• Lijing Cobb

Mr. Clorox vs. Mrs. Meyers

Here it goes. It finally happened. What has not happened but was always a possibility. What could have been avoided easily but was put off.

I lost an entire blog after it was just finished. Oh boy. Almost 2 hours of time wasted. Lots of frustration and disbelief. Did it just happen? Really? Why did I not do what I knew I should have done? Why did I have to wait until it finally came true, to learn the lesson and trust the gut?

Here we go. Perhaps I could reproduce what was written from memory. Perhaps I could trust myself to write again what I wrote already. Perhaps I could do it better!

“How’s your eye, mommy?” My son’s voice was gentle and soft. These days, I have trouble distinguishing his voice from my girls’ sometimes, because he’s been using it in a different way.

“It’s much better now. Thanks for checking in with me, I really appreciate it.” I hugged him tight, and told him the story of why my eye blew up and how I dealt with it.

I had been cleaning from 9:30 to 3:30, with a break for lunch for about an hour. My main conquest was the extermination of a ladybug infestation in a closet. In order to do a thorough job, I had cleared the room of all its inhabitants. After sucking up literally thousands of ladybugs, I grabbed a bottle of Clorox Cleanup, which happened to be in the closet within reach, and sprayed the window frame where the ladybugs congregated, determined to oust the colony once and for all. As soon as the spray landed on the wall next to the window frame, the white of the wall turned a darker shade. “Sorry!” I apologized to the wall, and hastened to wipe off the liquid with paper towels. But the damage was already done. Humph!

After spraying I lingered in the closet to finish some other miscellaneous stuff. My girls came in to visit me at that time, and before even entering the closet they screwed up their faces and covered their noses. “Ewwwww! What is that awful smell?” They cried.

I told them to get out of the closet, and said that it was not good for them to inhale that smell. After I spoke those words out loud, I myself got the memo and walked out of the closet as well.

One of the Clorox Cleanup bottles had cracked and was leaking its contents onto the closet floor. I had scooped it up and rushed it down to the kitchen sink, and left it there until I could find a suitable container to transfer the remaining liquid. When I finally went back to it, it had been about half an hour. As I lifted the cracked bottle from its spot, I noticed that the spot had been whitened, unlike the rest of the sink, much like what you would see in a commercial. “Wow,” I marveled at that spot. You see, I had thought that I’d been doing quite a decent job maintaining the cleanliness of my prized sink, using my organic and natural cleaning products. Obviously my efforts had been lacking. Could I perhaps whiten the rest of the sink too? I got a bit excited, and poured more of that demolishing liquid into the sink. While it soaked, I started to read the label.

In block letters, the bottle warned, USE ONLY IN WELL-VENTILATED AREAS.

My kitchen is pretty big. The doors are all closed because it’s 18 degrees outside. I could turn on the stove fan but I’m in tight gloves with Clorox dripping all over the place. Crap. And I was in that non-ventilated closet for how long???

I had poured half a bottle of Clorox into another half bottle, hovering right over it when I poured so as not to drip any out of the bottles and onto the floor, in order to get the empty bottle that I now hold to transfer the cracked bottle liquid into it. My eyes and lungs stung in that small little laundry room. Crap.

I finished pouring from the cracked bottle, struggled out of my gloves, and turned on the kitchen fan. The smell of Clorox filled the kitchen. I let the liquid sit in the sink for as long as I could tolerate it, and then scrubbed the sink. As I finished, the sink was noticeably whiter. But I couldn’t stop rinsing the sides of the sink over and over again. I couldn’t stop rinsing the brush I was using over and over again. Quietly I thought to myself, we got to be very careful with this sink for a while. It’s got Clorox in it. I can’t get it out.

Did you know that the warning label, printed in tiny letters despite the size of the giant bottle because otherwise it wouldn’t fit, continues, in selections pertinent to the current story:

HAZARDS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS. WARNING: EYE AND SKIN IRRITANT. Causes substantial but temporary eye injury. Do not get in eyes or on clothing…. FIRST AID: IF IN EYES: Hold eye open and rinse slowly and gently with water for 15-20 minutes.

Does everyone read all of these warnings and take them to heart? Has anyone attempted to hold their eye open and rinse with water for 15-20 minutes? I imagine the arms would fall off first before we could fulfill the duration requirement.

For the past decade, my domestic kingdom has been graced and populated by gentle, organic, natural cleaners such as Mrs. Meyers. My husband, who’s used to the cleaning power of Mr. Clorox, often lamented that the dishes are not as clean out of the dishwasher, the dish soap doesn’t suds up quite as abundantly as he would like, and you have to use so much more of it! I get it, Mr., it’s much cheaper if we stayed with Mr. Clorox and such, but your water bill would have cost you millions more and you would never find your wife anywhere but next to the kitchen sink, rinsing for eternity. On the other hand, I love the simplicity of the statement you find on, say, a bottle of Mrs. Meyers Clean Day:

“Spray on all non-porous surfaces (insert whatever you can think of). Simply wipe away.”

