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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.


Thank you for your comments. Editors will review all posts before they are visible on the website.

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Fidelis of Sigmaringen: If a poor man needed some clothing, Fidelis would often give the man the clothes right off his back. Complete generosity to others characterized this saint's life. 
<p>Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed "the poor man's lawyer," Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a member of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor. </p><p>As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. During a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers. </p><p>He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions. </p><p>He was accused of opposing the peasants' national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God's hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed. </p><p>He was canonized in 1746. Fifteen years later, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was established in 1622, recognized him as its first martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog Obedience means total surrender and wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. All the difficulties that come in our work are the result of disobedience.

 
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