Spring Cleaning with the Magic Elixir

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

I’m not sure what inspires me to want to clean house when the weather warms.  Perhaps it’s in our DNA, just like other creatures of the Earth that ‘nest’ come Spring.  Or maybe it’s that the spring flowers look so vibrant compared to our homes that have been closed up against the winter weather.  Whatever the reason, my husband knows to hide when I get the urge for spring cleaning.

Growing up, cleaning wasn’t just about removing the dust.  Our house wasn’t clean until you could smell the Pine-Sol, LYSOL, Windex and Mr. Clean throughout the house.  While many of us now use cleaning products that include enticing scents like Magnolia Lily or Jasmine Mint, these synthetic fragrances just mask the noxious solvents that we use in our households year after year.  Many conventional cleaning products are based on petrochemical VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and create air pollution within your home.  Unfortunately, these chemicals build up in your home each time you use these cleaners.   As they evaporate, the can make their way into your body and be dangerous to your health, causing dizziness, eye irritation, skin rashes and respiratory problems.  I decided long ago that it isn’t worth risking our health and thus, I set out to find alternative products to make my home sparkle.

Once I started my research, I couldn’t believe how many things could be cleaned with white vinegar.   The magical elixir of half vinegar and half water cleans everything in my home from windows to toilets.  I even add a little baking soda and grape seed oil to wash apples and other fruit before eating.  Kids love the ‘science experiment’ caused mixing these ingredients – just one tablespoon of baking soda added to the water and vinegar provides an entertaining show of foaming bubbles.

So we have windows to refrigerators to countertops covered, but what about the cooktop and oven?  You guessed it…vinegar and water for general cleaning and for those stubborn stains – mix half sea salt and baking soda, add water to form a paste, cover the spot and let it sit for ten minutes and then spray with your vinegar mixture to scrub your ‘Comet’ clean.    For the most serious gunk, I turn to Bon Ami, the barkeepers’ friend and rated a 10 for health by GoodGuide.com.

Since we’re talking ‘gunk’, nothing is worse in my book than cleaning grout.  For most situations, I find if I dampen the area with water and then sprinkle baking soda on the area – followed by a light scrubbing with an old toothbrush, things look as good as new.  I read that one third Hydrogen Peroxide to two thirds water is great for getting rid of mold.  However, only mix what you’ll need for the current application as Hydrogen Peroxide loses effectiveness when exposed to light, air and water.  Explains why it’s sold in brown bottles.  We’d love to hear if it works for you, write to us at sustainabledanville@gmail.com.

Hydrogen Peroxide is also a wonderful alternative to bleach.  Add a cup to your whites as you would bleach and enjoy the whitening benefits without the issues associated with laundry bleach to you and your clothes.  Besides the effects of the chemical off-gassing, and the warnings on major brands that product may cause eye irritation and skin burns, chlorine bleach is harsh on the fibers of your favorite T-shirt shortening its life.  While we’re talking about laundry, use laundry soap without NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate) which is an endocrine disruptor and estrogen mimic.  In other words, it can mess with your hormones and reproductive functions. Unfortunately, manufacturers’ don’t disclose detailed ingredients – and they aren’t required to disclose this information to consumers.  Once again, I turned to GoodGuide.com and boy was I surprised to find that the brand with the cute snuggly bear fairs the worst!

Want to learn more about environmental toxins in your home and in your personal care products?  Discover and share alternatives to conventional products for your spring cleaning. Join Sustainable Danville Area for our May Forum “Toxic Top Ten” on Wednesday, May 23rd at 6pm.  Our guest speaker is Brittany Robinson, DC, a specialist in Upper Cervical Specific Chiropractic that believes the balance of a toxic free environment and good nutrition with an  active lifestyle are the keys to lifelong health.   We’ll meet at San Ramon Valley High School Room S3 in the Administrative Building (upstairs).   Join us on Facebook or www.sustainabledanville.com and share your best natural cleaning tips.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

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