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A Dirty Exposé: Time to Rethink these Common Cleaning Practices

A while back we talked about a house hold purge. If you remember, we focused on minimizing our stuff to maximize our intentions going forward for daily living in those spaces. I know personally that I unburdened myself from a lot of possessions no longer fulfilling a purpose in my life and I hope you were able to as well! Now that we have tidy spaces its time to keep them not just tidy but clean. This month, now with less stuff, we are diving into the dirty truth about cleaning.

How DIRTY are your cleaning products and methods? Lets talk about it. Common household cleaners can be summed up by a glance in a box store cleaning aisle. Lots of chemicals and lots of waste. I feel like waste is an easier one to discuss first. As you may know, only 6-9% of plastic making its way to recycling bins is actually recycled. A brutal statistic - I know. That's why its so important to limit your plastic consumption whenever possible. Some ways to do that when it comes to your household cleaners would be to make your own, buy concentrates that you can dilute with water, or find brands that offer sustainable alternatives like our solid citrus dish soap bar rather than a bottle of detergent.

Now the conundrum that is the chemicals in your cleaners. Here in the US, companies are not required to list or provide the ingredients used in home cleaning products. Many conventional cleaners have a cocktail of ingredients that can be both harmful to you and the environment. Even some products labeled as "green" don't meet the criteria of what you'd expect. A good rule of thumb is that if a company is refusing to let you see what's in it, then you might want to look else where. We could be here all day if we started digging into the specific chemicals and their potential short and long term side effects for not only human health but the health of our pets and the earth. Instead I want to share with you some natural and simple ingredients you can use to clean to your hearts content without repercussions.

Here are 3 ingredients I can almost guarantee the average person has on hand; vinegar, baking soda, and lemon. If not, well they are relatively cheap to purchase and easily obtained. Vinegar is mostly water and 4-6% acetic acid. Plain vinegar is around 4% acetic acid while cleaning vinegar is around 6% while actually equates to being 20X stronger than regular vinegar. Acetic Acid which comes from the fermentation of alcoholic liquids. The acetic acid fights dirt, oil, grime, stains, and even bacteria! Baking soda packs a gentle yet effective and abrasive punch while helping dirt, grime, oils etc. dissolve more easily in water. Lemons, like many citrus fruits, have citric acid which is antibacterial. Some folks also like to add essential oils to their DIY cleaners and while essential oils are a natural alternative to chemical fragrances, some are not recommended for use around pets, children, or pregnant women so please do your research before adding to any recipe.

I have found that our dish soap is a great cleaner for not only dishes and my hands, but the counters, the fridge shelves, and even the stove! I will admit that I do still have chemical cleaners in my home but will continue making steps working towards being toxin free in the future. It is not a race and I by no means want to shame anyone or make you feel bad for using chemical cleaners. We are all in different places in our lives and journeys to living a greener life. That is why I share with full transparency that I am still looking to make my own adjustments in this area.

A few of the home cleaning hacks that I have tried are simply tossing my used lemon rinds in a bottle of vinegar to sit for a few weeks and using it as a surface cleaner. It smells citrusy and clean. Vinegar can also be used as a fabric softener in your laundry now that I think of it which is something I have also done in the past. Despite the harsh scent of vinegar it does not make your clothing smell that way! Baking soda is an ingredient I have actually mixed with olive oil to scrub labels off of old sauce jars to reuse. I have also used baking soda with vinegar to clean the drains in my home. When testing out your own concoctions or new found recipes make sure not to use old chemical cleaning bottles. These bottles can have residue that could create toxins if mixed with new ingredients and its better to be safe than sorry. If you do plan to test out some DIY cleaning recipes, share them in the comments below for our fellow readers! We can learn from each other and grow together.

Earlier we discussed the waste that the bottles and cans for cleaners create but we didn't get into the tools we use to clean with them. There are so many easy eco-swaps to be made here that can truly save you some serious cash. The first swap I made when it comes to my cleaning routine was paper towels. "According to Statistica's data compiled via the U.S. Census and NHCS, "45.3 million Americans used 8 or more rolls / packs of paper towels in 2020." On the low end of $2 a roll, that's still $192 a year. On the higher end of $6 a roll that $576 a year! I bought my dish clothes when I got my first apartment 6 years ago for around $12 and they are still going strong. I have not purchased paper towels since. Sure you have to account for the cost of adding them to your wash but they don't take up much space at all and have not changed my laundry schedule in anyway. If you do the math for most single use to reusable swaps, you will see substantial financial savings.

Another replacement for paper towels when it comes to cleaning windows is old newspaper! Just crumple it up and wipe away streak-free. My mom taught me that one. If you need something a bit more absorbent you can use Swedish dish clothes or cellulose sponges. They are very absorbent and easy to clean. Many sponges are usually dyed with chemicals, and accompanied by a plastic scrubber that leaks microplastics into our water ways. Instead, opt for the cellulose sponges with plant fiber scrubbers made from coconut or walnut husks. If you are open to trying something new, I would actually recommend a dish scrubber brush over a sponge any day. I find they last WAY longer and do not harbor loads of bacteria like a damp sponge can. As far as mopping goes try using a mop with a detachable and washable head rather than single use throw away sheets. If you have certain areas of your home that you need to clean and absolutely want to dispose of the cleaning cloth then try opting for a biodegradable and plant based paper towel or toilet paper.

Simple changes to your cleaning routine can make for a cleaner environment both in your home and outside your home. Thank you for taking the time to learn about ways in which you can reduce your waste when keeping it clean, say peace out to those nasty chemicals, and consider some cost effective and eco-friendly swaps. Don't forget to share your tried and true methods in the comments below.

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