Making My Home Greener and Cleaner, Part 1

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A lot of things have changed for my family since January. When my daughter was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), it felt like someone pulled the rug out from under us — like things would never be “normal” again. In part, we were right. The doctors and nurses charged with my daughter’s care warned us that we should expect to find a “new normal,” and that we eventually would find our footing, even if it took a while.

They were right.

One of the things that we’ve had to reevaluate is how clean we keep our house. This is not to say that our house was nasty before, but that we have become even more vigilant about keeping our home clean. If you’ve been reading Green Your Decor for a while, you know that the idea of cleaning green is nothing new. I’ve been touting the benefits of safer cleaning products directly made or derived from natural ingredients for years. But having a sick child put new pressure on me not just to clean the house, but to disinfect it as much as possible.

ALL is technically a blood disorder, but the disease combined with chemotherapy weakened my daughter’s immune system, particularly during the first few months of intensive treatment. We were warned to make sure that the house was clean and to tell anyone who might be sick to stay away. I won’t lie — this pushed me into full on paranoia, wanting to make sure that the house was spotless when we brought her home from her first (and thankfully only) extended hospital stay. We bought new organic sheets, afraid to let her sleep on the ones that were already on her bed, and cleaned to house from top to bottom (doorknobs, light switches and all) with the natural cleaning products that were already in our cabinet, including Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, Dr. Bronner’s and peroxide. (aff)

Before then, I was content with the house simply being clean, and I had never worried before that cleaning without bleach meant I might be wiping bacteria away, but not killing it. That first day home, though, I seriously contemplated buying my first bottle of bleach in years to make absolutely certain nothing would make my daughter sicker than she already was. In retrospect, that sounds absolutely crazy. I was more worried about killing germs than I was about the toxic chemicals I KNOW are in bleach.

In the months since then, my husband and I have learned that our daughter isn’t as fragile as we thought. We thank God every day that she has never caught and infection or come down with a fever. We still put a high priority on keeping the house, particularly the kitchen, dining room and her room and bathroom, clean. But I’ve had to find other ways to disinfect the house that go beyond bleach.

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One of my favorite tools is the ActiveIon sprayer. As hard as it is to believe, this tool allows me to not just clean, but to sanitize, surfaces with nothing but water. I admit — I had it in my possession for months before I really started using it because I believed there was no way water alone would really clean anything, much less sanitize it. But now that I know its power, it is my first choice when I’m cleaning my kitchen. It even removes food splatter from painted walls and get the microwave clean and fresh with just a few sprays. I tend to keep it in the kitchen, though. I prefer something with some suds when I’m cleaning the bathroom.

So a few weeks ago when Seventh Generation sent a few of the Walmart Moms their products to test, I was ecstatic to find that those products included a Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner that is designed to kill 99.99% of germs botanically. The active ingredient in this product is thymol, which is a compenent of thyme oil. Imagine that.

I’ve been using Seventh Generation products for a long while, and have even written for their blog in the past. However, I tended to stick to the laundry detergent, dish liquid and dishwashing detergent, preferring other products for deep cleaning. This disinfecting cleaner has really made me change my mind about that. The knowledge that I can not just clean Ja’Naya’s room and bathroom, but disinfect them, all without resorting to bleach really makes me feel at ease. I’ve even let her help me clean with this product, which I think says a whole lot. I refuse to use any products that I can’t use around her, and this is not a problem with Seventh Generation or any of the other green cleaning products I prefer.

It has literally been years since I have allowed a traditional cleaning product in my home, and the proliferation of companies like Seventh Gen means that I’ll never have to. I can remember when the only way to find these products was shopping online or finding the one or two small stores in your area that carried them. Now they will be on Walmart shelves, where those of us who are committed to going green can find them, but also where people who know little or nothing about greener products can pick them up. This is a huge deal. It’s great when people who are knowledgeable about green issues buy green products, but I think it’s an even more powerful statement when those who know nothing can make a change. Having Seventh Generation products that REALLY work on the shelves right next to more traditional cleaning products will hopefully make consumers think twice about what they use to “clean” their homes.

Truly, I’m excited about that.

ABOUT THIS SERIES

Seventh Generation and Walmart challenged me to take a month and share the things I’m doing to make my home greener. That’s a little tough, since making my home green is all I ever aim to do. Still, we can always do more, right? In this series, I’ll share with you some of the new, and old, things I’m doing to make sustainability a priority in my home. Next week, I’ll share a video with some of my favorite tips. You can see what other Walmart Moms are doing, too. Sheena from Sophistishe, Monica from MommyBrain Reports, Jenn from Frugal Upstate and Denise of Wholesome Mommy are also participating. Be sure to come back next week for more!

Disclosure: I am a participant in the Walmart Moms program. Seventh Generation has provided me with products. Walmart has provided me with compensation to blog about attempting a more sustainable household for a month. Participation in this program is voluntary. All opinions are my own. (sponsored post)

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2 comments… add one

  • Monica~MommyBrain August 26, 2010, 10:59 am

    Girl, I was ready to cry with this post. I can only imagine the struggles you have with needing to keep the house germ free… and do it safely for Ja’Naya. I’m so glad you didn’t have to go back to bleach.. I love your post, and I look forward to reading the rest of your series!

  • Laila @OnlyLaila August 30, 2010, 11:55 am

    Thank you for sharing your story about your daughter. I’ve recently begun to think about what products/chemicals I am bringing into my home and exposing my family to. This has definitely made me re-think the products I purchase.

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