WRITER | RACHEL WHITE
It turns out that Grandma really does know best! We’re discovering that the things our grandmothers used to scrub their floors and bathrooms — vinegar, baking soda, borax — are cheaper and work just as well, if not better than, modern expensive, harsh chemicals. Natural cleaning products are coming around again, and you’ll find most of them sitting in your pantry.
“I just knew I didn’t like how I felt when I inhaled those bathroom cleaning products,” says Lindsey Jaime, who uses only natural cleaning products in her home these days. “I started exploring different things to try. Especially when I had kids, I didn’t want them to be crawling around on the harsh chemicals that they put in floor cleaners, and kids put everything in their mouths.” She started with simple wood floor cleaner: equal parts water and white vinegar, with a couple of drops of essential oil to make it smell good. It’s also better for the environment. It biodegrades without putting pollutants into our Great Lakes.
But does it kill germs? Yes, about 80 percent of them. It’s a good idea to remember that it takes some time. Vinegar needs to sit for about a half hour to kill a maximum amount of germs. Also, there are still some bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella that need bleach to wipe them out. So if you’re handling raw chicken, for example, it’s still a good idea to clean up with a stronger solution of one tablespoon bleach to a gallon of water.
For an all-purpose cleaner and deodorizer, Good Housekeeping magazine recommends four tablespoons of baking soda mixed with one quart of warm water. This one works great for stainless steel sinks and appliances as well as countertops. Just dip in a clean sponge and wipe everything down for sparkling surfaces.
For bathrooms, borax is king. Smother soap scum with one part salt, one part borax, and two parts baking soda. To disinfect toilets, DIY Natural suggests their heavy-duty formula: Mix three-quarters cup borax with one cup of white vinegar. Swish around with a toilet brush and leave for several hours or even overnight. Scrub the bowl, flush, and voilà – a fresh bowl with no toxic fumes or dangerous or corrosive products.
The easiest way to clean, and one way our elders didn’t have at their disposal, may just be with water: water and antimicrobial microfiber cloths, that is. Scientific evidence shows that microfiber or wood fiber cloths are better at lifting bacteria and viruses from surfaces than cotton; much better, in fact. Adding silver to the cloths may kill even more germs. You can get these types of cloths on Amazon to use for everything from glass to doorknobs.
Not only can natural products keep your home clean, they may also prevent health problems as well. Studies at Johns Hopkins and the University of Michigan show that an over-sanitized home can cause health problems. The Hygiene Hypothesis found that when children aren’t exposed to bacteria and allergens in their first year of life, and when they are overexposed to antibacterial soaps and cleaning products, their bodies don’t have an opportunity to develop an appropriate immune response. Then, as they age, they are more likely to develop asthma and allergies to things like food and pollen.
So the consensus? Grandma was right. Use natural products for a sparkling home. It’s better for you, better for the environment, and better for your pocketbook.