Baby Steps Around the House

admin March 23, 2010

**This post has been linked to Kitchen Stewardship’s Spring Cleaning Carnival!**

Baby Steps Around the House is going to focus on how we can make our home a cleaner, healthier place: reducing chemical exposure, getting better cleaning products, etc.  So here are the first three steps:

1. Stop using air fresheners (spray or plug-in)

2. Switch to free and clear laundry detergent (or other “green” alternative)

3. Switch main cleaning product to green alternative OR use vinegar and baking soda

Why those?  Okay, here we go!

Air fresheners are bad for you.  Anything containing artificial fragrances is, because those fragrances are basically just petrochemicals (read: derived from petroleum).  They can cause headaches, breathing problems, and have been said to cause cancer in the long term.  They’re also NOT necessary!  You can totally abandon them and replace them with nothing, which will really save a lot of money.  If you want to freshen up your house, though, you can leave your windows open to air it.  Buy houseplants (they’ll absorb the bad chemicals and release oxygen, so bonus!).  Mix some water and essential oils and spray that.  Use essential oils in a diffuser, or candles scented with essential oils.  Essential oils are 100% natural and they can safely be used to scent your home.

Laundry detergents, too, are made with petrochemicals.  How do you think they get all those fancy artificial fragrances and colors and fun washing agents in them?  When you wash your clothes in those, they’re absorbing those chemicals, and when you wear them, your skin is, too.  Don’t you notice that your clothes come out of the wash smelling like the fragrance of the detergent?  Yeah, you’re going to absorb that through your skin.  Buy a free and clear version (slightly better, but still not a great washing agent) or better yet, a totally natural one, like Charlie’s Soap, or soap nuts.  I love my soap nuts and you can’t get more natural than those!  They grow on trees, so there’s no processing whatsoever.  I’ve been using those for almost two years now.  As for fabric softener, a little white vinegar in the washing machine rinse will take care of it.  Or you can hang the clothes outside (that will reduce cling but it WILL make the clothes a bit stiff).  But you really don’t need it.  It has the same problems as the detergents — lots of chemicals in the fragrance and such.  One awesome part is that these laundry chemicals tend to be expensive, and soap nuts and white vinegar are not!

You probably have one spray bottle of something you love and use to clean most things.  Replace this with a green alternative, like Seventh Generation, or just baking soda and vinegar.  The latter is super cheap and works very well on almost anything.  I’ve used baking soda to successfully shine my faucets, clean mold from my shower, wipe down dirty counters, and more.  It is a bit abrasive so it really works well.  Vinegar is awesome in the laundry, down slightly clogged drains, to shine faucets if baking soda alone doesn’t work, etc.  If there’s something it doesn’t quite work for, then a bottle of Seventh Generation all-purpose cleaner would work fine.

Speaking of which….

I never did post my Seventh Generation product review.  They sent me a really awesome set of cleaning products for free, to try out and review.  I just hadn’t received them yet by the previous post’s publish date.  Oh well.  Now I’ve had them for a couple weeks!

**Disclaimer: I contacted the company and they offered to send me the product for free to review.  I received toilet cleaner, glass and surface cleaner, shower cleaner, tub and tile cleaner, kitchen cleaner, all purpose cleaner, a roll of 100% recycled paper towels, and a reusable tote.  I was not, however, compensated for writing this review.**

I tried the toilet cleaner and found that it works nicely.  I don’t have any super-soiled toilets in my house, but the toilet’s clean after I used it, and it doesn’t smell strongly and I don’t worry that my daughter is nearby when I’m using it. 

I also tried the glass cleaner and it worked really well, the glass was clean and streak-free.  I even let my two-year-old wipe the glass for me since it’s non-toxic.  She enjoyed having the job, although stopped halfway through. 🙂  I tried it on my storm door and some bathroom windows and found it worked equally well on both.  Which is awesome, because frankly, most of the usual glass products I’ve tried DO leave streaks and I don’t like them.

