By Jasmine Stephens, Family Editor
Like most parents, particularly cynical and sarcastic stay-at-home ones, I absolutely adore cleaning. I spend hours every day debating whether I prefer the postprandial wiping ceremony (encompassing hands, faces, table, floor, chairs, walls…) or the fragrant delight that is scrubbing the bathroom of a household with three children under the age of seven. Oh, the joys of getting my exercise by chasing the kids around the house with the vacuum cleaner as Cheerios are flung from tiny clenched fists like a fairy godmother sprinkling magic dust. Except this dust settles on every surface within seconds and instead of conjuring up a handsome prince, it invokes a raging monster in the form of a mother incandescent with frustration.
After years of deep and difficult research into the subject, I’ve concluded that what I value most is the combination of the heart-felt recognition for relentlessly undertaking the mundane, repetitive drudgery and the pressure from certain parties to keep my house, clothes and preferably children, completely sterilised with antibacterial products.
However, with one member of the family suffering from asthma and another with an auto-immune condition, both of which have been linked to high exposure to chemicals in household products and the over-cleaning of the home, I’ve decided it’s time to take a stand against the bleach. In fact, there is now an increasing body of research to prove that anti-bacterial and chemical cleaning products can do more harm than good with concerns including antibiotic resistance and an increase in allergies.
What can we do about it? The bad news is that it’s still possible to still clean your home without risking your family’s health, so with my ‘Plan A’ out of the window, I asked Janey Lee Grace of imperfectlynatural.com and author of five books on holistic living, for some tips for a green spring clean and she sent me off with a shopping list including bicarbonate of soda, white distilled vinegar, lemons, tea tree oil and a large tub of elbow grease. I really hope they stock the latter in Morrisons as it’s been in rather short supply at home lately…
‘Lots of people are aware that cleaning your windows with vinegar and newspaper is an excellent way to get them sparkling and smear-free’, said Janey ‘but it’s perhaps less well known that white vinegar can be used for everything from cleaning the loo to descaling the kettle.’
‘Bicarbonate of soda can be used to neutralise odours, freshen carpets before vacuuming, polish chrome or be made into a paste with water to clean most surfaces. When somewhere needs a bit more of a scrub, regular table salt makes a great abrasive and when sprinkled on a cut lemon, it cleans chrome up to a beautiful shine.’
‘If you miss the ‘just-cleaned’ smell of regular products, use a drop of essential oil such as tea-tree, eucalyptus or citronella on a microfibre cloth or in a water spritzer; a drop of vodka will preserve it so you can keep your spray in the cupboard just like you would with chemical cleaners.’
‘Finally, don’t forget nature’s own air-freshener and stain remover; open the windows and let the air circulate through your house and put your white washing out in the sunshine and any stains will be bleached out by the sun.’
I fear that even Janey may not have all the answers to my cleaning conundrum and that the real solution may only come with the passing of the next 16 years or so, but her enthusiasm for natural products and knowledge of how to use them effectively has certainly given me some ideas on how to cut down on the amount of chemicals that I use around the house. The added benefit is that I can now safely try to enlist the children to do their bit too. If anyone has a product that can help with that, please let me know.