When we think of clean, our noses often perk up. Perhaps it's a whiff of bleach or ammonia or detergent that lingers somewhere in an area of our memory (a most spotless one, of course) where, most likely, we connect chemicals with clean. That's understandable in our culture since chemicals are the norm, especially when it comes to artificially scented home cleaning products. But it doesn't have to be. We can achieve effective cleaning and fresh scents with non-toxic substances including essential oils. But, first things first: Let's get rid of those chemicals. Long before Mr. Clean reared his sparkly bald head, homes were not overrun with filth. They were cleaned just as often and just as effectively with ingredients you are surely quite familiar with: vinegar, salt, baking soda, oil, lemon and good old-fashioned soap. Not only are these natural products effective at cleaning everything from grimy stovetops and ovens to wood, porcelain, glass and tile, but also, they're free of the health risks associated with chemical cleaning products. We often assume that just because products are sold to us at virtually every supermarket in the country there's little or no risk, but it's simply not true. Scores of scientific studies have linked exposure to toxic household cleaning products and the chemical fragrances to risks including reproductive and behavioral issues, development of certain types of cancer, neurological and developmental issues, and the onset of diabetes and obesity. Products like bleach have also been pinpointed as a majorly disruptive substance to delicate ecosystems and the evironment. And when we recognize that the job could be done just as well with nontoxic products, it's an easy decision to ditch the chemicals that are bad for our health and the environment. Vinegar has astounding antimicrobial properties on the same level as bleach. It can kill on contact more than 90 percent of germs. Use it virtually everywhere in your home. For jobs needing extra scrubbing power, add salt or baking soda (think stoves, caked on pots and pans, sticky fridge goop). Lemon juice can also bring shine and sparkle, and oil can both remove grime and make wood look like new. Now to get that fresh scent. If vinegar doesn't smell clean to you (it will eventually!), and your nose craves something a bit more fragrant, you can add a few drops of essential oils to your cleaning solution. Essential oils are pressed from pure botanicals such as flowers, barks and leaves. Unlike fragrances, which are often detergent-based, there is nothing toxic or harmful in essential oils. They have antimicrobial properties, boosting the germ-fighting power of your home cleaning and smell so much better. Try lavender, lemon, grapefruit, cedar or clary sage for a lasting fresh scent. Mix one part vinegar to two parts warm water with the juice of one ripe lemon, one teaspoon baking soda and 10 drops of your favorite essential oils. Get cleaning! Image: By Liamfm.
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