Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cleaning House for the Next Generation

I recently found myself on a two hour journey in the cab of a tow truck with a man from Centralia at the wheel. Among small talk about his three month old daughter, his life in Centralia, his church and his job offer to be an RV mechanic, he mentioned something that got me unsettled. His Peruvian wife was a cleaner for a hotel before she had the baby. He said that she quit the job when she got pregnant because they were worried for the baby. A little confused as to the connection and mainly assuming it was because of the physical labor, I asked why. The woman had two co-workers who had miscarried in the last year, and he knew it was because of the chemicals they use when cleaning. He didn't want the same for his wife, and was glad to say that their baby was healthy.

That heart-wrenching story got me thinking about worker's rights, but also about those cleaning chemicals. Do we really need them? How clean do things really need to be at the risk of birth defects and miscarriage? Is our obsession with hygiene taking its silent toll? I am interested to hear thoughts and experiences about this topic.

In the spirit of education, I would like to share some of my cleaning habits and tools that may help you get some of those chemicals out of your life.

White Vinegar
I use vinegar for almost all cleaning tasks in the house. We bought a 5 gallon jug of it at Target, and stuffed as many cedar boughs in it as possible (cedar is anti-fungal, we life in a house with a lot of mold). I pour some in hot water and mop, I pour it on the sponge when I clean the toilet, I put in in a spray bottle with essential oils (oregano, eucalyptus, tea tree, cedar) and water to spray countertops with. It is antibacterial and antifungal. Its acidity helps dissolve stuff. And... You can drink it.

Hydrogen Peroxide
Where there is mold, hydrogen peroxide is your friend. Make sure not to let it touch your skin if dilution is higher than 5%. (I figured that out the other day when I let 35% touch my finger tips and they turned white). It kills the living things it touches by creating an oxidizing chain reaction. If it touches something living, it foams. This is a great way to tell whether there is mold somewhere or not. I dip the head of an old toothbrush and scrub corners of things. It is a great alternative to bleach.

Enzyme based cleaners
Moldzyme and drain enzyme are magical. They contain enzymes that eat away at specific organisms' cell walls, and help them dislodge or die. Both are pretty much non-toxic (don't drink or bathe in it though). You can purchase these online, or at the local health food store.

Plastic Wool, Abrasive sponges
Elbow grease can replace intense cleaners that "cut grease" etc. Get something that can scrub.

Cayenne Pepper
Repels insects. Great if you have an ant problem. Remember to continue to replenish this. I mixed vinegar, hot water and powdered cayenne and wiped down my entire counter and cupboard with the mixture. Then, I sprinkled a line of cayenne as a barrier where the ants were entering. They no longer venture into my honey. Also, keeping the insides of cupboard clean and your honey jar rinsed is a great way of preventing this.

I avoid getting exposed to bleach at all costs, and would recommend this to any woman who plans on bearing children in the future. I also avoid fertilizers and pesticides like the plague. Note to everyone else, don't make us use these things, please.

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