Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cleaning with a Baby

So if you know me, you probably already know that I try to be environmentally conscious (cut to BFF A calling me because she saw a recycling truck and thought of me). It's true - actually, on a recycling sidenote, when we lived in an apartment for two years that didn't have recycling, every time our recycle bin filled up poor J would drive around looking for a recycle bin that he could dump our cardboard and cans into because it made me sick to my stomach to think of throwing it away. I feel antsy and a little nauseous just thinking about it now. So now you know I'm "green" and also a little crazy. And J is the best husband in the whole world.
Anyway, I liked the idea of cleaning products that were less chemical-ly and had less of an impact on the environment even before BB, but now that he's around shoving everything he sees into his mouth, it's even more important to me. So I thought I would breakdown what I have been using to clean nowadays.
When I thought of switching to green alternatives for cleaning, at first I felt overwhelmed, but then I realized that I didn't have to throw away all of the stuff I already had and start from scratch, all I had to do was integrate one new thing at a time as my current supplies ran out. This made the whole thing much more doable and I am still somewhere in the middle of the process. Also, I found some "recipes" (via that make greener and cheaper cleaning products - yay for saving money and the environment at the same time!

Here's my cleaning supply round-up:
-A couple years ago I stopped using my Swiffer Wet Jet on our floors in favor of just attaching a rag (cut up old towel) to my Swiffer Sweeper "broom" and using vinegar and water (about 1/2 and 1/2) in a spray bottle on the floor. This is the only way I mop our house full of wood laminate flooring.
-Also a couple of years ago I bought some Shaklee cleaning products that my sister-in-law was peddling. They are supposed to be more natural and reduce waste because some of it comes concentrated. The only things I have left are the spray bottles and a big bottle of super concentrated Basic H cleaner, which is a concentrated super-cleaner. (I would have kept using Shaklee, but it is pricey, and my sister-in-law no longer peddles it). I use this Basic H on any stubborn thing and as "soap" in any of my natural cleaning "recipes". (Basic H appears to be worth the cost, since I still have 2/3 bottle left years later).
-On the mirrors I use a mixture of water and Basic H in a spray bottle - I'm sure vinegar would work just as well.
-One of my favorite switcharoos was to make my own disinfectant wipes. I cut up 2 of J's old T-shirts and soaked them in a mixture of vinegar (I use distilled white), tea tree oil (I buy this at Sprouts, a grocery store), and Basic H. The vinegar and tea tree oil both have natural disinfectant properties (I googled it!) and I use the Basic H in lieu of Castille soap. I keep these in an old plastic ice cream tub with a lid under the sink and keep the dirty ones in another ice cream tub with a lid (leftover from an ice cream sundae party!). When the dirty tub is full, I just throw them in the wash and can reuse them! I use these on counters and in bathrooms and love it. Sometimes I do have to dry the surfaces off a little bit if I have too much solution in the buckets making the cloths too saturated.
-I bought a Method brand wood cleaner (alternative to Pledge) on sale -it smells amazing, but our coffee table does get dustier quicker than it did with the Pledge. I just have to dust a little more often, but at least I know the scent I'm inhaling isn't noxious fumes!
-I have started using baking soda (in a salt shaker so that I can easily dust surfaces with it) to clean the toilet and bathtub - it seems to be working pretty well so far!
-I have two major non-green indulgences (they are disposable). I love Swiffer Sweeper dry cloths for sweeping and dusting - they make these jobs so much quicker and easier. I also have a paper towel addiction. I think it's reasonable to use paper towels on certain things like nasty raw chicken slime on the counter and certain bathroom clean-up, but I instinctively grab them to wipe up a spot on the floor or counter, when I could just as easily use a rag that I can reuse. I am trying to keep some of my t-shirt-rags dry to use for these purposes, which is working well for me. I think the key is to keep them in an accessible area next to the paper towels, like a bowl/jar on the counter.

Right now I still use commercial laundry detergent (All Free-and-Clear for BB) and dishwasher liquid and dishsoap (the mainstream, biodegradable ones). I tried the Trader Joe's brand dishwasher detergent, and it cleaned fine, except now my glasses have horrible spots on them and they never did when we used Cascade. Bummer. I read that you can pour vinegar in the rinse aid part of your dishwasher as a cheap alternative to prevent spotting, but I think that detergent just didn't agree with my glasses. As an alternative to these things there are apparently these things called Soap Nuts that grow on trees that you can make soap out of. (I read about them here). When I told J about these and making soap, he thought I was a little crazy and now anytime I talk about making anything, we joke about making it out of soap nuts.

I love knowing that the products I use are better for the environment and safer for BB - he is rolling, scooting, and wiggling his way all over the living room floor, and I love knowing that there aren't man-made chemicals rubbed all over my laminate, just good old vinegar, which is edible. As is the baking soda, and even tea tree oil is ingestible! And the vinegar and baking soda is cheap too! So that's my round-up! What do you think? Do you have any great "recipes" for cleaning?

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