Saturday, April 30, 2011

Keeping Clean...The Basics

When it comes to a chemical-free life, we must look beyond our food choices and examine our entire lifestyle.  The easiest place to make a positive, healthy change in your life...and your family's your home cleaning regimen.

Chemical companies have made a "killing" by cashing in on society's unnatural fear and misunderstanding of germs.  The result has been a slew of noxious substances that have contributed to the proliferation of "super bugs" and the impairment of people's immune systems.  The myriad chemical, petroleum-based, perfume-ladened, dioxin-producing, health-endangering cleaning products being aggressively marketed to consumers are not only harmful to you and your children, but they also are a waste of money and completely unnecessary.  You can clean anything in your home with a few simple, safe, natural ingredients.

Home cleaning is like cooking...once you become familiar with the essential ingredients and understand flavor blending, you can create a cornucopia of masterpieces.  In the natural cleaning realm, some basic ingredients can create boundless variations.

But let's start at the very beginning:
  • Baking Soda = the original scour powder.  What can I say?  The stuff is amazing.  See links below for great ideas on using baking soda.
  • Vinegar (distilled "white" vinegar is fine) = its acidity makes vinegar a potent enemy of molds, bacteria, deodorizes, shines and removes hard water spots, too. 
  • GSE (grapefruit seed extract) = this is an extremely potent anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, can be used for water purification, cleaning and medicinal purposes.  It is an effective mold killer.  To learn more about GSE, see the links below.
  • Tea Tree EO (see my post about First Aid to read more about TT oil) = this all-purpose antiseptic not only helps to create "anti-germ" home cleaners, but it also imparts a fresh, clean smell.
  • Everclear (100 proof grain alcohol) = yep...straight, pure alcohol.  It kills just about everything (and will eventually kill you if you drink it, so don't! LOL), so it is a nice addition to cleaning recipes for moldy or "extra yucky" applications.  I use this when I am concerned about parasites.
  • Hydrogen Peroxide (food grade) = fantastic disinfectant; kills bacteria; use instead of bleach.  Use a 3% dilution straight, or combine it half-and-half with water as a multi-purpose surface cleaner.
  • Microfiber cloths/mop = these wonderful cloths work on dirt without any cleaning solution...just get them wet, wipe, and the dirt is gone.  The cloths make nice window and mirror cleaners, and the mops are great for solid floors (dry mop pads pick up dust, wet mop pads get up dirt).
  • Scrubber brushes or sponges
  • Elbow grease = sometimes you need to go the extra mile in removing stubborn stains.  Your home cleaning regimen can be part of your exercise routine. LOL  There are times when I enlist the help of my hubby and his muscles...he certainly gets the baking soda to shine the stainless steel sink in a way that I cannot. 
Various essential oils are beneficial for cleaning; the options are seemingly endless.  Your preferences and your budget will determine which/how many EOs you pursue.  Even herbal recipes are useful for home cleaning.  But this is about the basics, so we'll keep it simple.

For general cleaning, I make a spray (in a quart bottle) of 1/2 part water, 1/2 part vinegar; I add 5 drops GSE.  My favorite extra-strength cleaning recipe (the one I use in the bathroom and around the kitchen prep counter) is a combination of water, 10 drops of GSE, 10 drops of Tea Tree EO, and a couple Tb. of Everclear (in a quart spray bottle).  Also try H2O2 for any germ removing application.

Sinks, bathtubs and toilets get scrubbed regularly with baking soda, in addition to my general cleaning spray.  Toilets require extra elbow grease and get treated to my extra-strength cleaner.  To unclog drains (when not using the most effective "manual", digging out the clog or removing and cleaning the trap), pour a 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain; pour in a similar amount of vinegar and close drain quickly.  The gaseous reaction often breaks loose a minor clog.  This is a fun experiment for kids.

You can buy many healthier, environmentally safe cleaners, such as Seventh Generation or BioKleen.  I think these products are quite nice.  But I prefer to "do-it-myself," keeping it simple and also having the assurance of knowing exactly what I am using in my home.

The following are books I enjoy in this arena.  The first two are fairly indispensable:

Home Safe Home by William Kelly (keeping your home safe and chemical-free)
The Healthy House by John Bower (building for chemical-free living)
Your Home, Your Health, and Well-Being by David Rousseau (similar)
Your Naturally Healthy Home by Alan Berman (similar)
The Healthy House Book by Gina Lazenby (feng shui home design)

A wealth of information is available online to support and encourage the pursuit of creating a healthy home.  To learn more, visit these sites:
Debra Lynn Dadd
60 uses for baking soda
Vinegar Uses
more Vinegar uses
GSE Info
more GSE info
Hydrogen Peroxide info