Keep it Clean and Green

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ~ Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

I’m going to get something off my chest, right here and now. I don’t like cleaning. I never have. But, for some reason, I ended up with an almost 18 year career as a professional housekeeper.

Go figure.

Maybe it was fate. Maybe it was the way I dressed- I rock the “Housekeeper Chic” look. You know the deal: worn jeans or track pants, a T-shirt, a pair of running or hiking shoes, and my hair pinned back so severely that stray hairs would rather fall off my head than risk being caught dangling in my face.

Although I am no longer in the housekeeping field of employment, I still sport the Housekeeper Chic look, in the vain hope that it might catch on and become fashionable.

“So, why did you become a housekeeper if you don’t like cleaning?” I hear you ask.

It’s simple. As a teenager, like many teenagers, I wanted some extra cash. More than that, I wanted some extra cash from work that I could fit around my class schedule. So, I did odd jobs for people here and there, which eventually led me to cleaning. I tried other types of jobs, but I always seemed to come back to housekeeping (usually, ranting about the injustice of it all).

Eventually, I kind of took the hint and made it into a career. I even liked aspects of it. Not so much the actual cleaning, but I liked to meet new people, see how they lived, and see their satisfied faces when they came home to a freshly cleaned house. The best part, for the client, was that it was like magic: they left a dirty house in the morning, and when they came back at the end of the day it would be sparkling and smelling wonderful.

I felt like I worked miracles.

In the beginning, I used the chemicals my clients provided for me; they were usually the standard stuff you can buy at any grocery store. They ranged from mild dish soaps that were almost too timid to even touch the dirt, to heavy duty cleaners that made grime practically leap off the dirty items in sheer terror.

At the time, I didn’t care what I used, as long as it got the job done. I gritted my teeth, did the work, and left my clients happy at the end of the day. That’s what mattered to me the most, then. Before I discovered chemical-free cleaning, my dream team included Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, Multi-Surface Windex, Lysol, a scrubbing sponge, a squeegee, a roll of paper towel, and toilet paper- lots of toilet paper.

I know… not very environmentally friendly.

As my business grew, and I started cleaning more homes, I noticed that I started developing sensitivity to some of the cleaners. My hands would break out in a blistering rash, and I had trouble breathing whenever I used Windex. Not only that, but I couldn’t wear rubber gloves because those would also make my skin itchy and blistery.

Six of one and half a dozen of the other, right?

It got to the point where it didn’t matter what I used; no matter how gentle it was supposed to be, I had the same reaction.

Naturally, I wanted to keep myself employed (not to mention be able to clean my own place), so I began to look for alternatives. Since I’m an avid reader and researcher, the prospect of poring over hundreds of sources for the answers was sheer bliss for me. I read everything I could get my hands on. I asked around, and got different solutions from friends and family. I pored over the internet until my knuckles and fingertips ached and my nails pounded grooves into my poor keyboard.

In the course of my research, I noticed something. When you look for non-toxic methods, you will find that they are usually also environmentally friendly. The two go hand in hand.

Also in the course of my research, I learned a lot about the chemicals that go into making the cleaners we buy, and what they do to the environment. Like many, while in the process of switching up my dream team, I started with those cleaners labelled “environmentally friendly”. It seems natural that if a cleaner is labelled as being environmentally friendly, it ought to be safe to use, right?

Not necessarily.

Part of the problem with making the big switch to safer solutions is that people are attracted to gimmicks. We tend to think that if it doesn’t come in a fancy package, or if it isn’t “new and improved”, it’s not going to work. It’s because of this that the green cleaning movement has had to fight an uphill battle just to gain a toehold in the market.
The short version of this story is that, over the years, after trying every solution I came across (including the eco-friendly store bought stuff), I’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve discovered what is genuinely environmentally friendly and what isn’t. I’ve made an effort to only include ingredients in the recipes in this site that are not only environmentally friendly but are also safer to use. Still, as with anything in life, it’s best to use your sense and take note of any warnings that may come with the ingredients.

While there are some notable “environmentally friendly” cleaners out there on the store shelves that all they claim to be, such as Murphy’s Oil Soap (original formula), I feel the best way to be absolutely sure is to either ditch the chemicals completely, or at least make informed, responsible choices. In fact, you probably already have everything you will need to clean your home, but you just don’t know it.