Green Cleaning Myths Debunked

I know that everyone would love to go green and to live a more simple lifestyle but it seems to be harder than it looks. People say they want fuel efficient cars and to reduce carbon emissions and they have been saying this for years and yet the sales of these kind of cars has risen very slowly and not largely enough to motivate car makers. In fact, everyone was buying SUVs just a year or two ago, pumping hundreds of dollars of gas into their machines without complaining.

And I also know that most people want to “green up” their health and the environment, but there are so many myths and disinformation running around out there that most of them get frozen in their tracks. Just look at the number: 84 percent of consumers are interested in eco-friendly cleaners, but only 31 percent have bought one in the last 12 months. Vegetable-based cleaners are less than one percent of the $11 billion U.S. market for the cleaning supplies. People are still buying Lysol and Pledge and not making the big switch.

Here are the most common myths and disinformation regarding non-toxic cleaning, which are the likely reasons people don’t make the leap. See if one of them is stalling you:

Reason #1:

Non-toxic cleaners just don’t work

Reason number 1: Many of you have tried the well known recipes for non-toxic cleaning using the basics we all have in our kitchen cupboards, such as baking soda and vinegar, including using just plain vinegar and water on the windows. There is also the option of cleaning windows with just dry old newspapers. I had a cleaning service for years and we ended up doing this in the end because it worked really good… and it saved us a bundle of money.

But many of you tried these recipes and found that it left streaks on the windows. What you don’t know is the crap you’ve been using for years has built up a residue on the windows (along with salt air, humidity, calcium from sprinklers, pollution from the outside air, etc…) and it can’t be removed with vinegar and water, which cut it a bit but leave a lot of it behind. To start using a natural clean on the windows, you must first soap them down with hot water and soap and scrub them. This removes the chemical and environmental residues. Now, you will be left with a streaky window that looks horrible. This is when you should go to vinegar and water. Be sure to mix it correctly: in a glass or plastic spray bottle, fill 1/2 of it with white vinegar (not wine or cider) and then fill it up with fresh water.

After your windows are real clean then you should maintain them simply by rubbing them down with dry newspapers once a week thereafter.

Reason #2:

Without chemicals, products take more time and elbow grease

Most of them don’t and so this just isn’t true. However, they do require you do something more than push a button and wipe. If you read my blog you know that I often run recipes for natural and herbal based products to replace the chemical ones in the store. The recipes are easy to follow but they do take a little time. For instance, to make a porcelain cleaner that works but isn’t toxic, you need to soak some of the ingredients (like Borax) in water overnight. This is time but it doesn’t involve much input from you. In the morning, you finish the mix and the stuff is ready. If you make up enough and store it in bottles and keep them on a ready shelf within reach, they will be no more difficult or time consuming in the long run than the stuff you buy in the store.

For instance, in the blog earlier, in my post about herbal cleaners, I gave a recipe for making scouring powder and soap mixes out of Soapwort. And, of course, you get a bellyache thinking about growing your own Soapwort (which you don’t even know what it is) on your tiny patio — or balcony, actually, if you live in the city or on the beach– and the headache that entails. This is enough to send you off to the store for more Ajax. But you don’t have to give all that time to this. At health food stores, co-ops and herbalists worldwide you can get dried Soapwort. You can buy ready plants, big and bushy and already growing, in most nurseries. Not Walmart or Target, though. They don’t handle enough varied inventory. You will have to seek out a real nursery. But once you obtain the dried or fresh plant materials and use them the first time, it will be easy and easily repeatable. The work diminishes in time, especially if you can spare a minute at the outset and make a large amount of the mix. You might not be doing it again for months! Think of the time you’ve save running back and forth to the store for their smaller offerings.

So this myth can be busted! If you have a cleaning product you’d like to replace and don’t have a recipe that makes sense to you, email me and ask! I’ll send you anything you need.

Reason #3:

Non toxic stuff is like organic stuff, it costs way too much!

