Wednesday, January 28, 2009

If my house smells like chemicals, it's not clean!

I have a very sensitive nose. I've had this affliction my entire life. I especially can't stand the smell of commercial cleaners. Don't tell my mom, but even as a teen, when it was my turn to clean the bathroom I would 1) open all windows and doors and turn on the fan, 2) use a miniscule amount (or, ahem, none)of Scrubbing Bubbles and Comet and whatever, 3) run up my parent's water and heating bill by just scrubbing with masses of hot water. I swear my nose has gotten even worse with time and age (and peaking during my pregnancy when I could hardly go to church because some old lady sitting 3 pews away from me was wearing perfume). After nearly a decade of living as a single girl with beaucoup roomates and having to put up with their cleaning habits and products, the final straw was my last roomate. She didn't clean super often, but about once a week she would go through the kitchen and bathroom and lay down this inches thick (I exaggerate not) layer of Comet over all the surfaces therein. And then she'd let it sit for hours, sometimes even overnight. And I had the only migraines I've ever had in my life. It would be instantaneous. I'd walk in the door and be hit by that smell and boom! There was my headache. And all I could do was hide in my room and sit by my open window.

But I made a decision. I'd heard of people who could clean their whole house with lemon juice and love and crystals and chi, tee hee, and I resolved to become one of those people now that I would have charge of my own little nest. Then, as I often do, after having made this decision, I did tons of research on the matter so as to bolster my resolve, and have some good facts on hand in case anyone should tell me I was crazy. But I don't want to spend all kinds of time convincing in this post. I figure most of you probably have already heard some rumours on the wind about the asthma rate in children rapidly increasing and scientifically linked to chemicals and how the air inside your house is 50 times more toxic than the air outside, even if you live right next to the freeway and some drycleaners and an oil refinery and how many of these chemicals never leave our bodies, they just build up and up and up over our lives. I'm not going to go into all these things because I want to dedicate this post to just how easy, effective, and gosh-darn-cheap organic cleaning can be.

The secret is in the magic ingredients. There are three main ones, but the first and foremost and can't-live-without is vinegar. White distilled vinegar; you can use it for everything. The second and third are baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Before I move on to how I use them, I just want to take a moment to talk about the other supercool features of these three ingredients. They are useful for TONS of things. Over here in Mormonville we believe in food storage, which actually means more than food storage. It means everything-you-need-to-live storage. So as that is a big list I like to simplify and consolidate. So instead of having a year's worth of window cleaner and bathtub cleaner and drain de-clogger and disinfectant and floor cleaner and that stuff that covers up/get's rid of funky smells/causes infertility, I just have vinegar and baking soda and peroxide. And all three of those things have other useful purposes besides cleaning, like baking, and you could make salad dressing, and hydrogen peroxide has all kinds of medical usefulness. And if you're in a pinch (which is the point of food storage, right?) you could also brush your teeth and wash your hair with those ingredients. Crazy.

1) Take one empty squirt bottle.
2) Fill it halfway with vinegar.
3) Fill it the rest of the way with water.

This is all you need to clean your counters, your floor, and your mirrors/windows. For the first two I use rags/mops (no sponges! sponges are the devil!). For the last one I use some form of newspaper (usually the free ones I get in junkmail as we don't have a subscription). I also use it to do wipe downs of sinks and the toilet (that last one i use special designated rags for). But Megan, you say, doesn't vinegar offend your delicate little nose? Not really. Watered down by half like it is makes it a lot less stinky, and it dissipates lickety-split. And this stuff also works to deodorize everything. I spray it in my garbage and diaper pails after I've emptied them and I've even just sprayed it in the air if there's some kind of lingering funk from one of these two pails (and then I invite my mother-in-law over, who then breathes deeply and decides I'm not such a horrible housekeeper after all, just like the Febreze commercials).

4) Buy a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
5) Replace the little cap with a squirt bottle top you stole off another empty squirt bottle. Most of them fit.

