Life has gotten complicated, the choices we have to choose from are not the same products we used to buy and that’s not a good thing. the chemical load we are mixing in our homes can be very toxic for our families.
Growing up our stores were smaller, the selections not as varied. When it came to purchasing cleaning products we had few to choose from. In some ways, it made our shopping easier and quicker. We knew what we needed and didn’t need a large list. I can still remember what we used. These cleaners were safer to have in the home, and are still available if you look.
Non-toxic, cleaners of the past
In the kitchen we had a container of comet cleaner for scrubbing surfaces, and a bottle of dish soap, usually Palmolive, okay not perfect. The bathroom had another container of comet for cleaning the tub and sink, and a bottle of bleach for the toilet. Laundry supplies consisted of a bottle of Clorox bleach for whites, a box of powdered bleach safe for colored clothes, a box of powdered Tide, and finally a bottle of Downy fabric softener. With the availability of dryer sheets we also kept a box of those handy for times we ran out of liquid softener before our weekly shopping day.
Floors were cleaned with Spic-n-Span mixed in a bucket of warm water, our furniture was polished with Lemon Pledge once a month and a dry rag the rest of the month. We had bars of soap in a dish in both the bathroom and kitchen to wash our hands. We had old rags, pieces of fabric cut up from old towels or sheets which were worn and no longer nice enough to use for their intended purpose.
While these weren’t all non-toxic, they weren’t as bad as what we have today. Nothing was anti-bacterial, we hadn’t been taught that every germ was bad for us. If you added it all up, there was no where the number of cleaners in the home which meant we weren’t as exposed to the number of chemicals we are today.
Products we buy burden our wallets and the landfills
What do we buy today? Paper towels, special cleaners for tub, one for toilet, one for counter tops, and so on. Not only do we now need a place to store all these extra cleaning products, they now contain more ingredients than ever, many if we thought about it we wouldn’t want in our homes around our families.
Instead of a can of Pledge furniture polish we can now buy a container of disposable cleaning cloths containing the furniture polish. Each extra container we buy uses natural resources to make and must be disposed of when used. The disposable cleaning cloths have replaced the bucket of rags we found in our childhood homes.
Our landfills are growing, have you ever noticed how much garbage each household has at the curb for pick up? Growing up in a family of three, we had half of a paper grocery bag to put out weekly.
- If we are throwing out more, it is because we are buying more.
- If we are buying more, it means we are spending more.
- If we are spending more it means we are working more to earn the money to spend.
- And if we are working more, what are we missing out on during our working hours.
I have pared down what I purchase for cleaning my home over the past several years. What I ended up with are the least damaging to the environment and least toxic to my home that I could find. I buy larger containers so I have less to toss out and I look to see if a container can be reused or recycled when I am done. I have changed not only my cleaning products but also my health and beauty products.
What do I currently use in my home
- Seventh Generation dish soap or baking soda
- a large container of liquid laundry detergent which can be refilled when empty at the local co-op, and made from vegetable soap Update: I have switched to baking soda only and love how it works.
- White vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide for general cleaning and disinfecting.
- vegetable soap as base for body wash, hand soap, shampoo. I simply refill the containers when they are empty. This costs very little and is easy to do. No empty bottles, usually plastic going to the landfill either. Update: I have simplified this as well. I for hand soap I grate a bar of soap and fill a glass jar, I now use the no poo method for shampoo to wash my hair with baking soda and water then rinse with white vinegar. A bar of soap is kept in the tub replacing the body wash.
Skin Care and hygiene products
For my dry skin in these winter months I treat my face (after washing with soap and water) with aloe vera. I simply break off a leaf and open it up to get the gel. I purchased a large aloe plant for $6 which continues to grow as I snip it. OR a bit of coconut oil which leaves my skin feeling so smooth.
I also use the aloe plant for burns, cuts, cracked cuticles, and for the many scrapes my grandchildren get. Every new boo-boo seems to need aloe.
After experimenting with various toothpaste, I finally tried a mixture of baking soda and salt. I am so amazed by the results that even if it cost more than the tooth paste, I would never go back to using tooth paste.
For bee stings or other insect bites a dab of apple cider vinegar does the trick eliminating the pain and/or the itch.
Replacing paper products
I again incorporated a basket of rags tucked under the bathroom vanity in place of a roll of paper towels. These are used for washing my face, handy when the grandchildren need a quick wipe, or for cleaning around the house and even the car. I also have a basket of cloth napkins handy in the kitchen for everyone to see and use.
I have very little garbage as you can imagine. My home is clean and safe for the little ones to play in. When I need to do my shopping, I no longer need a list, as remembering 5 total items I use is much simpler. If in doubt I just pick up another one, I know I will run out sooner or later. Best of all, this only costs me a couple of dollars a month.
Better air quality and money saved, what could be better
Think of all the money you could save by eliminating one paper product a month or combining several cleaning products into one general purpose cleaner. Size matters too, compare the large bottles of dish soap or laundry detergent. You will find, usually, that you are paying for the convenience of the smaller containers.
This is a process, as I took on the task of greening my home and buying less I started with what I was running out of. Instead of buying another cleaner specially made for the bath tub, could I replace it with one that would also clean other bathroom surfaces? When I found one that would fit my needs it was freeing to find I didn’t have to run back out to the store to buy the cleaner I had used on my vanity when that ran out.
Little by little I have returned to the way I was raised. My health has improved, my chores take less time to complete, especially when I can carry one cleaner to each job rather than search or dig out the next one I need. What’s my next step? I’m going to eliminate purchasing ready-made dish soap and make my own from the same vegetable soap I use for other cleaning products. Right now, the bottle is still more than halfway full.