{20/01/2013}   Cleaning chemicals

I bought quite a staggering array of chemicals yesterday, from kettle de-scaler to stainless steel cleaner.  I was about to make some kind of chemical warfare joke to the sales assistant as she scanned through my stash but thought it inappropriate and I didn’t want to draw attention to myself.  She probably just thought I was about to do a big clean, which was semi true, but I don’t think I’ve ever bought that many different cleaning products in one go before.

There is something alarmingly satisfying about spraying a chemical cleaner onto, for example, a wash basin and seconds later seeing the previously grubby basin nice and shiny.  Likewise, I de-scaled my kettle and was ridiculously amazed that the kettle was rendered shiny and pristine inside.

This is all very good and a little bit exciting but I have an increasingly deep-seated niggle about negative effects of all these chemicals.  For one, I can’t use any of these products without rubber gloves.  Sometimes, I think a minor cleaning session without rubber gloves will be fine, but afterwards my hands are either exceptionally dry or, as has happened a few times, my hands are red and itchy, which sends me straight to running water in a bit of a panic.

There is also one particular bathroom cleaning product whose fumes make me wheeze.  I suspect that doesn’t happen to everyone but that can’t be at all good and I shudder to think what could be in it to make me wheeze  as soon as the fumes him me.

I have tried a few natural cleaning products with varying degrees of success.  My favourite is bicarb of soda sprinkled on a greasy hob or stainless steel sink, then rubbed in with a vinegared cloth.  It fizzes in a most satisfying way and cleans a treat.  I also use those fancy cloths that claim to clean with water alone.  The glass/mirrror cleaning one works brilliantly but the bathroom one I have cleans without shine.  But is shine necessary?!  In the “old days”, do you remember washing your hands with soap and the soapy residue in the wash basin being slightly dirty-looking?  I always assumed that was from the dirt on my hands but, no, I found out in later life that soaps used to contain something that coloured the suddy water to make it look like the soap was stripping your hands of far more dirt than could have been possible.  I guess it’s the same with the gleam: it’s not necessary but we’ve been programmed to believe that shiny equals clean, just like grey soap water equals effective soap.

I have been wondering about giving up chemicals for a month to see if I can force myself to find viable alternatives.  I imagine kitchen and bathroom surfaces would clean up fine.  I doubt I could clean an oven (not that I do that at all regularly) or get a chemical-induced shine but I suspect it would work.  Oh, but what about washing up liquid, detergent, toilet bleach … actually I have used those laundry balls, Ecover and similar products for all of those things but none have impressed me.  Maybe I will give it a go though but I bet there is something I haven’t thought of that I couldn’t do without the assistance of chemicals!


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