This I use for extra germ killing power. The one-two punch of vinegar and then hydrogen peroxide leaves no germs, and then no residue. They both completely evaporate. And even if you managed to lick the counter before they evaporated, no harm done. Just to illustrate the super cool power of these two ingredients; industrial meat farms, some of the nastiest, dirtiest places on earth, use vinegar and HP (I'm sick of typing the whole thing out) to clean--and it works. Other cleaners (bleach, Lysol, etc.) leave chemicals behind. Some hints with HP: it's not aerosol like Lysol, but you can use it basically the same way. Things will be a little wetter, but just let it air dry, and then it's good to go! This is especially important if you sprayed it on your toilet seat! If you then sit on it before it's dry, it won't hurt you, but it will give you a strange, fizzing sensation (or so I've heard...I've of course never done that...ahem). Also, you do not need to use HP every single time you wipe your counter down. I tend to spray my counter down once every other day, but you could do it once a day if you are a little more nervous than me (I do clean with the vinegar solution several times a day). And once a week or so I'll go through the place and spray some major germ spots, like doorknobs, and the phones/remote controls (although I spray it on a cloth and wipe the phone instead of spraying directly).

6) Get a box of baking soda. Or if you want to be like me, buy huge bags of it at Costco.
7) Sprinkle it where you need it!

Baking soda I mainly use in the bathtub, and when I want to more thoroughly scrub down the bathroom and kitchen sinks. The trick here is to very thoroughly wet the entire surface down with the vinegar spray, and then sprinkle the baking soda pretty liberally over that. Then leave it alone for a few minutes. This part is important and makes all the difference. Go clean something else for a minute, or lick your counter again, ha ha, then come back and scrub the paste off. Cleaning this way is alot like cleaning with Comet, minus the migraines; you just sort of scrub the paste into the surface and then rinse it off. Beautiful and shiny! You could use a rag for this, but I prefer those plastic meshy scrub pads, which I then rinse off with pretty-darn hot water. The other cool thing I use baking soda for is the drains. Here's how you keep your drains fresh and clean. Once a month or so you throw a couple of handfuls of baking soda down the drain, then you pour straight vinegar on it (i'm not sure how much, maybe a 1/2 a cup? I just pour a little, watch it fizz, pour a little more, watch it fizz, a couple times) then you let it do it's thing for a few minutes, then poor boiling water down the drain. Voila!

I haven't got it all figured out yet. I still buy toilet bowl cleaner and dishwashing liquid and dishwasher detergent, though I get the environmentally friendly version of all those (mostly Ecover and Method brands). Some day soon I'll figure out how to do those cheaper and easier (a little bird told me you can use vinegar in the toilet bowl too, but you have to do it more frequently) and then I'll let you know. You can find a lot of homemade cleaning recipes online, but they are more complicated then I can committ to. This system works for me, and it works well. Most of it I found in a really fabulous book called (are you ready for this title?) Organic Housekeeping: In Which the Non-toxic Avenger Shows You How to Improve Your Health and That of Your Family, While You Save Time, Money, and Perhaps Your Sanity, by Ellen Sandbeck. This is one of those non-fiction books that's a great, easy, interesting read; and she does all kinds research and very clearly presents the proof to you about the truth of all this germ-killing, anti-biotic, toxic chemical controversy, and much more.

So there it is! A pretty simple, cut-and-dried, cleaning method, written up in a really complicated, wordy post. Feel free to ask any questions! Or just roll your eyes at my kookiness!


Janae said...

My SIL makes her own laundry detergent. She lives in Australia and has a bunch of "green" friends that gave her the recipe. She really likes it. Maybe someday I will try it. But right now I really enjoy my comet and and pinesol, and I have at least a years supply of cleaning products. I guess that means I don't clean enough...LOL. But I just might try the vinegar and baking powder trick in the drains. I think Paisley would think that was cool! Kind of like science while you clean.

Nate and Jessica said...

I'm not rolling my eyes at all. I'm very, very interested. I will read that book. Frankly, I trust your research and will probably start doing a lot of this. Really. I am always glad to have my eyes opened to these types of things.

Kassie said...

