What do you use to clean your house? Have you ever thought about what goes into your common bottle of household cleaner? If you’re anything like me, chances are it’s never really crossed your mind.
I attended a Green Living workshop conducted by Militza Maury and Delphinia Tam-Lower today. Militza is the founder and author of Little Green Dot, an online guide to the best ideas, brands and places to living an eco-friendly lifestyle, and Del’s family is behind Four Cow Farm, a range of all-natural baby skincare made right on the family farm in Australia.
Together, they taught us how to detox our home. For starters, they introduced us to a few potent and toxic ingredients that are commonly found in everyday household cleaners, such as:
- Bleach (which releases poisonous fumes when mixed with certain chemicals, like those in toilet bowl cleaners)
- Phthalates (linked to asthma and allergies in children, birth defects in male children, and reduced sperm count in adult males)
- Fragrances (primary emitters of Volatile Organic Compounds, many of which have carcinogenic potential)
- Silica (known to be cancer-causing when inhaled. Found in many abrasive cleaners.)
Then they taught us to use these common kitchen ingredients:
- Baking soda (great for absorbing odors and neutralizing the pH of water, which helps detergents to work better)
- Vinegar (great for breaking down minerals found in water, which is the cause of water sans. Also a disinfectant, shown to kill viruses, germs and bacteria. Do not use on marble as it is acidic.)
- Olive oil (great for hydrating and adding shine to wood and leather)
- Herbs & Spices (many contain natural antimicrobial properties, can also be used to add a natural scent to your cleaning solutions)
- Lemon (helps to cut grease, bleach and disinfect)
Okay, so now we know what’s good and what’s not. Then what? If you’re a beginner like me, it’s better to take it one step at a time. Here’s where the action plan they provided comes in handy.
1. Review your products at home
Scrutinize your household cleaning products; read the ingredients and look for warnings. Consider chucking those with bad ingredients away.
2. Find safer alternatives
You can either buy products that do not contain any bad ingredients. Or simply make your own.
3. Keep questioning, keep researching
Make it a point to read the label of what you are buying. Develop a critical mind, and don’t be fooled by clever marketing language. (For example, I discovered today that “organic” vegetables does not mean no pesticide, it just means certain approved pesticides are used instead.)
Lastly, I would like to say this: information is power, but it is people and relationships that empower. Get connected with like-minded people and share ideas and solutions with one another. (This is where I’m thankful for the opportunity to meet Del and Militza, and for friends who have inspired me to think green.)
Although I went home with a lot of information, what’s more important is that a new window in my mind has been opened. I’m going to be far more critical and wary of products and labels from now on.
Oh yes, before I forget, I also got to take home some DIY cleaning agents that we made on the spot. (What’s pretty amazing is that these were so simple to make! Tip: You just need to keep lots of glass bottles to hold your concoctions with.)
Here is the grease-remover, made of two parts water and 1 part vinegar, plus a good measure of lemon juice. (I was quite excited to try it out, so I used some to wipe down the sink, and it helped to get rid of some of the water stains quite effectively.)
And this is the deodorizer – mainly baking soda with your choice of tea leaves or dried herbs, which can be used to replace common cleaners such as Febreze. I chose to add a mix of chamomile, lime, flowers, lavender, and rose petals, which our hosts kindly provided us with. We are supposed to just sprinkle the mixture onto our upholstery or mattresses, leave them for a few hours, and then vacuum it up.
Don’t they look quite pretty too? You can even give them away as gifts to inspire others. It was quite thoughtful of our hosts to provide us with pens, ribbons, ready-made stickers and stuff!
All in all, I give the workshop two thumbs up. We had loads of fun learning about cleaning (I mean, I seriously never thought I would get this excited over housework. Like, seriously?)
I was also happy to bring home stuff that I can actually use!
I must confess I felt a little heavy-hearted though, because I wish I had been aware of these things earlier. I keep kicking myself to stop thinking of the toxins that we’ve been inhaling all this while.
Still, better late than never…
Here are some of the recipes we took home. Do give it a try, or if you need more information, feel free to get in touch with Militza or Del, or find out when their next Green Living workshop will be held. If you’d like to stay informed on the latest knowledge, tips and tools to help make our lives greener, simpler, and healthier, do check out their Facebook page.
I’m so happy to be kick-starting a green project for our home. Will update you guys when I make progress. Please let me know if you’re going to embark on this mission too ya? And yes, please share whatever ideas you may have. Would love to hear em!
PS. I met a lovely mom blogger called Jayne at the workshop. Do also read about her green experience here.
PPS. Ruth did a pretty cool summary of the different uses of baking soda, and Delphine also shares about her experience with the Green Living workshop. Be sure to check out their posts for more details!