Before having a baby, cleaning was easier than I ever realized. I didn’t have to deal with the daily challenge of fingerprint smudges on windows or toys scattered across the carpet. I don’t remember ever getting occasional dollops of mashed yams stuck to my socks when I traversed the kitchen floor. Then again, life wasn’t nearly as interesting.
Nowadays, I spend much more time cleaning, but luckily I don’t spend much more money. According to US Department of Labor Statistics, the average family shells out over $600 per year on household cleaning products. Beyond the economic costs, many mainstream cleaners contain toxins that can harm the environment and negatively impact your family’s health. Our family spends less than fifty dollars a year by using our own cleaning solutions along with a few natural products. It saves money, saves the planet, and keeps our house spick and span.
Keeping the dirt out:
One big step we take towards cleanliness is making sure that our outside shoes never enter our home. It keeps dirt and grime from being tracked into the floors that my toddler rolls around on. We invest in slip-ons to simplify transitions in and out of the house and find that it’s worth the extra few seconds of hassle to limit our weekly cleaning efforts.
Homemade cleaning solutions:
Oregon Environmental Council offers a printable fold-out card containing recipes for a window cleaner, a wood cleaner, an all-purpose cleaner and many others. All the recipes use simple household ingredients I mix up and store in reusable spray bottles. They cost vastly less than their commercial counterparts and are much better for our household environment and the eco-systems downstream. Vinegar, baking soda, and Borax are just a few of the inexpensive ingredients required to mix up some fabulous homemade cleansers.
Chilling out on the dirt:
Somehow we got the message that being a good parent involves scrubbing the floor hourly and constantly washing our hands in foaming antibacterial soaps. The truth is that being exposed to a little dirt can actually be advantageous. Second and third children as well as children in daycare have much healthier immune systems than their more sheltered counterparts. Allergies have recently skyrocketed in developed countries, leading scientists to develop the “Hygiene Hypothesis.” It’s based on research showing links between extremely clean environments and increased risks for allergies and asthma, possibly because more sterile environments create weaker immune systems. So, before you feel compelled to clean every speck of dust off the floor, remember having a spotless house isn’t necessarily best for your child. What a relief!
Replacing Bleach with Eco-friendly Products:
A few months ago a mainstream product advertised that it was “Cleaning the Planet” and featured moms whirling around sparkling bathrooms armed with bleach and a smile. The truth is that regular chlorine bleach isn’t exactly friendly to your household environment or our planet’s eco-system. Ecover and Seventh Generation have created a non-chlorine bleach that is more biodegradable and eco-friendlier than traditional solutions. There are also bleach substitutes like Biokleen’s Bac-Out that can be used to remove stains and odors when laundering cloth diapers.
So You Want to Switch—What Do You Do With Your Non-Green Cleaners?
You have a few options. Of course you can slowly use them up, but if worry about your family’s health causes you to want an immediate transition, it’s best to drop off your cleaners at a hazardous waste facility. Small amounts of cleaners can be flushed with a great deal of water, but larger amounts need to be dealt with by the experts. For more information, check out this article on another of our favorite websites, grist.com.
Greener cleaning has been one of the easiest ways for my family to save money, limit toxins in our home and support the health of the planet. Once we made the decision to go green, our only problem was deciding how to use the few extra hundred dollars we found in our budget each year. It’s a obstacle we’ve managed to easily overcome!