This is the year

I know it’s not exactly spring but since last week I was focusing on keeping the winter blues away I’ve been looking for spring-like things to do in my spare time, like spring-cleaning, to trick myself into thinking spring will come sooner. Of course it was so warm today the snow in our yard was melting and I can see grass so maybe it’s working on some weird mind over matter level or something?

I started this year with a challenge to myself to de-clutter my life. I have done this and I am really happy with the results. I don’t miss a single thing we gave up, even the things I had trouble letting go of, in fact minimalism has become a new pastime. Moments of boredom often result in me looking around for things that don’t need to be here and every week there is more and more to give away. The best part about the whole thing is that my apartment is suddenly a thousand times easier to clean. Looking at my cleaning kit, though, I feel like it leaves a lot to be desired. I have plenty of products that are labeled eco-friendly, but I always have to wonder to myself how many of them actually are.

One brand that I rely on heavily earned praise from a lot of people I know for listing all of the ingredients in their products right on the package and supporting many worth while organizations dedicated to preserving natural resources and ecosystems. I was totally sold by this and immediately switched over to said brand as my other cleaners started to run out. But until yesterday I never actually used the information on these labels to find out what was in the products I was buying. Any company who broadcasts that kind of thing can be trusted right? Sort of.

As it turns out, while many of this brand’s products are on the level there are also some that are really no better than the brands I was buying before. The only redeeming feature of my toilet bowl cleaner for instance was that it did not contain any dyes or perfumes, but the rest of it was pretty toxic all on its own. I had a similar misadventure regarding carpet stain remover a while back.

Aside from the chemical products I’ve been using there is also the matter of paper towels, disposable sponges and chemical laced scouring pads. I am not proud of the amount of these items that I use despite the fact that I know so much better. They are an addiction, and now that I’ve taken steps to reduce some of the other waste we produce this addiction is staring back at me from the trash bin quite clearly.

This week’s challenge is all about cleaning up the way I clean up.

Make my own: Not long ago I tried to cut soy out of my son’s diet because I suspected an allergy and found out the hard way that the only way to insure I knew exactly what was or wasn’t in any of our food was to make it myself. The saga with the listed ingredients on my cleaners and the green washed carpet cleaner has driven home that the same can be said for pretty much anything.

The nice part about making things yourself? It’s almost never as hard to do as you think it’s going to be, and you always save a TONN of money. So how bad could it be? Armed with an industrial sized jug of vinegar and a few other ingredients I plan to conquer the grime in my apartment.

Added bonus: because I don’t have to worry about toxic chemicals in my home made cleaners I can have the toddler ‘help’ me with this project. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Make myself an UNwanted poster. I imagine that there will be the occasional mess I may want to clean up with a store bought cleaner and when that happens I want to be ready to face the toxics aisle with confidence. I am starting HERE in my research but I won’t claim to have read enough to put together a complete list of ingredients I want to avoid. When I do I will make sure a copy comes with us each time we shop.

Choose unscented. There seems to be quite the market out there for making people believe that for something to be clean it needs to smell ‘clean’. The reality is that clean things have no smell at all and that ‘clean’ smell that’s being sold is the smell of complicated chemical cocktails that are not particularly good for you or the environment. If you’re not into making your own cleaners like I plan to or if you are having trouble deciding which ingredients to avoid in store bought products, I would bet that simply cutting out the perfumes would go a LONG way.

The trouble with this is that actually finding a product that doesn’t contain any perfumes is much harder than one would expect so make sure you leave some time around your next shopping trip to really search.

Avoid disinfectants. Disinfectants, referring to product and cleaners which include antimicrobial ingredients, are their own special breed of toxics in my opinion, but according to everyone else they’re simply pesticides. Pesticides that kill both good and bad microbes without distinction, some of these pesticides are known to be carcinogenic, and all of them are, by definition, poison. I am all for the use of disinfectants in hospitals and maybe public washrooms, but in your home they are probably not necessary and they can reek havoc on natural ecosystems.

Whenever I talk about the fact that we don’t use disinfectants I get at least a few raised eyebrows. I’ve been asked if we get sick a lot, I’ve been asked if that means my home is dirty, I’ve been told my child couldn’t play with another child because of it. But honestly, if you are skeptical just look into it a bit and at least think about it (here’s an easy starter article). For the record: my family hardly ever gets sick, my housekeeping skills are passable though certainly not perfect, and I am obviously no longer friends with the germ-snob.

Unfortunately, like unscented cleaning products, finding cleaning products that do not contain any of the common antimicrobial chemicals is getting more and more difficult but finding products that do not contain these chemicals could go a long way in limiting the impact your cleaning habits have on the environment and your own health.

Reusables: There are plenty of really convenient products out there that people rave about but many of them are, or have components that are, disposable. This week I am going to be trying some reusable alternatives, many of which can be made with a little know how, and plenty of which can be found fairly easily. However I also want to remind myself that before Sw*ffers people got along just fine with a regular old broom and so can I.

 I am really excited to get started on this project. I’ve wanted to try my hand at making my own cleaning products for ages and this is the perfect opportunity to do so. Have you made your own cleaning products before? Any tips for a beginner like me?

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Comments on: "Week Six Challenge: Clean Up The Way I Clean Up" (8)

  1. I’d love if you could share your ‘recipes’ for some househould cleaners. I don’t use many commercial products and rely on water, vinegar, tea tree oil and baking soda A LOT, but I would love to find good alternatives for furniture polish and floor cleaner! With 5 kids having the run of the house,the least chemicals the better……pppssstt…we don’t use disinfectants either, and we’re rarely sick with any more than a cold;)

    • There is a post going up later today with the recipes I am trying! One of them is a carpet cleaner and I’ve also found one for non-waxed floors.

  2. Hannah Ulbrich said:

    I make my own cleaning wipes using unscented baby wipes, white vinegar and Thieves blend essential oils.

  3. I’m of the vinegar, baking soda, salt and lemon juice variety. No recipes, just elbow grease and patience. Except for the toilet. Regina’s water is really horrid and I use a toxic cleaner on it.

    I was using washing soda for laundry but my family vetoed me on it, opting for a more mainstream variety of detergent. In some areas, I am in the minority. But with patience, I often get them to come around. I get soap from a friend who makes it from tallow she collects from a neighbouring farmer. She also makes lotions and experiments with bath goodies.

    And re: the germ thing, that parent needs an awakening! I’ve been doing this green cleaning thing for more than a decade — probably closer to two — and none of us are dead or severely ill. The kids are 18 and 20 and healthy.

    • laundry is a big thing for us too. K wants his clean laundry to smell like detergent even though he knows that ‘clean’ doesn’t actually smell like anything. I have recently started looking into wool dryer balls to cut drying time though!!

  4. janrose999 said:

    Wood Floor Cleaner

    ½ cup vinegar
    1 gallon water
    Wood floors should not get overly wet. With the vinegar & water mixture, dip sponge mop into solution & squeeze till almost dry. Then mop. Cleaner should not be poured directly on the floor, but I have sprayed lightly. Dry streaks or wet areas with a clean towel.

    • oh very cool. We don’t have wood floors here but when I did the streaks drove me nuts and it never occurred to me to finish with a quick towel wipe down.

  5. Be careful with baby wipes. They contain petrochemicals also. There are maybe 3 brands that can assure you that they avoid them.

    Great weekly focus. I’m allergic to petrochemicals which are in everything and changed all my life over to avoid. Cleaning products were are cuz DH wanted stuff that ‘cleaned’.

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