Wednesday, October 16, 2013

green your clean

I wish I had a picture of what the cabinet under our kitchen sink looked like before we started making different choices.  It was overflowing with dozens of different cleaners, each for a very specific task.  We need those, right?  Because what works on the kitchen counters can't possibly work on the kitchen floors, or the shower.  Off the top of my head, we had:

disinfecting wipes * counter spray * fluid for our swiffer * carpet cleaner * bleach * soft scrub * magic erasers * bathroom tile spray * foam cleaner for the bottom of the shower * wood polish * disposable pads for swiffer mop * disposable dusting cloths * glass cleaner * toilet bowl cleaner

I never really took time to think why we needed all of these different cleaners.  We just did.  I had them growing up.  The commercials on TV promised quick, easy and painless cleaning (which was never true!).  I was too busy to try anything different.  They disinfected, they worked, so who cared?

But when I moved in with my husband, space became very tight.  Our house is small, and was set up for one person.  As I scoured the internet for organizing help, I stumbled on many bloggers who used "greener cleaners" available at the grocery store.  After some research, I decided to start using different products.  But they were expensive.  (And we had already been spending plenty of money on those conventional cleaners, trust me).

So we moved on to vinegar, baking soda, water and castille soap.   And you know what?  They worked better than the conventional cleaners.  And the expensive "green" cleaners.  I repurposed old spray bottles, filled them with vinegar and water, and a few drops of essential oils, and that was it.  The vinegar cut through grease on the kitchen counters and the stove.  It did an equally good job in the bathroom.  Using a reusable microfiber mop with the vinegar cleaned our floors so, so much better than what we had been using before.  I thought some of those stains were permanently etched on our ugly white kitchen tile.  Nope!

Some common concerns about eco-friendly cleaning (that we had too!):

1. What if they don't work as well as the cleaners I'm used to?  I am going to share a before and after picture of our stove top.  It was obviously horribly dirty.  And all I used to clean it was baking soda, vinegar and water.  That's it.  I use baking soda and castille soap to clean our toilet, and it has never been so clean.  If you don't believe me, grab some vinegar and baking soda you have around the house (which is part of the beauty of the whole thing--you don't really have to go out and buy much!) and try using them for a cleaning task you would usually use the disposable cleaning wipes for.  I promise you will be pleasantly surprised!

2. What if they cost more?  If you go out and buy all the bottles labeled "eco-friendly" at the store, then you will spend more money.  But if you simplify, which is what this is really about, and use things you already have around the house, you will end up spending a fraction of what you used to.  I will do a separate post on cost comparison.  Vinegar and baking soda are both incredibly cheap.  And while a bottle of castille soap is initially a little expensive, you will use so little, that it lasts forever.  I'm still working on a 64 oz. bottle from January, and I've barely made a dent.  When I have to repurchase, I will buy the gallon jug to save on plastic packaging.

3. But the don't disinfect!  We have been conditioned to think that EVERYTHING in our homes needs to be disinfected.  But, we are now producing stronger, antibiotic resistant bacteria due to our obsession with cleanliness.  Here is a link to information about a study done by researchers at the University of Michigan that concluded antibacterial soaps containing triclosan (at concentrations used in common household soaps) are no more effective than plain soap and water at disinfecting.  Use hot soap and water!!

Now, if you're going to use these healthier cleaning methods, you should also think about ditching the paper towels.  Once they are used, paper towels are not recyclable.  And they come in plastic wrapping, which also ends up in the landfill.  These problems still exist even if you buy recycled paper towels.  (Some paper towel facts)

I must admit, I still have a roll around in case the cat throws up.  However, for 99% of the cleaning tasks around the house, reusable cloth works great.  I replace the one in the kitchen daily, unless there was a particularly gross mess, and throw them in with the towels in the wash.  I don't find myself really doing any additional laundry.

Click here for part two!

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