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Cleaning stinks ... or does it?

If you clean with a hazardous chemical, can you call it "cleaning?" (Photo: New Mexico State University)

I can't say that I'm the biggest fan of cleaning ... you know, the break-out-the-bottles-of-stinky-chemicals kind of cleaning where my hands smell nasty even after washing and the air is filled with chemical scents. For me, "pine fresh" doesn't say "clean," it chokes out "I can't breathe!" and a headache to boot. Not to mention how much of the residue remains on my hands when cooking and eating.

I've found a trick eliminating most of those obstacles for me and even adding joy. And who couldn't use some joy attached to their cleaning journey? ("Journey" sounds way more fun than a chore. Run with me here!)

I've occasionally made my own cleaners. I like the idea of knowing what I'm putting on my surfaces that may, or may not, touch food. I found the scents to be much more attractive and typically dissipate more quickly. While hosting a do-it-yourself event where we made basic household cleaners and personal products, I discovered a key piece that I hadn't included with my cleaner before: adding a scent via essential oils. My big win was discovering the combination of peppermint and lemon. Lemon cleaner is nice, peppermint cleaner is nice, but for me, putting them together created hygienic happiness.

I found myself cleaning more often, enjoying happy smells. I'm sure some of you are saying, um, there are these neat things called "diffusers," you can have the scent all the time. Yes, however, diffusers don't clean the bathroom, baby! Sometimes ya gotta stay focused on the end goal.

With store-bought household cleaners, there are ingredients I don't understand and labels warning about the harsh contents. In reading the directions, I find we don't typically use cleaners the way they require to be effective. Example: Many disinfecting wipes require enough of the product to be used to keep the surface wet for 4-10 minutes, then rinse with clean water to remove the residue. Who does that? We may not be using them in a way to accomplish our goal, but we're still getting a solid dose of the chemicals through skin, inhalation, etc.

How do you make your own cleaner? Equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Add in a few drops of your scent of choice. Start small. A drop doesn't look like much but it goes a long way. You can add more oil or more of the solution till you find your preferred scent balance. (There are other non-vinegar recipes, too.)

I consume vinegar. Store-bought cleaners warn of the dangers of consumption, but I feel no concern when I lay my broccoli bunch down on the counter I've recently cleaned with my solution. That being said, not everyone can handle the scent of vinegar, and it is good to be aware that essential oils are powerful and may not agree with everyone either.

Mint or lemon may not resonate with you. I suggest finding your own personal concoction of olfactory utopia by trial and error. If you haven't used essential oils before I'd ask around and DEFINITELY go sniffing around, literally. Different brands have different scent characteristics and you want to find ones you love. Quality is important, too. You are inhaling these, after all.

A little research will help you find recipes a-plenty and creative ingredients. Also, there are oils that have antibacterial and antifungal properties such as oregano, thyme or cinnamon. Some use citrus peels, cinnamon and vinegar. There are endless options.

Enjoy experimenting and maybe housework can "stink" just a little less.

Judy Breuer

Judy Breuer is a health coach/consultant who advocates for those with food sensitivity and allergies and teaches classes. Connect with her on Facebook or WellnessRen.com.

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