There are different approaches to housecleaning. Some are content to cut down on the clutter, while others are out to destroy microbes. My mother was in the latter category. She employed a scorched-earth policy on Saturday mornings, using the harshest-smelling chemicals known to man. These included bleach, ammonia and vinegar. (We were also using volcanic soap on our skin). If we had a canary, it would have keeled over.

Maybe that’s why I have an aversion to cleaners that smell like they’re out to kill all life forms, including me. Searching for an alternative, I visited Schauer’s Hardware and chatted with the owner, Rich. He admits to being an old-school guy who uses ammonia and water on the store windows. He also risks his life by drinking tap water. But, business-wise, he believes the tide is turning in favor of green products.

He said there’s been a gradual improvement in the effectiveness of green products and they’ve become more affordable. In general, though, they are not as quick-acting as their chemical cousins. He offered the example of paint remover. The green product takes hours, while the toxic one will take off six layers of paint in minutes. Green cleaning products, though, are getting to be more on par with their toxic relatives.

Rich’s store also carries the old-fashioned push mowers along with new electric mowers powered by an 18-volt battery. As Rich observed, “No one has big lawns in Forest Park.” Along the same line, are the battery-powered lawn and garden tools he carries. He also has shelves of microbial drain openers, as well as the slow-acting paint remover. Many of these products have government labels asserting that they’re made from recycled materials, or are designed for the environment.

Of course, not all that is labeled green is really eco-friendly. He pointed to the curly-cue bulbs that have replaced the old filament kind. The government said that the old bulbs were destroying the ozone layer. The new ones use less power but contain mercury. There are also products that have been around for years that have finally been slapped with a green label. CLR rust remover, for example.

Rich said green products have the advantage of being less toxic to the user and better for the planet. I was sold. I bought a spray-bottle of natural all-purpose cleaner and carried it home in a recycled plastic bag. Its ingredients included filtered water, coconut and corn-based components and essential lemon oil. It sounded like a great after-dinner drink and smelled like a margarita. It contained no bleach or phosphorous. What would mom think? I went home and sprayed some microbes. I’m not sure if I killed them, but I’m sure they felt a bit queasy. It also felt good to finally get around to saving the world.