When those two blue lines showed up on the strip of the plastic Vietnamese pregnancy test in my bathroom in Cambodia, I had no idea how many changes were ahead of me. And I had no idea how much being pregnant would make me go green.
Ok, just in case you're wondering, I don't mean green with envy, but green like a suburban hippie. I committed even more passionately to my new-found love of whole foods, I shut the windows against the neighbors burning plastic bags (Cambodia doesn't have a trash service, so what's a guy supposed to do?), and I overhauled my cleaning routine completely.
Because when the cleaning label is in a different language, and the spray smells like a laboratory, it can't be good.
One of the funny things about living in a foreign country is my sudden inability to read product labels. Most of our products in Cambodia actually come from Thailand. Occasionally, the label will have broken English typed onto one small corner of the label, but most of the time, it's completely undecipherable.
And honestly, even if I can read some of the English, it's a long string of chemical names that strike fear into the heart of a paranoid first-time pregnant woman.
So I decided to go green - to switch to natural cleaning supplies, throw out the bottle of bright pink floor cleaner, and stick to three simple ingredients: baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils.
Before you ask, no, essential oils are not for sale in Cambodia. We had gone home for a month when I was just beginning my second trimester. My mom saw me eyeing essential oils for sale at a bluegrass festival we went to, and she surprised me by buying a starter kit (thank you, Mother!). I carefully sealed the bottles with tape, double-bagged them, and brought them to Cambodia.
And although you can buy baking soda anywhere in America, they don't make it in Cambodia. I either have to buy it in bulk in Thailand, where it's cheap, or pay out the nose in an import shop in Cambodia's capital. But luckily we go to Thailand a lot, so we stocked up for the rest of the year.
White vinegar is a bit tricky to get, too - they sell small bottles in the shops. But most natural cleaning recipes use a lot, so whenever I saw a gallon-size container for sale in the Poipet shop (which happened once every few months), I snagged a couple.
What I'm trying to say is - if I can switch to natural cleaning supplies, anyone can.
And this probably sounds a bit weird, but now I almost enjoy cleaning.
Tea tree oil and lemon oil are my favorite essential oils. Baking soda makes my hands incredibly soft when I use it to scrub out my sink. And vinegar works on everything - counters, toilets, even in the laundry as a substitute for softener and to get rid of the pesky moldy odors than often arise if I don't do laundry every few days.
I can't say for certain that the chemicals used in commercial cleaners will cause cancer or make you die an early death. But when I was pregnant, it made me feel good to cover my house in cleaners made for pennies by myself that I knew wouldn't have any harmful effect on my health or my unborn child's.
One of the "small things" I'm looking forward to in America is being able to buy vinegar and baking soda in bulk amounts, ten minutes from my house. That seriously sounds amazing and easy and cheap. Because now that I've gone green with my cleaning, I ain't going back.
If you're mulling over the idea of switching to homemade, non-toxic cleaners, here are three places I'd tell you to start.
1. Buy an essential oil starter kit.
There are a lot of people talking about essential oils that know way more than I do. I can't tell you which companies use the most pure oils at the best prices. I can tell you that you need to make sure it's the real stuff, unadulterated, and kept in a cool, dark places.
The oils I use the most frequently for cleaning are tea tree, eucalyptus, and lemon. If you buy just one, get tea tree oil. It has natural anti-everything properties (fungus, bacteria, viruses), smells great, and is super easy to get. My essential oils are from Flinthills Aromatherapy, purchased at their booth at a bluegrass festival we went to last year on home leave (wow, that sounds so hippy...). If all else fails and you can't find any locally, Amazon always has options, especially for bulk sizes.
2. Make citrus-infused vinegar for cleaning recipes.
A lot of people don't like the smell of vinegar, but it's really easy to fix that. You can either add essential oils, or you can also make a citrus-infused vinegar for any cleaning recipes that call for white vinegar (except for those used on clothing or fabric).
Save up your orange, lemon, or lime peels in a glass jar and cover with white vinegar. Leave on a shelf or your kitchen counter near the sun for two weeks, giving it a shake once a day. After two weeks, strain out the vinegar into another glass jar, and use for cleaning. (This is also a great way to not let food scraps or glass jars go to waste!)
This is my favorite thing to use in cleaning toilets. Dump half a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl, pour in a cup of citrus vinegar, and let it sit and sanitize and de-odorize for at least 30 minutes. Scrub it out, flush it, and savor the way your toilet now smells like an orange grove.
3. Learn how to make your own cleaning supplies with e-books from the Ultimate Health Living Bundle - only one sale for THIS WEEK (til Sept. 14, 2015).
The internet is bursting at the seams with DIY recipes for green cleaning. But just looking at all those images and descriptions on Pinterest and Google is overwhelming. This fall's Ultimate Bundle has several e-books dedicated to creating a non-toxic home. You can search online for each individual recipe needed. Or you can get the bundle and have several easy references within hand's reach.
I own the DIY Natural Household Cleaners e-book, which is part of the bundle, and love it. It has recipes for cleaning every area of the house. If you want to just get one book, that is a great place to start, and you can buy it here. But if you're someone who likes multiple resources (like me), the bundle is the perfect way to snag them all at a low price.
And the bundle e-books and e-courses also cover every other area of healthy living you can think of - natural home remedies, essential oils (which also helps you get more use out of the oils you buy for cleaning!), gardening, natural beauty and skin care, whole foods, and more.
It's valued at over $2,000 and sells for only $29.97 this week only, September 9-14, 2015. You can check out what other books are for sale in the bundle here, look at the e-courses, or read the FAQs if you have more questions. Seriously, don't miss out on this deal. I bought the last bundle released on homemaking, and it has been really useful in this stage of my life.
Ok, now it's your turn! What is one thing that scares or intimidates you about switching to non-toxic cleaners?
And if you've made the switch, what tip do you have for someone just starting out?
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