Are the chemicals in big brand cleaners polluting the environment in our homes?
Julie Bishop believes that traditional store-cupboard standbys and elbow grease are the ingredients for healthy spring cleaning
We are becoming more and more concerned about chemical pollutants in the environment, and in the food we eat, but what about the pollutants we willingly introduce into our own homes? Most houses store deadly poisons in the cupboard under the sink where cleaning materials are kept.
What harm are we doing ourselves in our quest to remove "all known germs" from our surroundings? It is a question that concerns Julie Bishop, 38, who runs an environmentally friendly cleaning business, Living Clean, with offices in Norwich and Dereham.
"I am asthmatic, my son is asthmatic, my father had terminal cancer," Julie explained. "He always said pesticides were doing us no good. But the Environmental Protection Agency says we are three times more likely to get cancer from what we spray indoors than any other pollutant. So I started looking into it." Julie was living in London, but so concerned about her son Paul's health that she decided to move to Norfolk.
"Paul's asthma was quite bad in London, but he hasn't had it since we have been here," she said. "I wanted to clean as green as possible indoors." But she could not find any suitable products, and started importing materials from America. "It got me thinking about the idea of an environmentally friendly team of cleaners using non harsh chemicals in the home. We need to make people aware that they can clean without harsh chemicals," said Julie. "Everybody thought I was mad, so I have gone out of my way to prove you can do it!"
Julie has gone "right back to basics" with traditional cleaning materials: bicarbonate of soda, salt, lemon juice and vinegar. "It's about educating people," she said. "You shouldn't kill all known germs! You need friendly bacteria. That is why all our immune systems are going wrong. You can clean with these products. You don't have to be brain washed by the super markets."
Julie joined forces with a Norfolk chemist to create formulas for environmentally friendly cleaning products that really work, without creating dangers for people or pets.Apart from anything, people keep too many cleaning products, she believes. "One kitchen cleaner, one bathroom cleaner, a good polish, a bottle of vinegar - that would do anything!" Her kitchen cleaner, Budge, can be used in its concentrated form, to cut through built up grease. Or it can be diluted and used as washing up liquid. The active ingredient is citric acid.
Similarly, Blitz, the bathroom cleaner, will banish limescale but is safe enough to clean a fish tank, said Julie. Her polish, Shine, nourishes the wood, which was not true of spray polishes, she said. "Polishes today are all petrol based. And petrol is a neuro-toxin. It gives you headaches, dizziness and depression!"
Her "Dolly the Dolphin" product range is completed by Ping! An air freshener based on apple oil or orange oil, which leaves the home smelling "gorgeous." At £6.99 and £9.99 she admits that her products might seem expensive "but clients say they are not expensive if you work out how they can be watered down, and how long they last."
The products can be ordered from Julie's website, where the "cleaning expert" offers cleaning tips and remedies. For example, there is nothing to beat the traditional mixture of vinegar and lemon juice as a window cleaner, says Julie.