Safe Spring CleaningSafe Spring Cleaning

In traditional Chinese medicine theory, spring is the time of year when we need to pay special attention to detoxification and removing toxins from our food and environment. Many of us have spent more time at home this past year than ever before, so depending upon the cleaning products that we used, the air inside our home could contain two to five more toxic pollution than the air we breathe when we are out of doors.

We have become accustomed to cleaning products that are highly fragranced with chemicals whose names we would never be able to pronounce, even if we knew what they were. We have come to associate the "smell" of window cleaners, bathroom sprays, and laundry detergents with health and cleanliness, even though nothing could actually be further from the truth.

Household cleaning label laws are lax which means that we usually don't know exactly what we are buying. Highly acidic cleaners found in toilet bowl cleaners are dangerous. Chlorine bleach is irritating to our skin and eyes. Aerosol polishes and waxes contain oils and solvents that should not be inhaled, and leading brands of regular laundry detergents contain harmful chemicals that have a negative effect both on our health and on the earth.

The good news is that it is becoming much easier to find simple "natural," non-toxic cleaning supplies in the stores where most of us shop. Castile soap, for example, can be used for washing hair, hands, and dishes. PH neutral, eco-cleaners are widely available, and fragrance-free laundry detergents that are safe for babies and people with allergies or sensitive skin are often safe for the rest of us as well.

We can easily DIY household cleansers with ingredients that we already have in our pantry like baking soda, olive oil, lemon juice, water, and vinegar. We can dust with a cloth lightly sprayed with water and wash windows and mop floors with a mixture of water and vinegar. We can make a non-toxic foaming hand soap with a mix of water and liquid castile soap.

Homemade germ-killer can be made with water, liquid soap, and a few drops of plant-based essential oils. For a simple all-purpose counter cleaner, mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle, and don't worry, the smell of vinegar does not linger once the surface is dry. If our countertops are made of stone, easy peasy - skip the vinegar and wipe them down with rubbing alcohol or vodka instead.

We can use wool dryer balls, a mix of baking soda and vinegar, or a few tennis balls rather than commercial fabric softeners. We can make our own polishes with a mix of vinegar and olive oil, or wood furniture polish with lemon juice and olive oil. You get the idea, you will find lots and lots of recipes for DIY home care products online, and they're fun to try.

Just as we need to pay attention to the food that we put in our bodies we also need to be careful with what we are putting into the air that we breathe. So, it's out with perchloroethylene, quaternary ammonium compounds, chlorine, and sodium hydroxide and in with cleaning products made with natural plant-based oils, castile soap, lemon juice, vinegar, and water - ingredients whose names we know and recognize.

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