Monday, September 17, 2007

Waste Not, Want Not?

In my deliberate transition from heavily advertised "normal" items (cosmetics, toxic cleaners, processed foods, etc.) to a more healthful approach, I am cringing against my frugal thrifty nature and Dutch heritage, which doesn't let you throw ANYTHING away, to completely rid my home of chemicals and toxic items. I cleaned my bathrooms for the first time yester-evening with my new biodegradable products and ... [there are no words].

I have always had a reaction to chemicals. When cleaning the house growing up, I used to complain I wasn't feeling well and I think perhaps my mother thought I was faking in order to get out of housework, but in fact it has only gotten worse as I've gotten older. I now have to wear a handkerchief over my mouth and nose when cleaning the bathrooms with the poor ventilation and aerosol cans, abrasive bleach cleaners and sprays that made me nauseated. I have learned to stall in cleaning the bathrooms, as my skin gets sensitive and red and my lungs burn and my nose and mouth begin to react to all the sensory over-drive that occurs with the inundation of chemical smells in such a small space. I began to accept this reaction as normal.

As I cleaned my house last night, I sprayed the mirrors, counters, and cabinets and the smell was so faint, I began to wonder if it was working. As I began to see the soap scum come clean and the windows be streak free, I wondered why I was left in the dark about the availability of these products for so long. I opened the new scrub for the shower stall and tub and began to doubt if the amount in the container could handle the task I was about to give it: my brother's shower. As I gingerly tapped into the resources, I noticed I had completed a whole half of the shower without reaching for more. Usually this was the part I hated the most as the powder abrasive cleaner would become airborne as I was dispensing it and I would have to breathe in the bleach as I was leaning over the tub to scour the walls. Again, this was completely not the case. The all-natural cleaner was made from ground cherry pits and the smell was faint, but pleasant and I was able to clean the space completely with only minimal cleaning agent. I noticed after I rinsed the walls my drain wasn't clogged with all of the product filling the basin of my tub like it was previously. I was amazed at what a small environmental footprint I was leaving from the cleaning of my bathroom.

I ran water to create an all purpose solution to wash the floors and walls, doors and shelves and after I finished and my water was brown from all the filth I had lifted from my bathrooms, I walked out my door and down my steps to the lawn and freely dropped my brown water into the soil, as my product manual encouraged me to do. I could never have done this before as my all purpose cleaner was filled with contaminants and phosphates that would likely have killed the poor crape myrtle tree I watered. I decided I was having too much fun to stop, so I threw my shower curtains in the laundry and used the new cleaner, of which I only needed a half a tablespoon and as my curtain was only mildly soiled, I placed it on the gentle setting and pulled out bright, clean fabrics after the cycle was completed.

I am positive that the only downside from these new products is the amount of time I now spend cleaning my house, which might have an effect on how much time I am spending with Joshua or at the office. Speaking of which, I have a very sensitive nose and with office cubicles being in such close proximity, if a coworker slathers on a particularly strong scented lotion or decides to clean their desk with a spray all purpose cleaner, I have to leave my office. I am instantaneously sick to my stomach and I get light headed, followed usually by a migraine. I brought in my new counter cleaner, which is 99.9% water and cleaned off picture frames, lamps, counters, computer hardware without so much as a sneeze from all the dust that had been happily accumulating in my workspace. A coworker walked over and noted that she wasn't aware that I was cleaning because she didn't smell anything. Welcome to the new era.

Waste not want not? Absolutely not. I threw all my old stuff in a box by my front door. Harsh abrasive cleaners, bleach, syrupy fabric softener, phosphate filled cleaners and laundry detergent, dish soap, dishwasher powder, oven cleaner, sticky surface cleaner and carpet stain removal all got nicely put in a large recyclable box. I called my brother who just moved into a new apartment and asked if he was in the market for some products. His response? "No thanks, I'm switching to whatever you're using". There you have it.

No comments: