Sunday, December 23, 2007

BS and V (Green Clean Duo)

Lucky for me, the nesting frenzy I had right before procreating five years ago has carried me a ways down the parenting road. In a prescient moment while swollen like a tick with my darling daughter, I realized if I didn't act immediately to start a green cleaning routine pre-kids it would never happen.

Said cleaning routine's been pretty much undisturbed for about 5 years now. I must say that I need this routine to be automatic so I basically clean everything with baking soda and vinegar.

Many people have asked me what recipes I use to clean and I would like to say that Annie Berthold-Bond's book is my favorite on this topic; I consult it whenever I, say, have an ant infestation and can't remember what repels them safely (cinnamon).

My faux spray cleaner is just water, vinegar, and eco-friendly detergent. I mix them in a bottle with roughly 2/3 warm water and 1/3 vinegar with a squirt of dish soap (in my inaugural and never-repeated use of my label-maker, I printed out the recipe and stuck it onto the spray bottle, which was a key move in those early days post-partum when I was a complete germ fanatic but also suffering from total nursing brain death). I no longer measure out ingredients, I just make sure I have more than enough vinegar and soap in the bottle. This works for bathrooms, counter tops, floors, you name it.

To clean baked on pans I put baking soda on with enough water to make a paste and leave it overnight. This also works for cleaning your oven but it's very messy. And you all probably remember from scouting that if you're out of toothpaste you can use baking soda mixed with salt.

To clean my toilets, I mix vinegar and baking soda right in the bowl (those of you who have made play-dough volcanoes will be able to imagine the fizzing). Baking soda's a great scourer for things like bathtubs and the vinegar gets rid of soap scum.

I abandoned essential oils a while back when I learned that lavender oil and tea tree oil may cause hormone disruption in boys (holy man-boobs Batman!) but should you desire a kitchen-y smell, rosemary is also a natural antiseptic about which I've heard nary a bad word. So's lemon juice but you'd have to refrigerate that mix...which means, of course, that it's too high maintenance for me to use. Worth keeping in mind as one's trying to disinfect a cutting board tho. And speaking of lovely smells, don't fret, the vinegar scent while you're cleaning dissipates rapidly. Vinegar itself can be used in open bowls to remove bad smells (smoke, vomit) from the air.

For dishwasher detergent, I tried making my own (boric acid, baking soda, etc.) but was beyond dissatisfied with the results. I now use Trader Joe's liquid with vinegar as my rinse agent (which does interesting things to aluminum, I realized belatedly) to get rid of any chemical taste (I had to stop using commercial dishwasher detergent while pregnant with Kid 2 as the residue was making me gag).

Since the things I do clean with are pretty simple, a lot of cleaning green for me has meant stopping the use of more toxic products. One of the biggest offenders for the environment is bleach, and I was reminded recently why via a Grist Q&A-- producing bleach creates dioxins, and using bleach may produce carcinogens that harm you and marine life. So although my whites may be a little dingy (no tomato stains, though -- leave them out in the sun! no kidding, a little vinegar and sunshine and they disappear) we are pretty confident that our kids and dog aren't being harmed while we clean.

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