Can a mother survive without antibacterial wipes?
A few Sundays back, the newspaper seemed to spill an overwhelming number of cleaning-product coupons onto my living-room floor.
“It’s like They know,” my husband said. “They’re on to you.”
“They” are the companies selling household liquids and powders for a little spring cleaning. And the secret my husband thought they’d discovered? I had decided to purge my pine-fresh scents and 99.9 percent germ killers in favor of a few products our “great-grandparents used,” as advised by green-parenting maverick MaGreen.
Here’s a little secret the cleaning companies don’t want to promote on daytime TV: This older, less-expensive version of cleaning often works better. Things like Swiffer mops don’t make the job easier. They make it more irritating, because they don’t work well and you spend a fortune to do a half-ass job on the kitchen floor.
So I decided to load up on the basics. Vinegar. Baking soda. Washing soda. Borax, which apparently cleans everything. Two bars of laundry soap.
It’s one of those green choices that will actually save my one-income family some money — unlike paying $374 to join a local CSA, a move suggested by several Gristmill readers.
That CSA bill comes out to only $14 a week, a very reasonable amount for organic vegetables, but is a huge chunk for us to pay in one lump sum. We were only able to do it thanks to a well-timed IRS refund check.
The cleaning products, on the other hand, totaled $12.40 and will last for months.
Parents have become so complacent about using paper towels and disinfectant — they never notice that a hand-knit dishrag and soap actually works better. A quarter cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle takes out all the scratchiness of line-dried towels and doesn’t smell. My friend sent a link to a recipe for homemade laundry detergent, which costs about $2 per batch, or less than 6 cents a load. It works great. And when you have kids, you have a lot of laundry.
Worries that greening my house meant it wouldn’t be as clean were unfounded. In the end, I think it might be cleaner, although I haven’t yet tackled huge jobs like shampooing the carpet or cleaning the oven, so I welcome thoughts on that.
Now, on to spring cleaning. A mom’s life is so glamorous.