Friday, December 10, 2010

My Dirty Little Secret

Okay, I'll just out with it. I love bleach. Clorox. I can't get enough of it. It smells so horrible but it makes my 40 year old counters and sinks sparkle more brightly than Elvis in Vegas.

To clarify why this is a dirty little secret, let me back up. For a few years I've been using only "chemical free" products to clean my house. "Chemical free" is certainly a misnomer because even air and water are technically chemicals. But I've steered clear of harsh chemicals or things with added colors or fragrances. I've mostly used various concoctions of vinegar, baking soda, soap (mostly Dr. Bronner's all purpose soap. Love it!) and water. These products do a decent job in regular cleaning to maintain cleanliness. They don't necessarily do as well if you've got a horrible mess that's been neglected for years. Like the shower in our house was when we moved in. The hard water stains are well beyond the powers of vinegar.

I adopted this more "natural" cleaning philosophy because I think it's better for the environment and also for my family's health. I don't necessarily have any hard evidence to support my thoughts, but I personally don't think that standing in your shower inhaling Comet as you scrub can be good for anyone. Now that I have a baby, I do not want him crawling all over the floor (and partaking of the buffet of who knows what that he finds thereon) ingesting Mop and Glo.

But this commitment to more "natural" products wavered when we moved into our house. It was built in 1968. I think all the fixtures (sinks, counters, showers, toilets etc...) are original. I don't think it had been thoroughly cleaned since 1985. It doesn't bother me in and of itself that the house and fixtures are old. But it is discouraging when you scrub and scrub and the stains remain. Nothing ever looks clean. That is until I broke down, bought a bottle of bleach and began indiscriminately pouring it over every surface that would contain it. Suddenly my toilets and sinks were whiter than a polar bear in a snowstorm and my refrigerator shelves sparkled like the above mentioned Elvis reference.

But it's more than that. I like to believe that I am sanitizing. I don't know for sure that I'm actually killing germs. I don't dig out my microscope and verify that all of the staphylococci are dead. But that's what the bleach-makers claim is happening. And, I have come to associate that awful bleach smell with cleanliness, which even makes me kind of like it. In fact, I think my love for bleach may be more in my mind. Meaning, I don't know if my counter tops are truly glistening or if I'm just seeing them with eyes that believe that they are glisteningly ( I might have made the previous word up) clean. Even if some stains remain (which they do) I've got that noisome smell to tell me that they are rendered powerless because the germs are dead!

My concern is for the baby seals. When Peter and I are being environmentally insensitive, like when one of us forgets to recycle, or forgets to take our canvas grocery bags to the store, we accuse each other (lightheartedly) of killing all the baby seals. I don't know if bleach is horrible for me and the environment or if it is innocuous. In a housekeeping book, and on the Clorox website, I read that when mixed with water, bleach must be used rather quickly because it readily dissociates into a salt and water. A salt and water mixture doesn't sound dangerous for baby seals to swim in, or to have as a residue on every surface in my house. But I don't know. I have traditionally believed that bleach was the antithesis of life. The Beelzebub of harsh chemicals- a notion supported by all the "green clean" people. It seems to kill everything that it touches and stain your clothes to boot. So, I wanted nothing to do with it. But now I'm addicted. And I feel guilty for cheating on all of my "green clean" products!

What is a reformed slob to do? I'll tell you another reason why I love bleach so much is that I am a reformed slob. I think there is no one who appreciates clean more than a person who at one time had zero cleaning skills so she had to pull herself up the housekeeping ladder by her fingernails. It has been painful at times but I'm on my way to the clean freak rung! Though, I'm going to try not to take that too far, fall off the ladder and drown in my own Clorox. Extremity too far in either direction, slovenliness or cleanliness, will probably make for a miserable household. I've been working on a post about my metamorphoses from a grubby, dirt-dwelling caterpillar into a glorious bleached-out butterfly who picks up after herself but I haven't yet finished it (the post or the transformation).

I hope that the baby seals can be safe and my house can be clean at the same time. I believe that some day soon I'm going to get a handle on this never-ending merry-go-round of housekeeping. (I think I'm on the brink of a break through in mopping!) For now it's a work in progress. And I'm actually enjoying it.


Anonymous said...

You are such a hoot, Leslie Ness! Keep your fun posts coming!

Jill said...

Oops. Forgot to put my name on that last one!