Okay, I see where people think this. You look at a recipe and even if you’re ok with the time you’ll spend, then you are sure that all those ingredients are gonna bust your wallet! I can see that it might seem this way. You have do all this shopping you think and then take all this stuff home after spending a fortune and then spend hours doing the grunt work of mixing this stuff up. And, admit it, you like the look of all those fancy label bottles on the shelf over your washer and dryer. Plastic spray bottles with magic marker labels are just not the same!

But you don’t realize you are being robbed already. Those pretty little bottles with the colorful labels are only a certain size and the bigger they get, the bigger the price tag. So you buy the smaller one and then run back and forth to the store in the car, spending gas money to do this. And when they are empty, you toss them in the garbage unless they are recyclable, which the glass ones are, thank goodness. Otherwise, they end up in the landfill.

So you get the picture that you are paying a pretty penny for your penchant for pretty bottles and getting a small amount of cleaning fluid full of dangerous chemicals in the process? And then you are going back and forth for more the junk in your gas sucking car? What if you could just make up gallons at a time, of all natural stuff, and keep the gallon jugs for years to come and not have to put them in the trash? How much can you save in this process? How eco-conservative and “wise” would you be?

This is the idea behind making all natural and herbal based stuff. It will save you money in the long run, believe me, and even save you time, as well.

For instance, I ran a recipe on this blog for a furniture polish made with oils. The ingredients seem exotic- linseed oil, beeswax and methylated spirits. You might even have imagined that this was really expensive. However, this is far from true. You can get big blocks of beeswax in most craft stores and even cheaper in health food stores or some pharmacies and supermarkets. The amount of polish you make from one block is over 12 ounces and you use a dab at a time. It’s actually a bargain. Methylated spirits are purchased in most pharmacies and hardware stores. It’s not a big fav item so the price is reasonable and again, you can make so much of the stuff from what you get, it can take a year to use it up.

If you have problems with figuring out the cost of any certain natural recipe, email me and I will work out the cost and send you back the source of the cheapest places that sell it.

Reason #4:

The Government doesn’t test “natural” products

First of all the idea that all the products the Government inspects are all safe and effective is a real myth. You must be aware of recent troubles with all sort of items from toothpaste to kids’ toys to tomatoes. The importing of so many of the products we buy takes a lot of the control of these products out of our hands. For the most part, manufacturers are careful about their products for fear of being demonized or run out of business by errors causing disease or death. Lawsuits can put a company under the bus in a day. Of course, many businesses do survive lawsuits and go on to make an even better effort at policing their products, such as the Tylenol cyanide poisoning scare in the 1970’s that started everybody sealing, taping, capping, locking and gluing their products for safety. But natural products pretty much eliminate the need for this kind of oversight. Most of them are well known items that have been used by or at least been in contact with human beings for centuries. And when you make it yourself, you KNOW it’s safe.

The most troublesome effect of any product is an allergic reaction and it is the number once cause of disease and death in products ranging from antibiotics to hair dyes. If you are allergic to ragweed, for instance, then you should not use recipes including plants like goldenrod. It is often used in making herbal yellow dyes and can cause pretty bad skin reactions. So the lesson in this is to research your allergies and make sure that any plant or herb used in a natural remedy is not from the same genus or plant family. You would do this anyways, if you were buying a cosmetic product, no? For instance, I am allergic to perfumes and cannot use chemical based perfume products and must buy all times fragrance-free, including shampoos, tanning creams, laundry detergents, soaps and just about everything.

Also you must always take the time to check plants you are foraging for or picking out of neighborhood lots. Many plants are poisonous and they often mimic or look very similar to other more popular and less deadly plants. This is why it is very important to obtain a picture of every plant you are using in any given recipe. The internet is a really good place to do this. Google images will produce a photo of just about every plant on the planet. Be sure to study these photos to be sure that you are getting a safe plant and not a dangerous twin. But for the most part, ingredients in most natural recipes and natural products that are offered for your use have been used for generations without trouble. If you have a question about any single ingredient and need more information or assurances, email me and ask. I will get you an answer.

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1 Response so far

  1. 1

    jessiedog said,

    Interesting article. 🙂

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