Posted by Claudia Grazioso on July 6, 2011
I was feeling incredibly industrious one day and decided to do a little cleaning. I drew up a plan of attack, made my lists (bathrooms, kitchens, dusting, vacuuming) and then went for my supplies. I opened the cleaning cabinet and stood there for a moment on the chair (we have always dutifully kept our cleaning supplies out of the kids’ reach). In front of me was a wall. A scary wall. A menacing wall. A wall of words like “TOXIC,” “POISON” and “WARNING.” And a few skulls and crossbones thrown in for effect.
Admittedly, we have a dirty house. With kids and pets, dirt is pretty much a constant. But as I looked at all of those jumbled bottles of toxic chemicals, I couldn’t help thinking, do we really need cleansers that are guaranteed to annihilate every single microbe they come in contact with? It’s not like we live in a lake of raw sewage. Maybe the heavy-duty cleansers were a little much.
Most people have shelves of regular cleaning supplies in their homes, but it’s important to know what’s in them. And for me, it became important to seek out alternatives because somehow when you’re cleaning with toxic chemicals, it kind of diminishes the word “clean.” Sure, every single germ has been eradicated. But what has been left in their place? For instance, bleach (and my husband LOVES bleach. For him, that is the scent of clean) is an irritant that can burn lungs, eyes and skin. Disinfectants often contain ammonia, which is also an irritant, or phenols, which are actually toxic to the circulatory and respiratory systems. Window cleaners usually contain ammonia, or sometimes diethyl glycol, which can be a central nervous system depressant. Air fresheners usually contain formaldehyde, which is an irritant and (now) a known carcinogen. And don’t even get me started on oven cleaners. Anything that can devour baked-on scuzz off the side of an oven really shouldn’t be near food.
You don’t have to go broke buying fancy all-natural cleaners, either (though there are some great ones available.) Chances are you have the makings of some perfectly fine cleansers right in your home. Baking soda makes a great scrub, and I have used it to successfully de-scum plenty of nasty surfaces. Olive oil and lemon make a great alternative to furniture polishes. White vinegar is great for sanitizing and if you mix it with water, it’s also a great glass cleaner. Lemons are also good for sanitizing, and they leave a super smell. I also put a little tea tree oil in a bottle with some water and use it to wipe down surfaces.
Okay, so we probably have a few more microbes than the average house. And I’m not going to lie — I have some bleach in the basement for the next big flu scare… or if we ever do find ourselves awash in sewage. But our new cleaning products are one way I can cut down on my kids’ exposure to chemicals. And my husband is learning to recognize lemon as the new scent of clean.