C18: Cleaning the House


There was a point when I thought that I could use all this week writing about cleaning. Yet the challenges and choices of MLK and Roe v Wade just had to be addressed first. But, now it is time. Cleaning is such a metaphor for confronting our poisoned, polluted air, land and water. Cleaning is the language used in the campaigns against political corruption. Cleaning is intimately connected to the politics of feminism. The other glaring reality is the cleaning consumerism based on billions and billions dollars spent by corporations to convince us we are dirty, filthy slobs. We must be swarming in germs, cooties and disease if we were to listen to the ads shouting at us.

Cleaning house is as basic as eating, drinking and sleeping. For myself, I am slowly but surely ridding myself of caustic chemical cleaners and replacing things with healthier versions.

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle names products and chemicals in some detail by citing a report released by Women's Voices for the Earth, a Montana-based nonprofit working to eliminate or reduce toxic chemicals in the home. For instance, a type of glycol ether is frequently found in popular cleaning products such as Windex Aerosol, Formula 409, Lemon Fresh Pine-Sol and Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner.
Ethylene glycol butyl ether or EGBE, is on California's list of toxic air contaminants. Some animal studies indicate that it produces reproductive problems, such as testicular damage, reduced fertility, death of embryos and birth defects. People exposed to high levels of EGBE for several hours have reported nose and eye irritation, headaches, vomiting and a metallic taste in their mouths, studies show.
Not only am I sick and tired of all the poisons foisted on us all, I am amazed at the manufactured products in this realm alone. The Swiffer™ is one of the silliest products to clean house in recent years. Millions of dollars spent and millions of chemically filled throwaway paper wipes tossed with this unnecessary product. I just think it is a hoot to use something free or really cheap to do the same thing.

Vinegar, salt, lemon, newspapers and baking soda are the few things in my arsenal for most household cleaning tasks. It is always cheaper and more sustainable to make your own. I only now realized I haven't blogged yet about paper products. I don't use paper towels, so my cleaning rags and newsprint (for glass) are my reuse or recycle methods. The paper can go to the worms. Below are some tips and recipes I found while researching homemade alternatives.

-all purpose spray cleaner
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
combine in a spray bottle and use for surfaces.

-abrasive cleaner
(I am currently using Bon-Ami, does not contain bleach)
sprinkle baking soda onto a damp sponge for bathtubs, sinks and refrigerators. for tougher grime, make a paste of baking soda and water, apply to sink, and allow to stand for 10 to 20 minutes.

-toilet bowel cleaner
use undiluted vinegar

or pour bucket of water to empty bowl of water
sprinkle baking soda, then use toilet brush

-glass cleaner
(I use the all purpose formula above, but these sound interesting)
club soda is an effective glass cleaner. or try this recipe:
1 cup rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
1 cup water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and use as you would a commercial brand.

-bleaching
lemon juice acts as a natural bleaching agent. put lemon juice onto white linens and clothing and allow them to dry in the sun. stains will be bleached away.

My toughest elimination was pine scented cleaner. It was psychological. Bleach is the last to go. I think my ultimate happiness will depend on avoiding white. A note to those who are not factoring money into the equation and want to buy products. There are thousands of products now claiming safe, organic ingredients. The packaging, the factory location, the labor issues, the natural resources and a host of other issues enter the decision making matrix for ├╝ber consciousness. Frugality rules for me. If it didn’t I’d feel I should take on the other issues or feel conflicted that I didn’t. (Like with my shampoo, stay tuned . . .)

In the sixties, my mother was a Heloise Hints fan. Mom and I have shared tips back and forth over the years. The thing is, my mother always kept a really clean home. I haven’t always. I spent decades not paying much attention. This might sound like the confession of a slacker. It is not. On the contrary, it is insight from a parent learning tolerance. I come from a long line of perfectionists. Yet, I found myself sharing of few hundred square feet with my teenage daughter and something had to give. This was 1985 on the upper West Side of Manhattan. I found that I had three choices:
  1. to be perpetually cranky and judgmental with my daughter’s messes
  2. to be slavishly resentful while doing all of the household cleaning to my standard
  3. to discuss between us our comfort levels with mess, to clean myself what bugged me, and learn to let go
When my son and I shared space several years later, I went through a similar learning curve. For sanity and serenity I still needed to relax my notions, but in different ways. Just as I’d done with his sister, I often got too demanding or martyr-like. But, eventually I calmed down and often followed his lead. Then a funny thing happened when I later lived alone. I found that my own place disgusted me. I started paying attention to what I’d taught myself to ignore. I only bring this up to – ahem, clean the air. We are more malleable them we sometimes imagine. I believe it is largely a perception thing.

Oh.your.god., I just thought of something I have been meaning to write about FOREVER. I find it amazing that there are so many clues within the blogosphere of people (mostly white women I think) who have read Flylady.net. Am I wrong? I found Flylady when I realized I’d let things slip in my house and I also wanted to purge. I was laid off at an architectural firm and decided I wanted to start my own company. Big plans and a mountain of organizational work ahead. I was simply captivated at this wonderful 15 minutes at a time approach to cleaning. If you have never checked out the Flylady website, do. It is a trip. I learned a great deal about getting past inertia. That part is all good.

Okay, the part that put me on edge is the same thing I see all over the blogs I read. That is ‘DH’ for dear husband. (or DS, dear son and DD, dear daughter) It just strikes me as cloying or excessively sweet. I suspect this is because the abbreviation was frequently used in the Flylady comment thread narratives that rationalized man o’ house or kids doing jack shit. Sounds hateful, but it is more a question of tone. It is wonderful to love the people you live with without this kind of dog whistle.

Cleaning is as basic as eating, drinking and sleeping. Isn’t it? Are there humans who are removed from this theme? I guess royalty, the extremely rich only have to pay attention to cleaning body parts and all else is handled. So, I will restate that for most of us cleaning house is a basic requirement. Well as I just said above, there may be way more men and children excluded from this requirement than this feminist would like to acknowledge. And this feminist has worked as a cleaning supervisor for the ‘Maids’ type corporation and an independent contractor cleaning lady in three different states. All of this may come out in another post I suspect.