-friendly household products at huge stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. But don’t let the unfamiliar labels deter you from your new mission.

Thanks to thegreenguide.com, I was able to sort it out quite easily – and so will you! They post these handy little printable pages called “Smart Shoppers Cards”. This web site posts these cards for many different categories of products. When I selected the card for cleaning products, I felt much more secure. Hey, at least it’s a starting point.

Since then I’ve been experimenting with a combination of eco-friendly products recommended by The Green Guide, friends, and message board mamas. But the best solution I’ve found yet is amazingly simple and you probably already have it in your home: vinegar, baking soda, lemon, and soap.

Once again, thanks to Annie B. on care2.com/greenliving, I scoured my bathroom with a vinegar/water solution and soap. It turned out beautifully! After I added a couple of sprigs of fresh lavender from my CSA share (a few drops of essential oils would have done the trick, too), my bathroom was sparkling and smelled lovely. And all the while my 20 month-old son was popping in and out of the bathroom to “help”, I didn’t have to wave him away for fear he would be inhaling toxic chemicals. What a relief.

Give it a try. I guarantee that it’s easier than it may seem. Just break the old habit of buying whatever chemicals you’ve been using and make a commitment to saving your health and the health of your family. And be sure to fasten your seatbelt, too.

And if you need more evidence of the insanity of using toxic products to “clean” your home, check out these not-so-fun facts from an article by The Green Guide, published in Grist, called “Good Clean Fun”:

  1. A 1999 study by New Scientist found that in homes where aerosol sprays and air fresheners were used frequently, mothers experienced 25% more headaches and were 19% more likely to experience depression. Infants under 6 months had 30% more ear infections and 22% higher incidence of diarrhea.
  2. Cleaning products were responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures reported to the US poison control centers (more than 206,000 calls) in the year 2000.
  3. Fragrance in detergents and fabric softeners can contain phthalates, chemicals that have been linked to cancer and reproductive system harm in animal lab tests. Fragrances also may trigger asthma and allergic reactions, with symptoms including skin and respiratory irritation, headaches and watery eyes.
  4. The World Health Organization report from 2000 says that antibacterial soaps help promote growth of resistant bacteria.
  5. Furniture and metal polishes contain nerve-damaging petroleum distillates or formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Now, you’re definitely wondering how you can start making smarter choices. At our neighborhood health food store, there are copious “green” brands – not to mention the whole aisle devoted to eco-friendly household products at huge stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. But don’t let the unfamiliar labels deter you from your new mission.

Thanks to thegreenguide.com, I was able to sort it out quite easily – and so will you! They post these handy little printable pages called “Smart Shoppers Cards”. This web site posts these cards for many different categories of products. When I selected the card for cleaning products, I felt much more secure. Hey, at least it’s a starting point.

Since then I’ve been experimenting with a combination of eco-friendly products recommended by The Green Guide, friends, and message board mamas. But the best solution I’ve found yet is amazingly simple and you probably already have it in your home: vinegar, baking soda, lemon, and soap.

Once again, thanks to Annie B. on care2.com/greenliving, I scoured my bathroom with a vinegar/water solution and soap. It turned out beautifully! After I added a couple of sprigs of fresh lavender from my CSA share (a few drops of essential oils would have done the trick, too), my bathroom was sparkling and smelled lovely. And all the while my 20 month-old son was popping in and out of the bathroom to “help”, I didn’t have to wave him away for fear he would be inhaling toxic chemicals. What a relief.

Give it a try. I guarantee that it’s easier than it may seem. Just break the old habit of buying whatever chemicals you’ve been using and make a commitment to saving your health and the health of your family. And be sure to fasten your seatbelt, too.

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Megan

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