According to Terra Choice Group, more than 95% of products labeled “green” are manipulating the information in some way such as declaring a product is free of an illegal substance, using vague names to mask poisons, or claiming fake endorsements, all of which gives the illusion of being better.
We Americans are a cleaning bunch, using 35 million pounds of cleaning products annually. But have you stopped to think where those products end up?
I was forced to 12 years ago when diagnosed with breast cancer. My surgeon put me through a battery of questions trying to determine the cause – family history, personal habits, you name it. There was nothing except this – I loved to garden and was not doing it organically at that time. Lots of chemical pesticides were involved. And I kept a clean house, sort of thinking about the products I was using, but not really.
From there, it was just a short jump to thinking where all those chemicals went when they were washed down the drain or flushed down the toilet or watered into the garden.
No wonder Mother Earth is cranky!
If the Terra Choice Group is correct, even buying so-called “green” products may not be the best answer.
Maybe it’s time to get back to basics and go the DIY route. It’s simpler, safer, healthier, and in most cases less expensive.
Here are some basics to get you started:
Easy to Find, Multitasking Ingredients and a Few Recipes
Most of these ingredients can be found in a garden-variety grocery, though a few may require a trip to a health food store, old-timey hardware, or even a foray online. Regardless of where you source them, check for purity.
White vinegar – The Queen of Multitasking. It will clean, deodorize, cut through grease, and disinfect against bacteria, viruses and mold. We keep a spray bottle in our shower to prevent mold which forms in seconds here in the Deep South. You can also mix it 50 – 50 with water and a few drops of lemon essential oil for a very effective all-purpose cleaner. Even works on glass!
Baking soda - My other personal favorite. It cleans, whitens, neutralizes odors, and softens water. It’s excellent for scrubbing bathrooms, refrigerators, counter tops, and ovens. That box in the fridge helps keep it odor-free. When combined with sea salt or Epsom salt, it also makes a perfect bath soak to draw out toxins. Add a little essential oil and treat yourself to a spa break from all that cleaning.
Hydrogen peroxide – Basically, this is bleach in its more natural form. It is useful as a disinfectant, bleach agent, even for wounds and bug bites. Maybe that’s why an elderly aunt poured Clorox on our childhood boo-boos. Good for whitening grout and removing stains.
Castile soap – A favorite of my grandmother’s. Available in both liquid or bar form, castile serves as a biodegradable, vegetable-based surfactant and all-around cleaner. Just don’t add it to vinegar because that destroys its cleaning ability. If you love foaming hand soap (and really, who doesn’t?) you can make your own by combining ¼ cup liquid Castile soap with one cup water and 15 drops essential oil.
Borax – US Borax was a client back in my consulting days. On my first visit to their facility, I was blown away by the display showing all the everyday products containing boron since I had only known it as an additive to laundry soap. It is also good for pest control, especially against roaches. Even though it is a natural mineral, keep it away from kids and pets.
Lye – Lye aka Caustic or Washing Soda is a heavy duty cleaner as powerful as any toxic solvent. Be very careful working with lye. It is an extremely strong caustic chemical that can quickly eat through skin.
Lye or caustic soda is often touted as a great addition for DIY laundry detergent especially for heavily soiled items. Just combine 1 cup of washing soda with 1 cup of borax and a 14-ounce bar of Castile soap, grated. Highly concentrated, you only need 1 tablespoon per load, adding a half cup of lemon juice to the rinse cycle.
If you decide to make lye soap, remember that the tools and containers you use can never be used for food preparation again. Having said that, making a batch of homemade lye soap doesn't have to be complicated and the end product is worth it. A simple lard-based soap feels rich and is full of the natural glycerin that has been stripped from commercial soaps. It is an excellent cleanser and when combined with the proper other ingredients, it’s gentle on your skin.
Essential oils – Though we often think of essential oils only as fragrance providers, many also boost germ-fighting power. Tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender oils all have rightful claim to antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. They may seem pricey, but such a little bit goes such a long way and the payoff is tremendous.
Lemon juice – The citric acid in lemon juice cuts through grease, removes mold and bacteria, leaves dishes streak-free, and leaves behind a crisp refreshing smell.