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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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Hilary of Arles: It’s been said that youth is wasted on the young. In some ways, that was true for today’s saint. 
<p>Born in France in the early fifth century, Hilary came from an aristocratic family. In the course of his education he encountered his relative, Honoratus, who encouraged the young man to join him in the monastic life. Hilary did so. He continued to follow in the footsteps of Honoratus as bishop. Hilary was only 29 when he was chosen bishop of Arles. </p><p>The new, youthful bishop undertook the role with confidence. He did manual labor to earn money for the poor. He sold sacred vessels to ransom captives. He became a magnificent orator. He traveled everywhere on foot, always wearing simple clothing. </p><p>That was the bright side. Hilary encountered difficulty in his relationships with other bishops over whom he had some jurisdiction. He unilaterally deposed one bishop. He selected another bishop to replace one who was very ill–but, to complicate matters, did not die! Pope St. Leo the Great kept Hilary a bishop but stripped him of some of his powers. </p><p>Hilary died at 49. He was a man of talent and piety who, in due time, had learned how to be a bishop.</p> American Catholic Blog True freedom lies in the ability to align one’s actions freely with the truth, so as to achieve authentic human happiness both now and in the life to come. Jesus promised, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31–32).

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