Why so clean?

Posted February 4th, 2010 in Alternative Household Cleaning Products by Rebecca Lane

I’ve been thinking about my last post and started to realize that we have a fascination with “whiteness”. How did that evolve? Because I’m certain that our forbearers on the farm weren’t obsessed with white dish towels!I’m thinking that perhaps we have been led by the manufacturers of cleaning products to expect a certain scent to mean clean – and that your home isn’t clean unless it sparkles. Look at the commercials for Mr. Clean and the Magic Eraser. Cleaning is effortless. Yeah – those Magic Eraser’s are so full of chemicals that make cleaning easier – chemicals that include Formaldehyde-Melamine-Sodium bisulfite copolymer which break down into hazardous decomposition products, namely formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide and dust from foam which at the least may cause irritation of the respiratory tract.I don’t want to get caught up in details (but feel free to check the MSDS for the chemicals you cannot part with – perhaps they will help with the decision) – but all the chemicals we use to clean our homes are products of the petroleum industry and none of them are safe for us to be inhaling, ingesting or contacting.Where do my ideas of “clean” come from? Television and magazines expect my home to be effortlessly clean – advertisements have included a man dressed all in white, white kitchens, usually white hands cleaning white countertops or stainless steel that isn’t tea stained. I am influenced by all of this as are my children, as was my mother and hers before her – so my house “should be” sparkling clean. Generations have expected this – 4 to be exact.Before the petrochemical industry had so many bi-products to use up, there was not this sparkling expectation. Homes were smaller and often filled with more people. You would think that there would have been more diseases than now. Yes, perhaps acute infectious diseases were more common – but not the chronic diseases that plague us today. They are the result of the chemical soup we take into our bodies daily.I’ll be thinking more on this next time I worry what people will think of my stained dish cloths. And I do worry . . .. . . but not too much!

Replacing toxic chemicals in the house

Posted January 31st, 2010 in Alternative Household Cleaning Products by Rebecca Lane

I have a test in the Nutrition and the Environment class tomorrow, so today I’m focussing on studying (a noble goal don’t you think?). But one of the things I wanted to talk about was the changes that I’ve made in our household trying to decrease the amount of chemicals used and stored here.This decision was made as a result of starting an essay about the chemicals we actually have in our house. In order to read all the ingredient labels as I was typing, I placed all of them around me at the computer. Just from the fumes coming off the packages, I felt nauseous and had an upset stomach and had to stop working (that’s my excuse – and I’m sticking to it!). What I decided to do was find ways to replace the products that I use daily and get rid of the one timers (those products that I had brought into the house to fix a problem). I’m starting with removing Windex and replacing it with a vinegar and water mix (1:3). I put the mixture into a spray bottle and am also using it in the kitchen as clean up after cooking. It works well on coffee spills too. Yes, I know that the spray bottle is plastic – but until I find a stainless steel bottle, it will do.Next step was to find a replacement for furniture polish (I have used several different varieties) that will both nourish and clean my beautiful antique wood furniture. I made up a mixture of 2 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice (fresh) and put it into another spray bottle (used a Sharpie to write on the bottle – outgasing more phenols into the environment). It works really well – better than the other products combined. And smells wonderful – you have to put some elbow grease into it – but worth the work because the shine on the wood is beautiful to behold.Next steps, finding a replacement for Javex which I use to keep my white towels, dish clothes, and bed sheets clean. I’ve tried non-chlorine bleach but doesn’t work very well. Picked up some Borax yesterday and will try that today – also Hydrogen Peroxide 35% is supposed to work wonders. I’ll let you know the results of my experiments.I’m off to the library for a couple of hours to study!