Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Chemical Free Urban Homestead

I got an email from the Environmental Working Group about the hazards of conventional cleaners used in schools and safe cleaning tips for the home to keep your family safe.

I haven't used conventional cleaners for a long time now. I use environmentally friendly dish and laundry soap in bottles that I refill at my local enviro-store. For everything else I use vinegar, baking soda and sometimes salt and earlier this spring I wrote a post in praise of the best cleaning product of all, water.

Which is why I take issue with the first few tips the EWG offers. They recommend diluting conventional cleaning products, using small amounts, opening windows, using protective gloves and keeping kids away from chemicals. (How are you supposed to put the little buggers to work, if you have to keep them away from their cleaning chores? ;) )

Well, how about not using the products in the first place? Really. It isn't until step 8 that they encourage people to 'experiment' with vinegar and baking soda. News flash: baking soda and vinegar is a time-tested, tried and true way to clean your home. Honestly people. You don't need chemical cleaners. You don't. You really, really don't.

Here's a story: My upstairs neighbours were hosting a lot of people for a dinner and were cooking two lambs. One lamb went into their oven and they borrowed my oven for the other. We both ended up with a really thick and blackened layer of lamb juice baked onto the bottom of our ovens. My upstairs neighbour used a conventional oven cleaner. The whole house, their place and mine, reeked of harsh, toxic, chemical nastiness that burned my eyes and made my lungs hurt. All the windows were opened, in the middle of winter and we froze. The damn cleaner didn't even do that great of a job and apparently it was a real bitch to clean.

I opened my oven, dumped baking soda onto the mess, poured vinegar over that, watched it fizz for a bit and then closed the door and walked away from the whole thing, not quite ready to deal with it yet. I came back to it the next day and took a spatula to the baking soda covered, petrified lamb juice and resigned myself to a difficult chore. Lo! Everything lifted off as easily as can be, I piled the scrapings onto a couple of sheets of newspaper and wiped the oven down with a damp cloth. My oven sparkled and the remains of my cleaning job went into the compost. True story.

We don't need nasty, chemical cleaners in our lives, in our bodies, in our environment and in our water. Heck, for most things we don't even need fancy, expensive, 'green' products either.

Look, I don't mean to be a Prescriptive Polly here, but getting rid of chemical cleaners is one of the easiest things a person can do. It's better for the environment, it's better for everyone's health and it saves a lot money. It's kind of a no brainer don't you think?

So what about you? Am I just preaching to the converted here or do you still use conventional cleaners for some things? Most things? I'll tell you what, if you promise to stop, I'll come and clean your house for you!

Chemical free resources:
Baking soda
Get the kids involved
A little rusty?
Give the gift of greener clean.
More green clean
Still more and and more green cleaning


wendyytb said...

I have moved away from chemical cleaners but have a glut to dispose of. What does a gal do with these? Is it ethical to donate them to an animal shelter? Would your upstairs neighbour be interested in them?

Anonymous said...

I love prescription polly! That's why I visit this site. I'm theoretically converted, but still need a nudge to be practically converted. I arm myself with dish soap, vinegar and some essential oils, but I think I'll add more soda. I like this site too for homemade cleaning products.

Jenn said...

Boy, I'm seriously tempted to lie and say I still do and will stop if it means a house cleaning.

But...nope, I don't really use any commercial cleaners. I think I still have an old bottle of comet kicking around under the sink, but other than that I buy eco friendly dish detergent and for everything else I rely on salt, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, and elbow grease.

Anonymous said...

It's just hard to find that elbow grease stuff in a bottle (and be certain it wasn't harvested in an un-eco-friendly manner)...

Amber said...

Wendy, That's a good question about what to do with your remaining cleaners that you don't want to use anymore. You could use them up, following the tips the EWG give, (diluting, using gloves etc.) or perhaps you could look into your city's hazardous waste disposal program. Here in Ottawa we have regularly scheduled Household Hazardous Waste depots.

Personally, I would hesitate to give them away, because then you are exposing others to those chemicals too.

My neighbours actually do use green products most of them time, but will resort to conventional cleaners for 'tough jobs'. I think this is a very common habit and misconception among people.

We often think that natural cleaners can't do as good a job for really dirty stuff. Advertising has worked really hard to convince us that we need their harsh, chemical products for 'tough, stuck on dirt'.

Anon, the link to the Tree Hugging Family is awesome! Wow, their list of tips and how to's is exhaustive. Thanks for sharing!

Hee hee Jenn! No cheating. ;)

Anon, I'm pretty sure elbow grease is a renewable resource!

Janet said...

I have first hand experience of just how deadly chemical cleaners can be. My sister-in-law was cleaning her bathroom two years ago and mixed two different kinds of cleaners (Lysol and bleach). The fumes burned her lungs and sadly, after four months in the hospital, she died. Every chance I get I tell people this story to make them aware of how much damage these commercial products can do.

Sunrise said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amber said...

Oh Janet, I'm so sorry to hear about your sister-in-law. Thank you for having the courage to keep telling this story, so that others might become more aware. My heart goes out to you and your family.


viggie said...

Wow Janet, I can't even imagine :(

I'm at the point where I only use commercial soap and carpet cleaner (have 2 cats and every single room in the house is carpeted!!)

I have soapmaking on my goal list and hope to get rid of the awful carpets as time passes. I mean...who carpets a bathroom and kitchen...really.