Get your home clean without toxic chemicals
By Sunshine Menefee
How clean is your home?
It’s that time of year again when the cleansing bug hits and you pull out all the cleaners to get your home in tip-top shape. But before you start spraying all those chemicals, take the time to read the labels and consider a different option.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists volatile organic compounds as one cause of indoor air pollution. A study conducted by the agency found “that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed.” These gases are found in many household cleaners and aerosol sprays. Reactions can include dizziness, nausea, headache, skin rash, and more. That’s not all. Many commercial cleaners contain ingredients that have been linked to Endocrine disruptions, nervous systems effects, and even cancer. With all that being said, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit company that test and grades hundreds of thousands of consumer goods including household cleaners and makeup. They have a searchable database that allows you to look up a product and see its grade and the effects of each ingredient listed. There are lots of safe cleaning products for your home out there. You just have to have a little knowledge.
Most commercial cleaners list water as the main ingredient. That means you’re paying for mostly water. Making your own cleaner is simple, cheap, and healthier for your home and family. You also cut down on packaging waste when you re-use bottles. Just make sure to remove old labels and clearly mark what ingredients are in your home-made concoction. Shop your home pantry for the majority of these supplies. The rest can be found in the laundry section of your nearest retailer.
Baking Soda: a great scouring agent that also lifts baked on food as well as deodorizes.
Borax: cleans, deodorizes, disinfects. Note: Borax is considered a mild eye and skin irritant. It does not absorb into the skin and the MSDS lists it’s health hazard as 1.
Castile Soap: plant-based soap that cuts grease and very versatile in general cleaning.
Essential oils: natural plant oils suspended in carrier oil, great for adding worry-free fragrance to cleaning solutions.
Lemon: an acidic cleaner that’s superior for cutting through scum, adding shine, and having a great smell.
Olive Oil: works as a conditioner for wood, great for repelling dust.
Vinegar: cuts through grease and mildew while making a great multi-purpose cleaner.
All Purpose Cleaner
1 part vinegar
9 parts water
Mix the ingredients together for an all around general purpose cleaner. For surfaces exposed to raw meat, spray with full strength vinegar and then hydrogen peroxide to get rid of almost all nasty germs. Just don’t mix the two before hand.
1 part vinegar
1 part water
To cut through tough soap scum, spray this solution on after the shower. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then rinse. For mildew stains, let the mixture sit for 30 minutes and the use a scrub pad to remove the stain. As always, test in an inconspicuous spot first.
½ cup baking soda
Add enough Castile soap to the baking soda make a very moist paste. A few drops of essential oils should complete it. This makes a great natural tile and grout paste. For extra power, slice a lemon in half and use as a scrubber.
2 cups hot water
1 tbsp. Castile soap
1 tsp. Borax
Let this mixture sit on tough oven surfaces for 20 minutes for easy removal of tough spots.
¼ cup vinegar
½ tsp. Castile soap
2 cups water
Mix ingredients and spray on Windows, covering an area you can easily clean in just a few minutes. Wipe with a cloth and then squeegee off.
10 drops of pure lemon oil
2 tbsp. Lemon juice
A few drops olive oil
Use this mixture with an old flannel rag to get keep dust off wood furniture in your home and give lustrous finish.
Store bought options
If you don’t feel confident in making your own cleaner, there are store bought ones that are good alternatives. When selecting a new cleaner, don’t rely on the front label for everything. There is a lot of “green washing” that goes on. A product that says natural on it can still have nasty chemicals. Look at the ingredient list. Shy away from added fragrances, phthalates, 2-BUTOXYETHANOL, and ammonia.
All Purpose Cleaner
Earth Friendly Products Orange Plus All Purpose Everyday Cleaner – Biodegradable and non-toxic are two major plusses for this cleaner. It uses the power of citrus to cut through grease and clean non-porous surfaces. It even boasts working on crayons and lipstick!
Seventh Generation Natural Tub & Tile Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir – Biodegradable and non-toxic, this cleaner works on soap scum. It’s also readily available at big-box stores. It earns an A on EWG’s site.
Clorox Oxi Magic Multi-Purpose Powder Stain Remover – Big commercial companies aren’t all bad. This Clorox product is essentially baking soda and dried peroxide, which is highly effective as a natural bleaching agent. It works as a stain lifter in the laundry, and as a paste cleaner on other surfaces.
Citra-Solv Citra Wood Natural Wood & Furniture Polish – Harnessing the natural cleaning power of oranges, this polish skips the petroleum based chemicals and leaves your wood conditioned and dust-free.
Simple Green® Naturals Glass & Surface Care – This ammonia-free cleaner promises to leave windows sparkly clean.
A cleaner future ahead
There are plenty of options out there to get your home the cleanest it has ever been. In the future, don’t rely on packaging to tell you what you need to know. Read the ingredient list. As a rule of thumb, the simpler things are to pronounce, the better they are for exposure. With any cleaning product, make sure the room is well ventilated.
With these few tips, you can be confident your home is going to be safe and clean. Clean out your cleaning closet and properly dispose of any old products. Then re-stock with safer products and breathe easy.