Thursday, May 1, 2008

Ask Lola the eco-dog: A slobbering advice column written by a dog for eco-minded dogs & their owners.

Dear Lola: If you haven’t guessed it, spring-cleaning is here. Time to clean out the attic, throw a yard sale, dust the shelves, mop the floors and scrub the counters to get rid of dirt, grime and those sneezing dust mites. But I find after a good cleaning with traditional products that my skin becomes itchy & irritated and I smell like I’ve emerged from a bleach bath. Not to mention the smell is so overwhelming. Are there any reliable house cleaners our there that I can safely drizzle down the drain, use around my kids and pets, and feel secure about having on my skin?


DEAR SQUEAKY GREEN: yes, like you, the spring-cleaning bug has bitten my parents. Many people using cleaning products in the home figure if it’s available on store shelves then it must be safe. So It is important to read the labels, anything that says the words “Danger”, “Poison”, or “Warning” can’t very well be good for you. Just keep in mind that traditional cleaning products may contain toxins. They can be found on the clothes you wear, the plate Fido licks off, and the carpet he lounges on with his favorite chew toy.

Now a day lemons in the produce section are challenging Lysol in the cleaning section (aisle 9 to be exact) as people choose the natural route. Like the saying goes when you are given lemons you make lemonade or in our case a natural cleaner & polisher. Even your dog’s bed, your clothes, sheets, curtains, and towels can get the royal washing without the chemicals with soap nuts (a natural nut shell with soap properties grown in India).

My parents and I are also very sensitive to harsh cleaners and have found our skin (in my case fur) gets itchy & irritated. The worst part is that I lack opposable thumbs, which makes it nuisance to itch those hard to reach places. So we decided to retire our commercial cleaning products and upgrade to more down to earth products. We wanted a more healthier and natural way to rid dust mites with the help of natural products (aka green cleaning). Green cleaning is using products that don’t harm you, your children both two & four legged, or the earth. So I helped my parents sniff high and low for products that would do just that. With so many green solutions you no longer need your dogs licking expertise to get the dishes & floors spic & span. Being a dog myself, I love to follow the crumb trail, and I am a little saddened to be out of a job. But I guess this world is big enough for a dog’s maid service and those squeaky green products out there.

Many people think that going green means spending the green, but rests assure there are many economical & eco-cleaning solutions out there that are all natural, chlorine, bleach-free & contain no harsh chemicals. But most importantly they are effective, so fear not all you germophobes out there. The best part is that you don’t leave your house smelling of a strong odor or like a freshly sanitized hospital.

For all you Martha Stewarts out there, by the way I am a tail-wagging fan, it’s time to get in the kitchen. In fact, some of these eco-solutions can be found in your pantry or cupboards, they are easy to pronounce & are edible. With just a few ingredients & a snap of a paw you can brand your very own cleaner that costs mere pennies. Hey, I must say like mad scientists my parents and I are always having fun in the kitchen concocting new ingredients, so Martha if you’re reading I hope we’re making you proud. Magically, they can really stretch the budget by keeping the house clean and smelling fresh at the same time. Not to mention there many added great benefits:

Lemon - Dissolves soap scum and hard water deposits. It also cleans and shines brass and copper. If mixed with vinegar and baking soda it can be made into cleaning pastes. If mixed with vegetable oil it makes furniture polish. Hey, while you at it you can make a pitcher of lemonade.

Vinegar - Naturally cleans like an all-purpose cleaner. Add one part water to one part vinegar and you have a solution that can clean most areas of your home. Vinegar disinfects and deodorizes. The strong smell of vinegar goes away after it dries. Both vinegar and baking soda have the added bonus of being incredibly cheap. Perfect for heftier residue and can work as a drain de-clogger. With all those baths I am bound to clog a few drains along the way.

Baking soda - Use to scrub surfaces similar to commercial abrasive cleansers like Comet or Ajax. Baking soda is also a great deodorizer, just ask your fridge & freezer, those leftover Chinese takeout containers leave odor that lurks in the dark. This is great for bathtubs, drains, ovens, tile floors or countertops.

But for those of you who don’t have the time to make green cleaning products from scratch here are some wonderful alternatives. Many of these ready made eco-solutions currently on the market can be found on your local store shelves, online, or a health food store. With a little elbow grease your house will be clean as a whistle and Fido may be caught off guard by his handsome reflection on those shiny hardwood floors.

Many of these eco-solutions are backed by a Green Seal rating, which means they meet the cleaning product environmental standards. Some of these products include: Mrs. Meyer’s All Purpose Cleaner, Seventh Generation, Method, Ecover, EcoQuest, BioKleen and Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds. When purchasing green cleaning products pick multi –purpose; this creates fewer items in the home, less packaging, less waste, and less money spent. Also, look for biodegradable products and post consumer recycled packaging.

So now you are probably wondering how to break the news and get rid of your unwanted guests, no we are not referring to your in-laws, but those traditional cleaning products. When replacing your cleaning products, don’t just throw the old ones in the trash. If they’re too toxic for your home, they won’t be good for the drain or the landfill either. Many communities hold toxics & electronics recycling days and will take all of these off your hands. Throwing chemicals in the trash or down the drain means they might end up back in your water supply and come back to haunt you.

So roll up your sleeves and welcome spring with a squeaky green yet clean house!

Barkingly yours,

Lola Rose

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