For quite a while I’d ignored the little voice in the back of my mind (and the mild burning sensation in my lungs) each time I sprayed down a surface with some aeresol cleaning solution. Eventually I began holding my breath in little spurts as I scrubbed the bathtub. Rather than wind up face-first in the tub, I decided to figure out what exactly was bothering me.
After further introspection, I determined it was a combination of things. There was the subliminal guilt I felt each time I passed the Seventh Generation merchandise at Target. Then there’s MRSA and those nasty little drug-resistant bugs they tell us we’re creating when we use antibacterial anything. Oh, and the saccharine-sweet smell of my Febreeze…what’s in that stuff, anyway? There’s also my friend who makes all her own cleaning products (and baby wipes and ice cream and I love her but she exhausts me) and I wondered whether she and her family might truly be better off.
Enter Clean & Simple: A Back-to-Basics Approach to Cleaning Your Home from The Old Farmer’s Almanac Home Library. I found it one day while perusing the how-to aisle at the library. I opened it, fully prepared to be bored to tears, but it turns out the two authors have a lovely sense of humor, which they use to tout the benefits of homemade, semi-old-fashioned housecleaning methods. What they don’t do (unlike the first book I picked up) is lecture about how the use of Scrubbing Bubbles or bleach will short-circuit your nervous system, if not bring on Armageddon. I put that first book back, but none too soon; I am now deathly afraid of fabric softener.
Anyway, these ladies cover everything from kitchen to bath, from laundry to pet care to pampering tips (oatmeal facial, anyone?), and they assert that by using various combinations of baking soda, Borax, cream of tartar, lemon juice, salt and vinegar (what they call the Cleaning Hall of Fame) and liquid soap, you have everything you need to keep your house sparkling clean.
They also introduced me to Castile Soap, which I’d never heard of and is an oil-based natural liquid soap scented with essential oils. I did my homework, then picked up a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s lavender castile soap – and I tell you the two of us shall never again be apart. It’s a lavender field in a bottle.
This little book brings with it the credibility and history that only a publication like Farmer’s Almanac can offer. What I needed most was to be convinced that these methods would still kill all the scary germs I didn’t want lurking around my family. Mission accomplished. According to these folks, soap kills germs just fine. No typical household kitchen or bath needs more than that.
I’ve been using their General-Purpose Cleaner recipe for about a month now, and I am in love. They even include in the book little labels that list ingredients and instructions, which you can photocopy and stick on the bottle. Now, instead of that chemical-lemon-sandpaper-lung scented cleaner I’d been using, my house smells of lavender.
Bottom line, the helpful tone of the book makes it a good way to ease into more natural, homemade housekeeping. It’s available on Amazon, but I’m betting you’ll find a copy at your library. I think this back-to-basics approach is the direction I want to go, but I’m not ready to jump in feet-first. They provide recipes for everything from oven cleaner to wood floor polish to mildew remover, and their website has even more tips and tricks… But one thing at a time. That’s my motto.