It may not still be Earth Week, but in my household, we try to practice a more environmentally friendly lifestyle on a daily basis. Some things are easier than others. Last week, I shared a list of simple things you can do. Today, in preparation for my annual spring clean, let’s talk about chemical cleaners.
Oh Kermit, you said it the best. It’s not easy being green, especially in all aspects of our daily lives. I have struggled with my cleaning products over the years. There are just certain things that I have been conditioned to believe make things “clean”. Particular scents and presence of bubbles also equate clean in my mind. Too many “Scrubbing Bubbles” commercials as a child? Or the dizzying aroma of Mr. Clean?
Why should we care? What difference does a few cups of bleach or a shake of powdered detergent make? Well, lets talk about phosphates for a moment.
Phosphates enter waterways from human and animal waste, laundry water waste, cleaning agents, industrial waste, and fertilizer runoff, just to name a few. These phosphates become detrimental when they over fertilize aquatic plants and cause stepped up eutrophication, a recognized pollution problem. Phosphates stimulate the growth of plankton which messes up the whole biodiversity of our water ecosystems, including toxic algal blooms.
Bodies of water are being aged at a much faster rate than geological forces can create new ones. All those organisms and animals that rely on that water are negatively impacted. And the humans who need to drink that water? Um, ya, eventually they will be effected too.
My mother in law introduced me to a wonderful line of natural cleaning products from Shaklee. I use their Basic H and Basic G concentrates to make all kinds of alternative cleaning sprays. They are non-toxic and very affordable considering how far a bottle goes. The Basic H is so gentle and safe, it can even be used to clean fruit or pets, plus a thousand other things. The Basic G is used in place of bleach as a germacide without the fumes.
You don’t have to go out and buy special products though. There are tons of natural cleaning products waiting to be made, right in your very own cupboard.
Environmentally friendly cleaning ideas:
Drain opener: Instead of drain cleaner, pour about 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, then 1/2 cup vinegar. The resulting chemical reaction can break down fatty acids, allowing the clog to wash down the drain. After 15 minutes, pour in boiling water to clear residue. Do not use this method after trying a commercial drain opener–the vinegar can react with the drain opener to create dangerous fumes.
All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and use whenever you’d reach for your usual not-so-safe cleaning agent to spray down countertops, bathroom walls, mirrors, etc.
Microfiber cloths: An alternative to paper towels or a linty rag is a microfiber cloth. They lift off dirt, grease and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands. A good quality cloth can last for several years. My favorite is the Miracle Maid, or as my husband calls it “the magic cloth”.
Stainless steel cleaner: Super hot water + microfiber cloth + a little elbow grease for a streak free, no residue shine!
Fruit/veggie sprays– Mix Basic H or vinegar with water in a spray bottle. Just spray onto edible item, rub a few times, and rinse clean. So much less expensive than the kind you buy at the store!
Fragrant Room Sprays– Step away from the can of spray and unplug that deodorizing wallflower. You can make your own inexpensive and naturally delightful room spray with essential oil and water. Just put a few drops of your favorite natural oil into a spray bottle, add water, and spray away. Stock up on a variety of oils: rose, lemon grass, peppermint, ylang ylang, lavender, rosemary, orange essence, or whatever appeals to you the most. You could also use an essential oil burner to emit the scent of your choice, burn a stick of incense or some sage, or light a soy candle. Why spray chemicals into the air you breath?
Borax, a natural mineral cleaner, is also a favorite natural cleaner of those in the eco-know. Mixed with lemon juice, it can make your toilet shine! Toss some in with your funky mildew-y towels to make them fresh as can be. There are tons of uses for it listed all over the internet. I am just getting around to trying it. Step by step, slowly but surely, I am making these changes. I’ll let you know what I think.
I know most of this information isn’t new to anyone, but sometimes we all need a gentle reminder to lessen our chemical “spills”. If nothing else, use less product and more elbow grease. Your sexy summer biceps will thank you!