Natural Living

By Laura Peterson

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Spring has arrived, finally, and I’m sure there’s just one thing on everyone’s mind – spring cleaning!

What? That’s not the one thing on your mind? OK, maybe I’m just too much of a Virgo because I LOVE spring cleaning. After months of that dry New York City heat, I can’t wait to fling those windows open and air the place out a bit. Then I tackle the cleaning, mopping, scrubbing, dusting and polishing. I put my hair in pigtails, play some fun music that I can sing along with (Duran Duran, anyone? Aww yeah!) and just keep going until I drop.

Alright, I’ll admit, it wasn’t always this much fun for me to clean. In fact, I dreaded having to clean my apartment for one very big reason – the fumes from the cleaning products made me sick to my stomach! Cleaning my shower with Tilex would literally cause me to throw up and spend the rest of the day nursing a migraine headache and burning eyes. Other cleansers burned my hands and caused such serious chapping it took weeks to recover; just in time to clean again! I can’t stand those big rubber gloves, either, because in no time my hands would be sweating in there and getting all pruney and uncomfortable. Even these memories are making me ill!

But it all changed when I discovered natural, biodegradable cleaning products. To be honest, I only learned about these products about four years ago when I had pet rats and was told to never use regular household cleaners around them or they’ll die. I thought, “What? They’ll DIE? But rats are used in lab experiments to see how things will affect us!” Being the nerd I am, I researched and started reading labels. Trust me when I say, we have a BIG problem, people! While pursuing cleanliness, we’ve instead dove into toxicity. The toxic makeup of most household cleaning products should be declared illegal rather than sold in supermarkets! Besides that, there was one ingredient I kept coming across that annoyed me more than ever, especially considering our current national dilemma. I’m talking about petroleum. Yes, petroleum. Does the madness never end?

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Then along came Seventh Generation, Earth Friendly Products and Ecover and I realized all can be right in the world of cleaning. These products, now found at many supermarkets, allow us to clean our homes without poisoning ourselves in the process. Do we need bleach to clean our counters or toilet bowls? Not at all! If you’re concerned that these wonderful products aren’t enough to satisfy your Shock & Awe approach to killing germs (which, I will argue, I believe they are) then follow up every cleaning with a spritz of hydrogen peroxide. In fact, buy yourself two empty spray bottles and fill one with peroxide and the other with white distilled vinegar and you can clean your whole house with those. Spritz one and then the other and wipe – how cheap and easy is that?

If you’re a bleach nut, try fresh lemons instead, halved and rubbed on the offending stains. There are several all-natural bleach alternatives available on the market, as well. And don’t stop at counter tops and toilet bowls, either – you can replace your toxic laundry detergent, window cleaner, furniture polish, air fresheners and absolutely everything you use to keep your home clean and fresh with non-toxic alternatives.

For the truly inspired, I also recommend the book “The Naturally Clean Home: 101 Safe and Easy Herbal Formulas for Non-Toxic Cleansers,” by Karyn Siegel-Maier. Karyn expands on the topic of commercial cleaning product toxicity and puts together recipes for natural, home-made cleaning products to take care of your entire household. Break out those essential oils, ’cause Karyn’s going to put those to work for you!

If you stick with natural, biodegradable products, you can not only clean your home, you can maintain a clean conscience. And hey, it wouldn’t be so bad to live longer while you’re at it!

Check out the following websites for more information:
Seventh Generation – http://www.seventhgeneration.com/
Ecover – http://www.ecover.com/
Earth Friendly Products – http://www.ecos.com/

These products can be found at Whole Foods, Westerly Natural Market and most other natural markets, as well as numerous supermarkets around the city.

“The Natural Clean Home” by Karyn Siegel-Maier can be found on www.amazon.com

Originally published April 2006
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