Cleaning the Natural Way

Cleaning can be a chore, and it can also be a pleasure. These days, however, we are exposed to numerous cleaning products made from a variety of ingredients. Some of these ingredients are natural; many are man-made chemicals. Every time we clean, we breathe in these substances, potentially irritating our lungs.

For some people, exposure to these chemicals is not a problem. In Chinese Medicine we would say that their lung energy, or their lung qi, is strong. For others, these substances cause sneezing, coughing, and congested sinuses. In the long run, exposure may trigger allergies or even stimulate cancer cells. Choosing cleaning products that have been used safely for many years may take some pressure off of your system and improve your overall health.

How do you shift from chemical to natural cleaning agents? It all begins with research. The Environmental Working Group website is a wonderful resource for investigating the safety of your cleaning products. Check out their guide at: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners.

After years of working with chemical sensitivities, I have learned a few tricks for minimizing exposure to harsh substances while still being able to enjoy a clean, sanitary home environment. Here are a handful of tips for your household:

Soaps: In general, vegetable-based soaps are not irritating to the lungs, unless they have strong scents added to them and you are sensitive to those scents. Finding a vegetable-based soap that you feel cleans well may take a bit of time and experimentation. Using either fine steel wool (for solid substances) or Mr. Clean Original Magic Eraser will improve the scrubbing power of these soaps.

Abrasives: Bon Ami and baking soda are two mild, easy-to-find, abrasives.

Grime on non-porous surfaces: If you are trying to clean glass, porcelain, or stainless steel, you can safely use a diluted (or full strength) vinegar solution. If you are trying to clean paint, wood, or plastic (which are all porous), you are better off using soap. The vinegar penetrates porous surfaces and leaves a residue you cannot remove. Never use vinegar on surfaces where chlorine bleach has been used, as the interaction can create a toxic gas.

Bleach: 5% hydrogen peroxide bleach is available in powder and liquid form. The advantage to this type of bleach is that it brightens colors along with whitening clothes. Make sure to read the directions on the bottle, and use gloves if you must touch the bleach.

Personal care products: Many soaps, lotions, haircare products, and deodorants are available in natural, non-toxic formulas. Check the Environmental Working Group website for updated information on the safety of the products you use on your skin every day.

Cleaning can be a safe and happy experience. If you have weak lung qi, chemical sensitivities, or develop rashes easily, call me to strengthen your lungs and improve your immune system. Chinese medicine is a great resource for improving your lung qi.

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