I was raised in a pretty typical American home, where the scents of lemon or pine mixed with chemicals meant the house was clean. A few years ago, I was cleaning my bathroom and noticed that my cats, who are normally glued to my side, were nowhere to be found. I also had a pounding headache which had begun when I squirted a scrubbing cleaner into the tub. That was the first time I thought – is this stuff toxic?

I decided to find out what Shedd uses to clean. After all, the animals come first at Shedd so I was sure that our cleaning tools would be safe for them and therefore safe for me (and my cats!). Turns out, Shedd relies heavily on vinegar and water for most of its surface cleaning so I decided to give it a shot. I mixed one cup of vinegar with one cup of water in a squirt bottle and soon my bathroom and kitchen were sparkly clean – the mirrors and chrome especially shined. No headache or repelled cats and the vinegar scent faded within minutes.

Five years later, I still depend on vinegar and water for most of my cleaning. For those tough scrub jobs like the tub and sinks, I sprinkle baking powder and lavender-scented castille soap and add some elbow grease. This reliably removes stains and soap grime, and smells great! Now my clean home is also a healthy home - for me, my pets and the environment.

Learn more about Earth Week at Shedd.

Posted by Michelle Jost, conservation