No rinsing, ma!

“CAUTION: Avoid eye contact. Keep out of reach of children and pets (I’m sure they don’t want kids and pets to drink the stuff to quench their thirst, but Mrs. Meyers and co. don’t give us instructions on their small bottles to rinse our insides and go to the hospital for treatment either. Perhaps because it’s not necessary and they are not afraid of lawsuits because there won’t be any?). If product gets in eyes, rinse with water.”

That’s it. You decide how long you want to rinse your eyes for. Not 15-20 minutes where your arms fall off.

“Then why do you have Clorox in your house, within easy reach?” You ask. Fair question. But ahem, Mr. Husband, who believes in the power of Mr. Clorox. He was raised in the culture, no offense. He had hoarded quite a few in the upstairs storage closet in case of Armageddon, including a cracked bottle that I had to clean up.

But back to the story. At 3:30 my alarm went off and reminded me to go out for an errand. As I got in the car my right eye had an itch, so I rub my eye like a normal human being would. The itch didn’t go away, but got worse instead. So I rubbed some more, for about a minute or two, until I realized that it’s here to stay and I needed to do something different. I searched for a bottle of saline eye drop: I was driving my husband’s car, and he stores these little bottles everywhere because he can’t live without them. At work he deals with the constant use of Clorox every day. I put a couple of drops in my eye, and the itch stopped.

But the damage was already done. By the time I got to the post office and got out of the car, I had become extremely self-conscious about the sorry state my right eye was presenting to the world. In the Covid-cautious world of ours, I was trying to sneak in and out of the post office as quickly as possible so that no one saw me and my eye and suspected that I was carrying and spreading deadly viruses irresponsibly. To the two people that saw me in the parking lot, I should have reassured them by saying, “it’s ok! It’s only Mr. Clorox!”

By the time I finished my errands and got home (the whole outing lasted 20 minutes at the most), my right eye had been swollen almost completely shut (substantial but temporary eye injury). I got in the door and told my kids that I was in trouble. They examined my eye in sympathy, and I told them that I was going to take a shower and deal with it. After ditching my clothes in the wash, I scrubbed myself thoroughly from top to bottom. Then, instead of rinsing my eye for 15-20 minutes and have no arms afterwards, I soaked my eye in a cup of rose water for about a minute and kept my arms, so that I could rinse my sinus with my nettipot right after. I covered my eye with a white gauze so that it could rest.

My husband walked in the door, saw my pirate patch, and immediately said, “have you been to a doctor?”

“I’m fine,” I said, “I know exactly what’s going on.”

I did. By 8:30 when I was in bed saying good night to my son, the swelling of the eyelids had eased quite a bit. Because my son is particularly prone to allergies and sinus issues, I thought it was important to tell him how Mr. Clorox got to me and how I dealt with it. I knew what was happening to me. I never freaked out. I was my own doctor and treated myself properly. And in situations like this, he could too.

It took me a while to finish the story, and after I said the last words there was only silence. I wondered if my son had fallen asleep, so I said, “Are you still listening?”

“Yes, mommy, I’m listening. And thank you for telling me what happened to your eye today.” He said softly.

Hugging him close and rubbing the top of his short, prickly hair, I told him that in two days he will be 9, and he gets to be 9 for a whole year before he turns double digits. Double digits!

“I’m growing up too fast.” My dear boy whispered, his voice so low that I had to double check with him to confirm what I heard.

Yes, he’s growing up too fast. Soon, before we are all ready, he will be out of a house that his mother cleaned with Mrs. Meyers, into a society where Mr. Clorox holds the throne. What can kill the germs that quickly and efficiently must claim collateral damage in us too. And I’m not just talking about Mr. Clorox the cleaning product, in case that is not clear.

When my children go into society and run into a problem, will they be observant and aware enough to know what’s happening to them? Will they not freak out and automatically consult the doctor/expert who knows nothing about them? Will they have the ability and courage to rely on themselves to find a solution?

I will continue to protect my family’s health with Mrs. Meyers, needless to say. But I think more importantly, my task as a parent is to continue to talk to my children and share with them all that I experience and think about. I think that will prepare them well for entering the world of Clorox, or better yet, staying as far away from that as possible. I hope that the recognition will come one day that Mr. Clorox can clean, and also damage, even kill. Mrs. Meyers, on the other hand, can be simply wiped away.

In case you haven't seen the label of a Clorox Cleanup label ever or in a while:

And here are couple of pictures of my dear friend Mrs. Meyers: I choose my slightly discolored sink over a perfectly white and sparkling sink that I have to rinse forever anytime!

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