Nearly two years ago, we were newly married and settling into our first home that we were renting from my husband's grandmother. She had just moved into a small apartment down the road. Along with some extra Pyrex, furniture, and silverware, she left us with a heap of cleaning products.
Frugal me was like - yes!! I won't have to buy anything for years!
Another side of me was paying closer attention to the effects that food had on my digestive health, skin, and hair. I was learning how leaky gut and chronic inflammation can lead to a lot of not-so-fun conditions that can be avoided by changing the foods I eat (think less bread, more veggies). Within this reading, I was also learning about the harm of chemical exposure over time, from our respiratory health to our reproductive systems.
Like did you know, years ago researchers conducted a study to determine how much our skin absorbs chemicals in drinking water. They found that our skin is indeed permeable - 29-91% of the total dose of the chemicals they tested in an aqueous (water) solution were absorbed. The chemicals were common to regular household products and cleaners. In this case, they were discussing levels of chemicals common to these products in ground, and therefore drinking water. But as they said of the products themselves: "acute and chronic effects have been demonstrated for most of these compounds, and several are suspected or known carcinogens." GEE THAT’S GREAT.
There was so much research out there, books and NPR segments I was running across were talking about the virtues of "dirt" and "microbes" in stimulating our immune systems.
One study showed that "In families who use hand dishwashing, allergic diseases in children are less common than in children from families who use machine dishwashing. We speculate that a less-efficient dishwashing method may induce tolerance via increased microbial exposure."
A book, Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World, written by two microbiologists, details the ways that cleaning with particular products and eliminating children’s access to microbes in the soil and outdoors can make them suffer. From the womb on, children need to build healthy gut bacteria and immune systems; too much sanitation makes this difficult. They even recommend adding pets to your life to bring in access to good bacteria!
There is so much more information out there on this topic, from the importance of eating fermented foods and probiotics, to avoiding killing off the good bacteria you do have (See Brain Maker, and The Dirt Cure). This is real science and not hype.
So then the scientific me was like, hmmm, do I really want all of this stuff in my house, especially if we will be starting a family in the near future? So I wasn't running around with a Hippie banner denouncing every commercial product as "TOXIC!!"... but why not reduce my exposure?
In my search for DIY products or alternatives, one blogger referred me to Branch Basics, and to this day I have never looked back (btw they are reformulating their product and it should be available this fall). This is not a paid or affiliate review; I just honestly love the product. Branch Basics is a concentrated formula made entirely from plants, seeds, and enzymes.
In August 2015 I bought a giant bottle of concentrate that cost around $200 dollars. Included were beautifully designed spray bottles and some scented oils. I am just now (June 2017) running out of this product. Here's a few things I use it for:
· Counters, Sinks, Toilets, Showers, Hand Soap, Face and Body Wash, Laundry detergent, Mopping, Carpet Stains, Window Cleaner....and pretty much everything in our house. For a time, I used it as dishwasher soap - but the dishwasher was 20 years old and could have used a bit of Borax for sudsing help.
Branch Basics does not work for every. single. thing. But darn close. My husband insists on using store bought dishwasher cleaner (we use 7th generation.), And I haven't mixed up a decent toilet bowl cleaner yet, but many people recommend mixing borax with Branch for that (I just haven't tried it yet.)
So why has this worked for 2 years?
1. Mega Convenience & Price- I hate having to pick things up at the store that I can replenish at home. I just add water along with the concentrate, and boom, replenished. Not to mention this cuts down on SO MUCH waste as I can reuse the same bottles every time. I haven't tried to calculate my cost savings, but I am confident that it's significant. And for me, time and simplicity are money. From that perspective, I have saved loads.
I also have travel sized bottles that I take with me on trips to wash my face, shave my legs, and spot clean my clothes. Works great!
2. The concentrate is food-grade. I can literally lick the counter after washing it off and it's safe. I don't recommend that, it tastes pretty bitter. But now with pets and eventually crawling babies and kids, I don't have to worry about them putting something I just cleaned into their mouths. The makers of Branch even use their sudsing-soap dispenser for baby wash; I probably will too.
3. Versatility & Efficacy. Like I said above, I use this product on almost everything. Even my skeptical husband agrees that this stuff works as good or better than other products we’ve tried. It’s especially great for window cleaning (my mother-in-law agrees too.). Every couple of months, I soak my weddings rings in the concentrate overnight and they look so much better.
4. Autoimmune issues. I don't have a disorder, but some markers on blood test I’ve had run in the past have come back a bit suspicious. My doctor has said that something might be lurking in there, waiting to come out sometime. The makers of Branch designed their product to make life with an autoimmune disease better. Fragrances, chemicals, and many traditional cleaning products can induce an inflammatory response in the body, exacerbating one’s symptoms of such a disorder.
I know there are great alternative products out there such as Norwex (with my favorite tagline, “clean doesn't have a smell”) and Essential Oils that have a lot of the same qualities as Branch Basics. I just happened to choose this first and have stuck with it - if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
And that, dear friends, is why I DO NOT like to buy cleaning products from the grocery store.