A Greener Spring Cleaning
Get You And Your Home Spic and Span
Now is the time for the annual ritual of cleaning. What you may not know is that almost all commercial cleansers are toxic. In most houses this is a sensitive subject because of children who may have allergies that we don't want to aggravate. Making easy, green changes to your household cleaning routine can make a big difference to your health, with the bonus of helping the planet and your wallet.
Everyone wants a home that smells nice, warm and inviting, but all winter we've been locked in our warm sealed houses along with all the smells of foods, cooking, pets and staleness. Many people turn to air fresheners. Why not - they are relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and they allow you to choose your house's smell. The bad news is they are loaded with toxic chemicals. There are simple alternatives. In our house we have air cleaners (with big multiple stage filters) on every floor running every day. Consider trying the good old standby, baking soda. It is natural, safe, inexpensive and eats odours for breakfast (lunch, dinner and snack)! To clear the air, try opening some windows creating a fresh cross-breeze. If you do want to add smells, try essential oils, fresh flowers or plants.
Kitchen (& Bathroom) Cleaners:
Many kitchen cleaners are teaming with toxins. Sprays, foams, soaps; they all are suspect. Have a look at the caution statements and ingredient panels. A good rule is that if you can't spell or pronounce an ingredient you should avoid anything containing it.
Luckily there are many natural safe options. Number one on the list is plain simple white vinegar. Mix vinegar with water and you can clean counter-tops, stoves, windows, glass and tiles. Second is baking soda. Mix with water, this becomes an all-purpose cleaner, good for scouring pots, pans, sinks, plates, glassware, and enamel (appliances, sinks and tubs).
Laundry detergents have become a high technology business. They combine precise amounts of chemicals (some volatile, many toxic) to make "common" laundry detergent as we know it today. A simple, safe, yet effective solution is to mix shaved bar soap (such as Ivory), sodium borate (commonly called Borax) and old fashioned washing soda. There are multiple recipes available, each sprouting different ratios for these ingredients based on specific needs. You can look online and find one that you like and give it a try.
Many people feel the need to add softeners to their laundry either in the washer or dryer. These are chemical soups and are overloaded with toxic fragrances. If you want your laundry to be softer and come out smelling clean and fresh, install a clothesline, either in your basement or backyard. Here in Toronto, in the summer, you benefit from the outdoor line with your clothes smelling summery fresh (and drying quickly without increasing your hydro bill). In the winter you benefit from the basement line by adding humidity to your dry house and smelling as fresh as your (now) naturally clean house.
Few people these days stick to simple sweeping and vacuuming to clean floors. Gone are the days when a stubborn mess on hardwood would be resolved with a mop or brush, soap, water and elbow grease. Floor cleaners are highly flammable and ripe with toxins. A simple natural solution is the mixture of rubbing alcohol, water, vinegar and common dish soap. It works well on laminate, hardwood and various types of tile For carpets, the ideal solution to clean and freshen is to sprinkle baking soda liberally all over your carpet. Brush it through the carpet and let it sit. After a couple of hours vacuum as usual. If you want to add a fragrance, mix a few drops of your favourite essential oil in the baking soda before you sprinkle it into the carpet.
The final and most important thing in the house to clean is actually you. Over the winter you have become a toxic soup from all the chemicals you have been exposed to from the inside out. Just as your house needs a toxic cleanse, so do you. Externally, avoid the fancy stuff. Simple soap and shampoo work really well. The basic rule here is the fewer ingredients the better, and again makes sure you can pronounce and spell them all. However, when in a pinch, there are natural alternatives that you can purchase and use. These products are usually more expensive but well worth the extra buck.
Internally is a little more complicated due to multiple steps but still fairly basic.
Step 1: Load up on fresh.
Now that spring is here there is an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables available. Eat the rainbow and lots of it.
Step 2 :
Eliminate the junk. If Nature didn't create it (without a lot of help from man, machine and/or chemicals) eliminate it. This eliminates processed, packaged, junk and snack foods.
Hydrate. Drink clean pure water. Not drinks containing water, but water itself. Each of us needs at least 9 cups every day for women and 13 cups a day for men. If you want to supercharge your water, add a concentrated Liquid Green supplement which can also add a natural flavour such as mint or chocolate to spruce your water up.
Fill up on Fiber. Add a fiber supplement every time you eat. The health benefits (beyond cleansing) can't be beat. If you can't stand the thought of a gritty gloppy fiber drink, there is something for you. Try the new generation of fiber supplements that have no taste, disappear in water and never (I mean never) thicken. You can have your pick of pure fiber, with enzymes (to aid digestion), with probiotic (to improve immunity) or with vitamin D (to improve overall heath). With no gritty gloppy drinks, do you have an excuse?
Get moving. Winter is over - come out of hibernation and exercise. Start slow and get advice on how much is right for you. It will pay off in multiples.
Enjoy health. Now you and your environment are on the road to being clean and rejuvenated. Don't sit back but do enjoy!
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.