Tuesday, April 01, 2008

sustainable living: cleaning chemicals 101

I was planning to do a post today on effective simple alternatives to all those chemical cleaners that we use around the house, but Grims beat me to it! I highly recommend checking out her suggestions, especially the club soda one, which I can vouch for from personal experience as amazing. Windex has spent decades charging you extra money for an obnoxiously scented, less effective alternative to club soda. God bless capitalism!

Replacing a couple of your most used cleaners will rid your home of a number of chemicals that are environmentally destructive. After all, usually that's exactly why you bought them in the first place-- because they're toxic to microorganisms/fungi/plants/insects or they disperse lipids. The problem with using them is that they continue to do their job after they end up in the water supply, wreaking havoc on natural ecosystems and causing fertility problems across the food chain as they are consumed by organisms. Prolonged exposure to certain household cleaners can also cause asthma and other health problems to humans. Meanwhile, the more bacteria are exposed to antibacterial products, the more quickly they develop resistance to them, just as with antibiotics, ultimately leading to things like MRSA. And, of course, the simpler alternatives are often much cheaper. Why buy a chemical disinfectant cleaner for your kitchen, and another for your floor, plus a can of air freshener, when a mix of vinegar and water will do all these things? Why tolerate the horrible ammonia smell of bathroom cleaners and deal with dangerous chemicals when baking soda will clean anything off of your tub and tea tree oil in water will leave your bathroom surfaces sparkling and actually smelling pleasant?

There are a number of books on the subject, but we bought Green House, Green Planet which we swear by at the Ranch. We've slowly been replacing our chemicals with safe alternatives, making one switch, evaluating it for a while to make sure it works, then throwing the old stuff out and making another switch, etc. It happens in fits and starts, so that one month we'll toss three cleaners, and then won't make any more changes for a couple months. So far we've made all the switches I've referenced above, plus switched from Raid ant killer to soap and water. And yeah, that really does work, and it won't kill the cats. Which is sometimes a good thing.


Anonymous said...

Wait, what was I going to say? Oh, yes.

Now, back to my regularly schedule hand-wringing over the stalled diss. chapter.

TioChuy said...

I used to have this sergeant in the Army who would tell us when we got some oil or something on our uniforms at the motor pool to "Put some Coke Soda on it Soldier!" (soldiers tend to have a different vernacular, he obviously meant Club Soda) I thought he was full of shit... till I tried it.