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Clean Wisely View Comments

Christopher Heffron


I’m a clean freak. There, I said it.

I buy hand sanitizer in bulk, I’m usually within arm’s reach of disinfecting wipes, and I have a deep fondness for color-safe bleach. I spend the excruciating flu season, or as I call it, “the dark days,” wishing I were in a Hazmat suit. Friends and family have gibed me about this for years, though my ears are deaf to it. This is how I’m built. But am I a smart clean freak? Until recently, no.

Perusing the ingredients of my kitchen, bathroom, and laundry cleaning supplies, I discovered words I didn’t think semantically possible. Let these roll off your tongue: diethylene glycol; benzyl ammonium chloride; nonylphenol ethoxylate. Never heard of them? You should. We all should. They’re ingredients found in most cleaners that we employ regularly. And they could be making us sick.

Ammonia, found in most window cleaners, has been linked to kidney and liver damage. The ingredients found in toilet bowl cleaner can be harmful or fatal if swallowed and can damage skin and eyes. In fact, in 2006 the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that over 120,000 children under 5 were involved in incidents involving everyday household cleaners.

But there are alternatives for the health-conscious consumer.

When You Clean, Go Green

The Almighty Lemon

Mix lemon juice, vinegar, and water for kitchen sinks and countertops.

Mix lemon juice and baking soda to make a cleaning paste. This is good for cleaning bathtubs and bathroom sinks.

Cut a lemon in half. Sprinkle baking soda on the cut portion to clean plates.

—Tips by Sarah Aguirre

Do your homework

Go to epa.gov to learn about the components of cleaning products and the risks associated with them.

Go retro

Remember when our grandmothers swore by the cleaning authority of vinegar? They were right—and ahead of their time. Vinegar, a natural byproduct of fruits, vegetables, and grains, is nontoxic, noncorrosive, and biodegradable. It’s also effective.

Make your own cleaner

There are dozens of Web sites—such as organizedhome.com—that provide recipes for homemade cleaners.

Shop smart

Don’t want to fuss with making your own? Look into companies such as Seventh Generation that offer biodegradable, phosphate- and chlorine-free ingredients in their products.


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Giles Mary of St. Joseph: In the same year that a power-hungry Napoleon Bonaparte led his army into Russia, Giles Mary of St. Joseph ended a life of humble service to his Franciscan community and to the citizens of Naples. 
<p>Francesco was born in Taranto to very poor parents. His father’s death left the 18-year-old Francesco to care for the family. Having secured their future, he entered the Friars Minor at Galatone in 1754. For 53 years he served at St. Paschal’s Hospice in Naples in various roles, such as cook, porter or most often as official beggar for that community. </p><p>“Love God, love God” was his characteristic phrase as he gathered food for the friars and shared some of his bounty with the poor—all the while consoling the troubled and urging everyone to repent. The charity which he reflected on the streets of Naples was born in prayer and nurtured in the common life of the friars. The people whom Giles met on his begging rounds nicknamed him the “Consoler of Naples.” He was canonized in 1996.</p> American Catholic Blog Jesus, our crucified Lord, you know us better than we know ourselves. Help us to see the ways in which we not only act out in selfishness, greed, or shortsightedness, but also in those ways we choose to ignore, forget, and step over aspects of our lives and others for which we need 
forgiveness.

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