The kitchen cleaner worked well too.  I honestly hadn’t realized my sink was so dirty.  It looked a little tarnished, not so shiny, but seemed…okay.  No obvious dirt.  But once I started cleaning with this, I realized it was actually pretty dirty, LOL.  There was a lot of grease and dirt around the edges, and this cleaner took it all away.  That was great!  My sink actually looked shiny after!  It also worked well on my kitchen counters.

The only thing I didn’t like about these products is that the ones that were supposed to be scented with essential oils smelled like they had been scented with chemicals.  They’re not, but I wish they didn’t have a chemical-y smell to them.  I had a couple “free and clear” ones and those were fine.  I guess I’m a little hesitant because these were “non toxic chemical” type products and I worry about that a little, how do we REALLY know it’s non-toxic?  But if the basic vinegar/baking soda isn’t doing the job, I’d definitely use these.

Also, this isn’t really positive or negative…but I think their cleaning products have a LOT of overlap.  Do I need a kitchen cleaner AND an all-purpose cleaner?  A tub cleaner AND a shower cleaner?  I’m not sure why those products needed to be different.  I would have preferred to see a starter kit containing: all purpose cleaner, tub/shower cleaner, toilet cleaner, dishwasher detergent, dish soap (for the sink), and maybe laundry detergent.  I think that’s a more basic package.  But…you know.  You take what you can get.  🙂  I can’t recommend you buy ALL of those different products though….  I think I might have even used the tub cleaner on a mirror and it worked just fine, so really, you only need a couple.

Have you tried Seventh Generation products?  What did you think?  What are your baby steps around the house?

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  1. Hey Kate-

    This is totally off topic for the post today, but I came across this article ( while reading this morning & I know it’s a hot topic with you. The Rotarix rotavirus vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline was found to contain foreign DNA from a pig virus that is not supposed to be in it. Now, they said that this DNA is found in many meat products and it is not known to cause disease in humans or animals. But, just to be safe, they’re recommending that people stop using this immediately, and switch to the Merck version of this vaccine. However, they are not recalling it until they do further safety testing.

    I’m still not sure about whether I will vaccinate my children or not when the time comes, but I always keep my eyes open for any news about them. I found this article to be a bit unnerving. If they’re just finding out now that this foreign DNA has been in the vaccine since they started producing it – what else is in it (and/or other vaccines) that they don’t know about. Scary. Just wanted to share.



  2. Kate – just wanted to add to what you were talking about. Vinegar is awesome at cleaning, and my latest use for it is keeping the inside of my dishwasher clean. After we put the dishwashing detergent in the little container thing and close it up, we splash some vinegar in the dishwasher itself. This keeps our dishwasher from having stains (like in the door where it gets closed and thus not exposed to the cleaning), dishes and glasses no longer have spots, and it keeps anything from smelling bad afterwards. It doesn’t seem to help much at getting crusted-on stuff off of your plates and such, but it keeps the inside of the dishwasher looking much cleaner.


  3. Great post! Can you tell what kind of vinegar you use? I am a bit nervous about just plain white vinegar when I found out it is made from petroleum. Do you know anything about this?

    Thanks for the helpful hints. I use Seventh Generation Laundry soap and Dish soap. I have bought baking soda and plan on making my laundry soap soon. My dishes come out clean with the dish soap but over time my plumbing has become clogged. Long term, the dishsoap really does not cut grease enough to keep drains clean. Have any ideas about a good dish soap?


  4. My MIL has one of those plug in air fresheners and every time I walk in, I think "funeral parlor" – ugh! Thanks for sharing!


  5. Kate,
    Excellent round-up, and I think your baby steps are just perfect! I can’t stand air fresheners, either. My collaborating teacher used to have one in our tiny little resource room, and I always thought it would make the kids (already having trouble learning) sick and not able to concentrate. Ah, well. We do what we can!
    : ) Katie


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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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