Since the 1940s chemical companies have been trying to convince us that they have created the perfect cleaner for whatever greasy grimy job we might find ourselves facing. Their slogan, “Better living through chemistry”. These high powered cleaners were designed to take the drudgery out of the job and leave us with more free time to spend in the pursuit of what else but more cleaning jobs.


Unfortunately few people ever question the cost beyond the dollar amount. The long and short of it is we have been sold an easier life at a very high price. The hidden costs are now everywhere in the form of poor quality air and water, contaminated super fund sites with no money for clean up, and health insurance premiums that are breaking the bank due to soaring medical costs.


Let’s look at the chemical make up of some of our so called friendly household cleaners. Petrochemicals found in furniture polishes, paneling sprays, and car cleaners of all kinds are derived from natural substances, but do not occur in nature and are not found naturally in the environment. Petroleum is rarely found on the surface of the earth’s crust and has no known natural or man made enzymes capable of breaking them down. Therefore, they will remain ever present in our air and water for life times after we have used them to clean the coffee table.


Chlorine bleach found under American’s kitchen sink and in every laundry room is considered a synthetic organic chemical- strange wording is it not? Over used because it is thought to be safe. This same chemical when used in the process of paper bleaching leaves behind 75 very dangerous chemical compounds known as dioxins.


Chlorine the equivalent of chemical glue bonds elements together that are not easily dissolved. These strange bonds leave behind toxic residues that poison our water, fish and us. One study done by researchers at Seventh Generation report that organochlorine molecules even in minute amounts can slip into cells replacing hormones and causing devastating effects.


Most of us continue to buy and use these dangerous chemical compounds because we are uneducated about their dangers and not offered safe alternatives. Of course even natural cleaners have their impact on the environment however, their impact is less intense at every level.


Natural cleaners are plant-based containing vegetable oils, fruit acids, herbs, and essential oils rather than petrochemicals. These natural cleaners also eschew unnecessary unnatural bleaches, colors, dyes or perfumes, are biodegradable and are not tested on animals.


There are several natural cleaners showing up on the shelves. Two that come to mind are CLEAN GREEN and CITRA-SOLVE. Clean Green can be used in place of glass and surface cleaners including the tub, stool and sink. Citra-solve made from the peels of citrus fruit can be used as an all purpose cleaner and will do the laundry. When purchasing natural cleaners be sure to read the label to make sure you’re not being sold any unwanted chemicals.


Other old time stand bys such as baking soda can be used to eliminate odors inside the frig. Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet instead of perfume based cover-ups to eliminate, not hide pet odors. Use vinegar for windows, floors and mirrors. Hydrogen peroxide can be used safely in place of disinfectants for counter tops, cutting boards and sinks. One of my personal favorites is Tea Tree Oil. This essential oil is pure antiseptic. A few drops in water will leave your bathroom clean and safe.


Let your grocery store manager know you’re looking for more natural products. They are usually very receptive to new ideas and new ways to draw people into their stores. If you don’t find what you’re looking for there check with your local health food store or co-op. Till next time, Rebecca.