Dust is the only thing getting sleep these days in my house. I noted tonight a cobweb tendril trailing from ceiling to a framed cross stitch hanging in the nursery: “Quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep. I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.” I’ve memorized this saying since it hung in my bedroom as a child, and it’s taken on new meaning the past sixteen months as I’ve rocked my own baby and ignored the cobwebs threatening to wrap up my house. Tonight is our first night of sleep training, courtesy of the book Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West. Tomorrow, my assault on the slumbering dust begins.
In the past few months, despite my general sleep deprivation that moves “cleaning” so far down on my to-do list it’s competing with items like “dust the plant leaves” and “re-upholster the deck furniture”, I’ve changed my preference for cleaning products. Watching little knees wipe my floors and little fingers smear my mirrors made me think twice about what residue might be transferred from these “clean” surfaces. Reading the labels from my cleaning products gave me scary (and unpronouncable) answers. When I went over to a friend’s house for a play date and remarked on the pepperminty-fresh smell of her house, she urged me to try a new cleaning tactic: homemade cleaning supplies.
It’s fair to say before I go on that I do have granola-eating, bring-your-own-bag shopping tendencies, but I stop short of homemade hemp clothing. I don’t have dread locks or bumper stickers on my car pleading animal rights. I like to think I’m fairly normal, but I do adhere to cloth diapers and homemade baby food. Making my own cleaning products seemed like a fairly natural step for me. I do acknowledge that there is a time trade-off, however. I may have homemade cleaning supplies, but don’t look at the blanket of dust nestled behind my radiators.
What I love most about my cleaning product recipes is that they require, at most, five ingredients, all of which I recognize and can pronounce. And because each uses a smidge of essential oils, my floors, countertop and bathtub end up smelling spa-like. Rather than dread the after-dinner clean up, I now look forward to smelling satisfaction in the air as I wipe up with a bit of tea tree oil cleaner. Now, on my to-do list, “cleaning” is leaving “re-upholster the deck furniture” in the dust.
Two of my new go-to recipes for household cleaning can be found in the book Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan. Hoping that I’m not violating any copyright laws that will land me in jail (note to self: jail time might mean undisturbed sleep. Look into this option if all else fails), allow me to share the recipes here:
Peppermint Floor Solution
20 drops peppermint essential oils
8 oz. purified water
8 oz. vinegar
Squirt on floor & mop
Tea Tree All-Purpose Disinfectant
Fill 16oz bottle with purified water
3T Dr. Bronner’s Eucalyptus soap
¼ tsp tea tree oil
Shake to mix
I had a slight struggle up the learning curve for some of these natural ingredients. For example, Dr. Bronner’s was new to me, although when my mom saw my bottles of soap lined up under my kitchen sink, she raved about her latent love for the great Doctor. Another friend declared Dr. Bronner’s a panacea for bathing, shampooing, and teeth-brushing while he hiked the Grand Teton Crest Trail. I have not squirted the soap on my toothbrush and don’t intend to any time soon, but I have found Dr. Bronner’s quite helpful in many of the natural products recipes. Likewise, I puzzled over where to find essential oils until I visited the natural foods section of Wegman’s grocery store. Finding the ingredients, however, has been the hardest part of the homemade product switch, which means the switch is pretty darn easy.
This past week, I mopped my floor twice. That equals the total number of times I’ve mopped in the previous month. I shouldn’t admit this publicly because I know many of my readers give their floors more regular TLC; some of my zealous friends mop as frequently as twice a day. While I am risking cancelled dinner plans and play dates because of my dirty-house admission, I share my victory because my concern for my family’s health and living environment has spurred me to action. For me, that action means making my own cleaning products. What little energy I have during the day should go someplace where it counts, someplace where I can live healthily and can concentrate less on dust and cobwebs and more on rocking babies.
It’s late as I write. Night one of sleep training is off to a successful start. After some minor complaining, my daughter has fallen asleep sucking her thumb, her legs crossed and propped on her crib rail, her free arm flung to the side. Rain drops prattle through the window behind me. I have tried and rejected Carole King as a soundtrack to my writing, opting for soothing silence instead. I should go to bed now, hoarding sleep while I can. But first, there’s a section of kitchen counter that hasn’t been scrubbed since this morning. I have a date with my Tea-Tree All Purpose Disinfectant before I hit my pillow.
To be inspired to make the switch to greener and healthier living, mark your calendars for the Spring 2011 Women’s Health and the Environment conference in Pittsburgh. For more immediate ideas, check out two books: Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan and Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Dr. Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. If you need easier solutions than do-it-yourself recipes, Cookie Magazine reviews 10 green cleaning products you can buy at your local Target. If you, like me, have sleepless nights as an excuse to avoid any cleaning whatsoever, try Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West.