Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spring Cleaning with Safe, Nontoxic Products

My new stash of essential oils, ready for action. Photo by Melanie Jolicoeur

This year I decided to start my spring cleaning inside the cleaning closet by eliminating all chemical-laden products from the shelves. This is a task I’ve been whittling away at for a while, after finding myself almost overwhelmed by the stinging fumes of certain commercial cleansers. Finally, after stumbling across a four-page list of hazardous chemical ingredients found in household products (published by the Cancer Prevention Coalition and available as a downloadable pdf here), I’d had enough. Determined to replace suspect cleansers with safe ones, I brought home a copy of The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier and made it my over-breakfast and bedtime reading for several days while I compiled a list of the simple ingredients I’d need to create my own all-natural cleaning formulas.

Surprisingly, none of them was hard to locate — borax, Murphy’s Oil Soap, large boxes of baking soda, and gallon-sized jugs of white vinegar were all readily available and inexpensive at my local supermarket. Next, I purchased a wide variety of essential oils online (using the book’s resource section to find a good source). To me the oils were the most exciting part of the ingredient-gathering process, and when the box of small brown bottles finally arrived, I arranged them in a row on the kitchen counter and opened each in turn, inhaling its essence.

All the ingredients were finally gathered in one place (the dining room table), along with a few plastic spray bottles I’d purchased at the local hardware store, and my copy of the book was already dog-eared with recipes I wanted to try. I began with a Cedarwood Dusting Aid (recipe below) that smells of Murphy’s Oil, orange, and cedar and can be sprayed onto dusty bookcases, wood paneling, mantels, and doors, then wiped clean with a soft cloth. I sprayed every wooden surface I could find, filling the house with a deliciously woodsy aroma that lasted for days. I made a Fizzy Bathroom Sink Cleaner that smelled of lemon and indeed fizzled with volcanic action when the white vinegar was poured over the baking soda. I squirted an orangey Basic Sink Cleanser at the faucet and sprinkled a Simple Rug Deodorizer on the carpets — and instead of being overwhelmed by fumes, I could breathe a big sigh of relief. Not only was I getting my house sparkling clean, I was keeping chemicals out of the environment, saving money, and treating myself to some aromatherapy at the same time. Enough benefits to easily take the sting out of cleaning chores.

Cedarwood Dusting Aid (from The Naturally Clean Home, by Karyn Siegel-Maier)

1/2 cup oil soap (I like Murphy's Oil Soap)
3/4 cup water
5 drops sweet orange or patchouli essential oil
15–20 drops cedar essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a plastic spray bottle, and shake well. Spray onto wood, and wipe clean with a soft, dry cloth.

1 comment:

Karen Salva said...

Great tips! I have an ancient book I learned some basics from but now I must try that cedarwood dusting spray. We just "volcano'd" the tub Friday. Very fun for a child to witness as well as safe on septic systems. The scientist in me loves this kind of stuff, thanks for this great post!