Seven and a half years ago when my oldest son was an infant, I was cleaning the bathroom. As a busy new mother, I was struggling to find the proper balance between holding and caring for my infant and taking care of our home. I felt like I was handling both well when I placed my son in a bouncy seat on the bathroom floor, where he cooed happily as he watched me clean. I sprayed the sink and mirror thoroughly with a chemical cleaner that I had bought at the local grocery store. I was horrified as I saw the cleaning spray mist float in the air and land on my baby’s face. He giggled as I raced to get a damp washcloth to clean his face.
Questions raced through my mind. What would this do to his skin? Would it seep into his circulatory system? Would it affect his nervous system? Had any of the cleaner gotten in his mouth, his nose or his eyes? Once he was clean, I still felt uneasy. I was sure the cleaner had left a residue on his innocent little body and I considered calling poison control. He continued to laugh and coo happily, so I decided not to go that route, but I kept my eye on him for any unusual symptoms. Luckily, none appeared. But, from that day forward, I decided I would no longer use chemical cleaning products in my home.
My reaction may sound extreme, but I still stand by my decision to ban chemical cleaners from my house. Now, over seven years later and with two children, my home is a chemical free home and has been for some time.
Psychologically, the switch was hard to make at first even though my convictions were strong. We have been trained in our society to think that if we are not disinfecting with strong chemicals that leave a piney fresh scent, then our home just isn’t clean. Now that I have many years of using all natural cleaners, I can attest to the fact that my home is just as clean, if not cleaner than average since there is no chemical residue. My family is healthy and my school age son seldom misses a day of school due to illness. I feel that I am working towards not only keeping my family healthier in the short-term, but also protecting them from the possible long-term effects of exposure to the chemicals in common household cleaners. These possible effects include many diseases, including cancer and autoimmune disorders.
From a practical side, getting started on natural cleaning is easy and inexpensive. Most people already have the ingredients in their kitchen. White vinegar, baking soda, water and cooking oil are the basics and can be easily adapted for many cleaning needs.
Use hot water instead of chemical floor cleaners. You don’t need expensive, toxic floor cleaners to get your kitchen floor clean. Hot water will clean all the dust, dirt and coffee spills off of a well swept and vacuumed floor quite nicely. You can add a half a cup of white vinegar if you feel you need something with disinfecting power. Counter and tabletops can also be wiped off with a water-dampened rag, no chemicals necessary. Dusting furniture is also done quickly and easily with a slightly damp rag. The dust and dirt will cling to the rag and there will be no chemical residue left behind for your family to breathe in.
Use white vinegar instead of chemical spray cleaners. Keep some strait white vinegar in a spray bottle for cleaning mirrors and windows. It cleans streak free, like many store bought cleaners, but at a fraction of the price and with no environmental impact. Keep another bottle mixed with half vinegar and half water. This is the perfect mixture for cleaning countertops and tabletops when you need disinfecting power. Bathroom counters, toilet seats and even tubs can be cleaned and disinfected with vinegar. Vinegar’s only limitation in kitchen and bathroom cleaning is that it will break down tile grout. In these cases, you can substitute plain water.
Many people are put off by the vinegar smell. Let me assure you that this odor is temporary. After a few minutes, the air in a vinegar-cleaned room has no discernable odor. Vinegar actually makes a great room deodorizer. If you are having a particular odor problem in one room, like stale cigarette smoke or any other lingering scent, set out an open dish or two of vinegar. Leave it overnight and dispose of the vinegar in the morning. If the odor is not gone, repeat for one or two more nights, and it will be.
Use baking soda to clean sinks and tubs. Baking soda is a good scouring powder that scrubs away stains easily. It also has the added bonus of deodorizing drains and the toilet bowl. For extra deodorizing power, leave it in your toilet bowl overnight and flush in the morning. If you are a pet owner, you will appreciate having something non-toxic in your toilet bowl, just in case Fido or Frisky gets a little thirsty in the bathroom.
Use a mixture of white vinegar with a few drops of cooking oil as a furniture polish. This mixture dries quickly and leaves a nice shine to wood furniture. Manufactured furniture polishes are some of the most toxic household cleaners that exist. Their lemony fresh scent is also especially appealing to small children who could have access to cleaning products. Vinegar and cooking oil is a harmless and effective substitute.
Fortunately, my son seemed to have no short-term or long-term effects from his accidental spray cleaner misting. Yet, I still stand by my decision to use only natural cleaning products in my home. I can’t help but wonder if I had continued exposing him to these chemicals, might there have been a problem? The more immediate effect of using natural cleaners, in addition to my fresh, clean home, is my peace of mind knowing that I am not exposing my family to toxic chemicals on a regular basis. That, coupled with the much lower cost of natural cleaners makes me a life time convert to all natural cleaning. I hope that you will join me!