I wonder how many of you still keep up the tradition of spring-cleaning? Traditionally this was the time when, as the weather got warmer and windows could at last be opened, the house was given a thorough clean from top to bottom, removing all the dust from the winter and looking forward in anticipation to the warmer months.
I’m ashamed to say that my mother’s tradition of spring-cleaning has not been continued in my house, despite my best intentions. Nonetheless, as the cold days of winter are retreating into the past and the blossom is opening to the warmer sun, maybe you’re feeling encouraged to take off your jumper and brave a mop and feather duster.
And now we have a problem because, as we’ve moved away from the spring-cleaning tradition, so also we’ve moved away from using simple ingredients to clean with. As any walk down the supermarket aisle will show you, cleaning is Big Business and we are encouraged to fill the cupboard-under-the-kitchen-sink with all manner of bottles and containers. And those bottles contain a host of chemicals that simply are not good either for us or for the land, water and air that they end up going into. Sodium hypochlorite, petroleum distillates, ammonia, phenol, cresol, nitrobenzene, formaldehyde and 1-1-1 trichloroethane solvents are just some of the nasty substances that we use.
I suspect that some of you reading this who are from the older end of the age spectrum will mutter into your teacups that actually chemical-filled cleaning products are good: cleaning windows and ovens has never been so easy. And that may indeed be the case. We have never before been able to achieve such sparkling, whiter-than-white results with such little effort. But when we consider the real cost involved in this – the damage to our health, the damage to the environment, and our money boosting the profits of multinational corporations – we have to ask ourselves if that is a cost we are prepared to pay.
And so I’m here to proclaim freedom for us all from chemical-filled cleaning products! There are two main ways that we can go about weaning ourselves off these things. The first is simply to substitute our regular cleaning products for ones that are more environmentally friendly. This is the easiest thing to do and most of us will decide that, for convenience’ sake, this is the route to take. Most of our supermarkets offer their own label ‘environmentally friendly’ cleaning products and there are well known brands such as Ecover and Bio-D that are readily available, but there are other companies too such as Alma Win and Bentley Organic that are worth looking at.
The second way is to go back to the good old-fashioned ingredients of bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and lemon juice. You’ll be amazed at what you can do with this holy trinity! For example, you can make a thick paste of bicarb and water and then use a toothbrush to scrub the grout and tiles in your bathroom, or you can clean your drains out by pouring a cup of bicarb and a cup of vinegar down them, which will neutralise smells and cut through grease. To clean out your microwave, put some bicarb and lemon juice in a mug with water and heat it in the microwave for a couple of minutes. Then wipe the insides down with a damp cloth. If you want to find out more then www.bakingsodabook.co.uk is a great site with lots of advice, or there are a plethora of books on ‘natural cleaning’ that you can buy and lots of other helpful websites too.
There really is no excuse for any of us to use cleaning products that cause so much damage. So go on: ditch those chemicals, don your pinny and get cleaning!