I really enjoy that book as well. I pulled it out when Dallas got himself out of the bathtub and , ahem, messed the carpet up... A nice cleaning with vinegar and then let it sit overright with baking soda and I couldn't smell ANYTHING on the carpet. Also our cloth diapers were starting to smell WAY funky. I tried stripping them and nothing seemed to help. Hubby suggested I start up the vinegar soak again (I stopped doing it once I had two sets of diapers to clean). So in desperation I started doing a vinegar soak (like a gallon of water to a 3/4 cup vinegar) before putting them in the dry pail and volia! no more stinky diapers. This stuff is stinking amazing!

I havn't really added hydrogen peroxide to the mix, I really need to.

I am currently living at my parents and they use commercial cleaner, air fresheners, the whole works (although less than some people still) and my nose it going CRAZY half the time. I look forward to when we get our own place just for the lack of chemical smells (I really love being with my parents though and they are being saints letting us live with them and buying our food half the time too...)

Wow, sorry for the long comment, but I totally agree with you and your cleaning method. I love how it is so simple and wonder why on earth people decided to change to things like comet. Totally bogles my mind.

Jen said...

I totally hear you on the scent-sitivity issue (ha ha.) When I was pregnant with Nyah I complained to Dane all the time that something in our room "stunk" - it smelled very overwhelmingly mineral in our room to me and I got nauseous just walking into it. He never smelled anything and I think he thought it was all in my head. Then, a few months later when we were moving he came across a plastic bag containing a medicine tray full of pills (you know, the plastic kind you use to portion out your daily allotment?) that had fallen back behind our bookcase. When he opened it up and I got a whiff I was like, "THAT'S THE SMELL!"

Then there was this one time I was house-sitting for someone who had Glade plug-ins in every room of their house. I lasted all of about 2 minutes before I had to go from room to room unplugging them all and opening up every window in the house. Between all the chemicals those things pump into the air and the fact they are the #1 cause of house fires in the U.S., why would someone do that to themselves? WHY?

But I digress. I LOVED this post - you're so witty! It was highly entertaining and so very informative.

Adrianne & her Toddler said...

I loved the post, thanks so much!! I really need to try this stuff. I do really like the smell of all the bad cleaner (my fav is pinesol) but I really do know how bad it is for our bodies not to mention how dangerous it is to have in the house around our kids. I hate to have to call poison control again. (My son Tanner found a pill in a cert ment container at todds grandmas house and he thought it was candy but it was benadryl. We could not get any of the kids to tell us if he had eaten it or not. Tanner would say yes, then 2min later he would say no. So my mom called poison control just to see what would happen if he had taken it. They told us to take him to the hospital. We don't like taking our kids there for every little thing but my mom was afraid that if we don't then poison control would call back to see if we had taken him or not. Tanner was acting fine so we were pretty sure he hadn't taken anything but we took him anyways. Long story short, we sat in waiting room for 45 min sat in the doc office for 20min doc talked to us said he was fine sat for another 30 min just to get signed out and then they charged us $400 for nothing! And poison control DID call back to make sure we took him in. Crazy stuff!
ANYWAYZ I would not want that to happen again so I really need to get commercial cleaners out of the house!

Question, what does honey do for your hair? I just used a relaxer on my hair (I know, I know chemicals, but I am sick of straightening my hair) but now it is not soft anymore it feels all sticky and gross. I put Coconut oil on for about 1/2 hr and it is a little better, but would honey help that? I have read that mayonnaise is good, what do you think?

Adrianne & her Toddler said...

Oh ya and there is a laser dentist that we heard is the best ( we heard of him after we took tanner to Dr Poulsen, but we still like him too.) The one Todd is going to does kids and Adults. His name is Herald R Clark DDS 486-9434, no website sorry. If you call make sure you say Todd Bentley referred you.=) Hope this helps.

Heidi AND Brian, said...

I haven't had the chance to read all of this post, sorry. I did read the part about the natural cleaners. Sounds great, I'll have to try it sometime, maybe when I'm back in the mood of deep cleaning and actually cleaning my house. Also, I tagged you in my post if you'd like to check it out! It's just a silly little post, nothin much just fun little facts about everyone.