When my Ivy League wife got pregnant, she began researching everything related to her condition. We have charts and graphs if you want to see them. The one that really popped for me was her research into toxins and how pregnant women are advised to generally stay away from them. With that logic extended a bit further, she postulated that these same things might also be bad for non-pregnant people and the race was on.
Like many of you, I have fond memories of coming home from school after my mother had cleaned the house. I associated the smell of Clorox Bleach, Mr. Clean Ammonia, Formula 409, Ty-D-Bowl Toilet Bowl cleaner, Lysol and Windex as the eye blistering smell of clean. It may have given us watery eyes, nose bleeds and headaches, but we knew the house was clean (and most importantly) GERM FREE. We never questioned that these things were necessary and a sign of the advantages of a clean, modern society in middle America. So I was completely thrown when my wife first brought this up.
“A list of things to do?” I asked picking up a piece of paper resting prominently where I normally eat.
“Things to throw away,” she replied.
“Um, Sweetie? Is this another morning sickness thing?” I asked this question very, very carefully. Mishandled, it could sound exactly like the death query, “Is it that time of month?”
“No, well sort of. Everything makes me nauseous—thank you, by the way, for having a house next to a Mesquite Chicken Restaurant–but this is different. All of these things are seriously toxic and are quietly poisoning us.”
I loved that Chicken restaurant, but the smoke of roasted dead chickens was pretty unbearable for my pregnant wife.
“Aw sweetie, I’m sorry about The Flaming Chicken, but it never seemed to bother you prior to getting pregnant.”
She sighed, and then took one of those slow, I’m feeling-really-nauseous deep breaths before she continued with, “This is not about The Flaming Chicken.” She paused for another deep, measured breath. “This is about all of the cleaning supplies we have that are creating indoor air pollution.”
“Indoor air pollution?”
“It’s called off-gassing. All of these bottles, closed or otherwise, are leaking poison gas into the air we breathe.”
Since meeting my wife, I’m definitely more of an adult than I used to be, but when she said indoor air pollution and off gassing, all I could think of were fart jokes. However, because I’m more mature now, I have learned to suppress the juvenile and ask interested questions like, “What would you like me to do about it?”
“Get rid of them.”
“All of them?”
“Yes, all of them. I’m working on getting replacements, but they need to get out of our house NOW,” she said.
“Can’t we just use them all up in one big cleaning orgy?”
‘Orgy’ was a fantastically poor choice of words around a nauseous pregnant woman.
“We’re not having them in our home another second,” she said while grimacing.
“And so we should throw away a couple hundred dollars worth of cleaning supplies? What about our whites?”
“Poison gas is leaking into our home from under every sink and all throughout the garage. Are you seriously worried about a few hundred dollars and how white our whites can be?
“No, I guess not.” But inwardly I felt like we were part of some bizarre TV commercial for an alternative product.
“There is no reason at all to have bleach in the home. It’s a myth that you are a better person because your whites are whiter and chlorine gas is quite toxic. Did you know that even in cities with air pollution, the indoor quality of air is usually 3-4 times worse?”
“Wow, really? Is all of that caused by my favorite cleaning products?”
“A lot of it. And that’s the easiest polluted part to fix with instant results. That and our water.”
“Our water is toxic too?”
“You know they put low levels of bleach in it to kill germs, right?
I pretended to know and nodded wisely.
“Well, as soon as you get into a hot shower, you’re breathing chlorine gas and extremely toxic gas. So we’re getting filters for those too,” she announced.
“And a filters for our drinking water too. I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Okay, okay, whatever you say. If it’s that bad, we’ll do it,” I said not realizing she had already left to throw up in the bathroom.
And that was about 10 years ago. We’ve never looked back. I still remember the first time the house was cleaned without all of the toxic stuff and it actually smelled nice. Kind of like a magical forest or something. For a year or two, we got caught up in a company called Melaluca and we bought masses of their tea tree oil based products for our home. Great products, and we still buy them, but the whole MLM thing got a little old.
Goodbye, Mr. Clean. ;-)