What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Frugal Household Cleaning

I think one of the most common questions when it comes to housecleaning is what products to use. We are always searching for the latest, greatest or bestest cleaning agent. What we fail to realize is quite often these agents are toxic to ourselves, our loved ones and our pets. Sure they get the job done sometimes but at what cost? They are expensive and pollute our indoor air. The very same chemicals we are willing to use in out home can leave concentrations that if outdoors in that level there would be an outcry! Many of these cleaners are anti-bacterial increasing the chances of superbugs! Superbugs are bacteria that make us sick but because they have been so exposed to antibiotics they are now resistant. That is bad news as that means they can be fatal. The problem is many are using multiple anti-bacterial products in their homes. Couple with use of prescribed antibiotics and the stage is set for superbugs. The best thing you can do when cleaning your home is to use other products instead of anti-bacterial ones.

Several years ago, I decided to clean my kitchen floor with household ammonia. This has long been tooted as a natural cleaner for Now at that time it was a product I had used several times and I still think it is the best thing for cutting grease. However, in this case while it cleaned my floor wonderfully, I almost immediately noticed a shortness of breath so I went outdoors. After that subsided, I noticed my beautiful green houseplants and at that time I had a lot that had turned a sickly blue but some were a bright blue. Some never recovered, some only partially recovered and a few hardier ones made a full recovery. That was a clear signal this is not something I should be using in my home. The problem is and was at that time finding products that would clean without being toxic. The old natural stand-bys were soap, baking soda, vinegar, ammonia (clearly toxic) and good old fashioned elbow grease.

The second problem with cleaners besides toxicity is scent which in itself may or may not be toxic and can certainly cause problems for those with respiratory problems and/or allergies. Most cleaners are heavily scented and as if that is not bad enough many households are constantly bombarded with heavily scented products aimed at making the house smell good all the time. These seemingly benign products can cause a lot of problems but at least your house smells good. The manufacturers would have us believe that in order for our house to be clean it must smell of the scent du jour but that simply is not the case. All the scent does is mask odours.

Here's my list aside of laundry soap (now fragrance free) and dishwasher soap of must haves:

- white vinegar
- baking soda
- plain, unscented bar laundry soap (eg. Fels Napa or similar)
- handheld steam cleaner
- Bissell steam mop
- Mr. Clean® Magic Erasers®
- Swiffer® cloths/dusters
- 20 Mule Team® Borax
- Murphy's Oil Soap
- plain white terry cloth washcloths
- Simple Green® (non-toxic concentrate that can be made into varying strengths)
- green backed scrubbie sponges
- rubbing alcohol
- spray bottles
- toilet brushes
- scrub brush

Notice there are no air fresheners, no toilet cleaners, nothing with chlorine, nothing with ammonia, nothing heavily scented. In fact, I could easily clean most of our house with the handheld steam cleaner and washcloths AND it would be clean without the chemicals! Our homes do not need to smell of citrus, pine or heaven know what else to be clean. They need to be clean period without the smell or toxicity. You can get that smell by boiling a few spices and citrus or apples on the stove or baking a loaf of bread. At least that isn't an artificial smell! If you want something stronger, dry your own flowers and herbs for a natural potpourri or sachets. You can even make a bed spray using dried lavender buds and filtered water. Now think of the money you will save not buying into all that "you need the latest cleaner" that never works as promised anyway. Think of the space you will be saving not having all those one purpose cleaners. Best of all, think of how much better for you and your family it will be by eliminating the toxic chemicals and improving your indoor air quality.


imabioteacher said...

Hi Garden Gnome. Thank you for your blog. I'm going to switch today and see what difference it makes in our household as well. I'm "addicted" to cleaning with Clorox, pine sol, and using Lysol, and I ignore the shortness of breath, but I know that it is very toxic (hence use of it in labs to kill bacteria, etc) Thanks for your attention to detail and sharing it with others.

Garden Gnome said...

You are quite welcome! Ridding your indoor environment of these toxic chemicals will make you feel so much better and you will be saving a lot of money too. Good luck and please let me know how the switch-over to non-toxic cleaners works for you.