By Cyhndi Mora
As a newly pregnant mom I was on fire about everything natural. I had been vegetarian for over a year and loving it even though it wasn’t as easy to find viable options back then. It was the early 90’s and the vegetarian and “Green” products that are available easily in the grocery store today either hadn’t yet been invented or were really expensive and/or hard to find.
I was also allergic to a ridiculous number of things including dust and animal dander so it wasn’t a huge shock when, having watched me get completely winded from cleaning the living room in my second trimester, a friend suggested that I might be allergic to the cleaning products I was using. I stopped in my tracks, considering the implications. What was in this stuff, anyway? I was already avoiding bleach as much as possible and some laundry soaps due to the rashes I would get when I used them. So yes, I probably was allergic to the 409, Windex and other store-bought cleaners I was using, but what to do? I was already in full throttle nesting mode, our apartment was small and constantly full of people. Luckily another friend had come across a book called Clean & Green.
To my surprise and delight I found the recipes for homemade cleaners in the book super simple and easy to use. Needless to say, I shoved all the store-bought stuff to the back of the cupboard under the sink and started using these homemade cleaners right away.
Liberated by the absence of chemicals I could get back to nesting in earnest and feel prepared for the baby’s arrival knowing I could take on pretty much any mess with the simple ingredients in my cupboard. They smelled different but I was the only one who noticed, or in their wisdom no one else commented. After a couple minutes of using them, I even stopped noticing the vinegar smell. Win/win!
Flash forward a couple years and I’m ready for the job market, looking for a helpful and ethical way to use my talents. I decide to offer my services as a housekeeper, advertising that I use only non toxic cleaners. Sadly, most folks didn’t really appreciate the idea that much. A frequent observation from my new clients was that while things looked clean when I left, it didn’t smell clean to them. Unfortunately they had been conditioned to the antiseptic smell of pine and formaldehyde and couldn’t accept anything else as being “really clean.” Again, what to do? I tried to accommodate them for a while and used the products they chose but eventually had to quit because I started wheezing and coughing again and was too tired at the end of the day to keep up with my very active toddler. Plus I wasn’t bringing in enough income to make ends meet, much less pay medical bills. Back to the drawing board I went, and back to the office. I kept using the homemade cleaners at home with a few store-bought augmentations.
Flash forward several years later: I had slowly reincorporated more of the commercial products and realized that I needed to get rid of them completely because cleaning for an hour felt like I’d run a marathon. My back was in terrible pain. Not to mention my doctors were telling me that I may have asthma, but probably lung cancer…
I turned my apartment upside down looking for my trusty green cleaning book but couldn’t find it. I did remember the author’s name, however, and looked for her on the internet. As luck would have it she was now authoring a Green Cleaning blog on Care2 and one of the first posts I noticed on her blog was a familiar cleaning recipe with one important addition: Lavender Essential Oil. Needless to say, this was a huge ‘aha’ moment for me. My sister Kathy, owner of DynamicTouchMassage.com, had gifted me some oils to help with my respiratory issues…the Oregano and Thyme I had been using on my feet never struck me as scents that would appeal to my former clients, but Lavender…hmmm. So I did some research, starting with Lavender Essential Oil.
As it turns out, Lavender essential oil not only smells great and is very relaxing, but it’s also (among many other things): antibacterial, antimicrobial, deodorant and decongestant. Talk about “wins” all over the place!
Eucalyptus was another that I had on hand. It had the benefits I listed above for Lavender, plus it is also antiviral and antibacterial!
I already knew that lemon juice had some germ-killing properties as well as being a preferred scent for cleaning. Turns out that Lemon Essential Oil is also antibacterial, antiviral, an immunostimulant, and antidepressant, as are most of the other citrus oils.
Peppermint was another one that I came across in my research. It is also antibacterial, antiviral, decongestant and an immunostimulant.
I was so excited by what I found that I started adding oils to my cleaners immediately and loved the results. I put the oils in all of my products, combining the four above in to my all-purpose cleaner and noticed results right from the get-go. Not only was I not tired after cleaning, but I was energized and breathing easier. I went back to the doctor weeks later and was told that my asthma was now in check. When I asked about the possibility of lung cancer I was told it was a false alarm and to continue with what I was doing. He was surprised to learn that I hadn’t even needed to use the inhaler since I started making my own products again. Whew!
With a more or less clean bill of health, it was time to head back to work. The studio I had been working for was going under so it was time to get creative again. Long story short(er), I ran across a woman who was also a Reiki practitioner working long hours in the entertainment industry. She needed help with looking after her house and her dogs, one of whom was recovering from surgery to remove a tumor from his leg. I explained that I’d love to help, but that I’d have to use my own cleaners…she was very excited and supportive of my process and I started working for her immediately. Her favorite scent blend was Lavender, Lemon and Peppermint, which became my standard mix. She referred me to a coworker who didn’t like lavender so we made a mix of citrus and eucalyptus for him. By the end of the year I had a steady clientele and no complaints about not smelling clean.
I highly recommend using essential oils in any cleaning products you might want to make at home. My aromatherapy instructor, Andrea at Aromahead, calls this reducing the toxic load and is incredibly important for setting the stage for good physical, mental and emotional health.Most essential oils can add both cleaning and health benefits to your mixes as long as you are using good quality oils. Young Living, Aromatics.com and Doterra brands are a slam-dunk, but if you don’t have access to those brands there are a couple things you should look for to ensure that you’re getting the best quality. Remember, you are inhaling them and putting them on your surfaces, so you really need them to be food grade.
Here’s some things to remember: Read those labels! Do they list any other ingredients besides the oil itself? They should not. You want an oil that is steam distilled or press extracted and free of additives. The label needs to have both the English and Latin names visible. Different Lavenders and Chamomiles, as an example, have different properties and if you don’t see the Latin name you can’t be sure of what you are getting. This is also a good way to know if what you’re buying is a true essential oil and not just a ‘flavored’ carrier oil, absolute or other. If the oil is $3 or less for an ounce or more, that’s also a dead giveaway that it’s an absolute, diluted with carrier oil or has been left to sit on the shelf too long. Essential oils, especially citrus oils, can go rancid so you want to avoid the “leftovers.” All this information should be clearly visible on the label if you are buying it in a store or somewhere in the product description if you are purchasing online.
And don’t forget to change it up occasionally. Sensitivities can develop if you use anything on a daily basis and this is very true with essential oils. So keep it fresh by changing up your mix every few months. As an example, I have one blend for each of the seasons.
For more information on Essential Oils and cleaning see my book Nontoxic Cleaning 101, due out at the end of March. To preorder, email Cyhndi at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or ask when the next Nontoxic Cleaning 101 online class is being offered.
I’m always happy to answer questions and would love to hear from you. Do you have any non toxic cleaning tips you’d like to share?
As always, we are honored for the time you spend with us,
Cyhndi and Gina
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