What does it mean for something to be clean? Here at Sprouts, cleanliness is all about health. We clean to keep our living environment as healthy as possible for the children and us. Sadly, many cleaning products people use in their daily lives do not promote health. They clean up dirt and bacteria, but leave behind all sorts of synthetic chemicals that can contribute to a whole mess of health problems. Check out this test done by the Environmental Working Group on cleaners used regularly in schools in California. Many of the cleaners used have ingredients in them that are known carcinogens and asthmagens. These chemicals are even more hazardous for young children, whose bodies are not yet fully developed and are more vulnerable to the toxic effects of these chemicals.
At Sprouts, we make most of our own cleaners, and we have one cleaning products that we use in every room in our house, and it cost less than $1 per bottle to make. The magic ingredient: vinegar! We take a spray bottle, fill it half with water and half with regular white vinegar, and use it to clean just about everything in the house. Vinegar creates an acidic environment that kills most germs, and it does not cause cancer or degrade indoor air quality. It smells a little like, well, vinegar, but the smell dissipates quickly and you can feel good knowing that you are not harming your family’s health when you clean. If you have some serious grime to clean up, such as baked on food, you can use undiluted vinegar and let it sit. We often do this overnight with baking sheets and in the morning, baked on food that would have taken an hour to scrub off, washes off effortlessly.
If you have some additional concern about disinfecting a surface, such as after a bout of the flu has spread through your house, you can follow the vinegar spray with hydrogen peroxide. Regular 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, the kind you can find at the drug store, is a potent disinfectant that is, according to Ellen Sandbeck, author of Organic Housekeeping, “utterly harmless to humans, pets, and the environment.” Just spray it on the surface after you spray the vinegar, let it sit for a bit, and wipe it up.
-Jeremy Arendt is head cook and co-owner of Sprouts Home Day Care, an organic, eco-healthy day care located in the Northwest Chicago Suburbs. He graduated from the University of Illinois Springfield where he studied sustainable food systems. When he is not cooking for the kids, you can usually find him tending to the gardens or hanging out in the greenhouse with his dog.