Experts say that the average home has roughly 62 toxic chemicals lurking about. That’s significant! Government regulations regarding labeling of toxic chemicals in cleaning products are pretty lax. Rather than a list of ingredients, what you see instead are those little pictures, like a flame, or skull and cross bones, or even dynamite.
But, what those pictures don’t show you is how all those chemicals can affect even a healthy person over time. For example, many cleaning products use volatile organic compounds to enhance their performance (in other words, you don’t need to use too much elbow grease with these.) Over time, these compounds can impair neurological functions, cause respiratory irritation, and can even cause cancer or reproductive issues depending on the level of exposure.
Now, if you use one of these chemical-containing cleaning products occasionally with proper ventilation, it is most likely not going to harm you or the environment irreparably. The issue is when you use more than one cleaning product that contains harmful chemicals every time you clean. Just think of your bathroom for a moment. You probably have one product to clean mildew from your tub and tile, another for your toilet bowl, one for your mirror, and yet another to clean the surfaces. That can add up to a lot of harmful chemicals.
I know that greening your home can be a challenge. One of the easiest ways to begin making your home a healthy sanctuary is by removing the chemical-laden cleaning products you use and replacing them with greener options. You can do this as you run out of your current products and replace them one by one.
Here are 9 “dirty” cleaning products that I prefer not to use in my own home:
Disinfectant Powders and Sprays
The Environmental Working Group found 146 chemicals in Comet, one of the most popular household disinfectants. Some of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, asthma, and reproductive disorders. The most toxic of the chemicals found in Comet, including formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform and toluene, are not even listed on the label. Try Bon Ami as a safe alternative.
While technically not a cleaner, many people use air fresheners and deodorizers to cover up smells in their homes, especially if they have pets. But, air fresheners typically contain toxic chemicals such as 2, 5-dichlorophenol (2, 5-DCP) and 1, 4-dichlorobenzone (1, 4-DCB), as well as endocrine-disrupting phthalates. I prefer to use essential oils in a diffuser as an air freshener. You can also mix essential oils with baking soda and use as a carpet deodorizer. Opening a window can do wonders as well.
Tub and Tile Cleaners
Remember the Scrubbing Bubbles TV commercial featuring a cute little bubble that eats all the dirt and mildew? Well, that product — and many other conventional tub and tile cleaners — is filled with toxic chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors, and can also cause respiratory and nervous system problems.
We all have had moments where we spill something on the upholstery, or on a silk blouse, and have reached for the spot remover. Now you may want to think again. Spot removers contain a chemical known as “Perc,” (short for perchloroethylene,) a neurotoxin that is also classified as a possible carcinogen. Dry cleaning solutions used by commercial dry cleaners also contain Perc. Try a nontoxic brand of spot remover, such as Ecover, which you can buy at stores or online. For clothes that say “dry clean only,” try wet cleaning, a professional cleaning process that avoids the use of toxic chemical solvents. Or, look for a dry cleaner that does not use Perc in their cleaning process.
Liquid Dish Detergents
Most conventional dish detergent liquids, such as Palmolive Eco+ Gel, contain triclosan, an antibacterial agent (also found in antibacterial hand soaps) that has been associated with the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. In addition, these products contain ingredients with the potential for causing cancer, as well as developmental, endocrine and reproductive issues.
Most glass cleaners and all purpose cleaners contain ammonia, which is a powerful irritant. People with asthma, or other lung issues should avoid all products with ammonia. Plus, ammonia has been linked to chronic bronchitis and is very harmful to the environment.
If you have ever read the warning labels on oven cleaners, such as Easy Off, you probably realize that these are toxic. Ethanolamine is the main chemical in oven cleaners. It can have a negative effect on all of your organs and systems. Oven cleaners also contain sodium hydroxide (lye.) I definitely don’t want these chemicals getting in my eyes, lungs, or in my food!
Drain Clog Removers
The chemicals in clog removers, such as Liquid Plumr, are highly toxic to our water and wildlife. In addition, they can cause severe burns and eye damage. Try boiling water, baking soda and vinegar instead.
Lysol Bathroom Cleaner
The bathroom is probably the place where you use the harshest cleaning products. If the smell of bathroom cleaning products, such as Lysol, doesn’t deter you from using them, then you should know that they can put you at risk for a number of health issues, including asthma and other respiratory concerns, allergies, reproductive and developmental problems and even cancer.
Healthy Spring Cleaning Tips For Everyone
Nothing could be more Goddess-like than using products that are safe for your family and the environment. I am all for making life easy, so if buying green cleaning products is easier for you, then by all means you should purchase the highest quality products you can afford. When buying products at the store, look for a list all of the ingredients on every label.
If you choose to buy your green cleaning products, remember that just because something claims to be “green,” “natural” or “biodegradable” on the label, that doesn’t always mean it’s nontoxic. Be sure to use the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaners database to look up products and check their ratings.
If green cleaning products cost more than you are willing to spend, don’t worry. The good news is that cleaning like a green goddess can be just as easy and less expensive than cleaning with toxic chemicals. All you need are basic, every day items from your grocery store.
Here are some basic ingredients to keep on hand so you can clean just about anything like a green goddess:
- White Vinegar – Has antifungal properties
- Baking soda – Eliminates odors and can be used as a gently scouring powder
- Lemon Juice – Non-toxic bleach, grease cutter, and stain remover
- Borax (sodium borate) – Eliminates odors, removes dirt and acts as a disinfectant.
- Hydrogen Peroxide (3% concentration) – Non-toxic bleach, stain remover and disinfectant.
- Liquid Castile Soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s)
- Club Soda – Stain remover and polisher
- Corn Meal – For carpet spills
- Olive Oil – Furniture polish
- Essential Oils – Scent, antibacterial properties. (Always follow safety instructions as they are highly concentrated.)
5 Green Cleaning Recipes To Keep Your Home Healthy
Here are a few basic recipes and techniques to get you started:
All Purpose Cleaner
- 2 cups white distilled vinegar
- 2 cups water
- Essential oil (optional)
You can use this on hard surfaces such as countertops and kitchen floors, even windows and mirrors.
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1 quart water
Mix together in spray bottle. Spray on glass and wipe with lint-free cloth. (Note: You can always add more vinegar for a stronger cleaning solution.)
- 2 cups baking soda
- ½ cup to 2/3 cup liquid castile soap
- 4 teaspoons vegetable glycerin (preservative)
- 5 drops antibacterial essential oil (optional)
Mix together and store in a sealed glass jar for a shelf life of 2 years.
Use this on kitchen counters, stoves, bathtubs and sinks.
- 1 cup soap flakes
- 1 cup washing soda (1/4 -1/2 if you have soft water)
- 1 cup baking soda (1/2 cup for soft water)
- 1-2 tbsp. oxygen bleach (optional for extra whitening power)
Mix all ingredients together and store in a glass container.
You only need one tablespoon per load, but you can add two tablespoons for more soiled laundry. Use in warm or cold water and it is safe for HE machines.
Note: You can make your own soap flakes by grating your favorite pure vegetable soap with a cheese grater.
Tips: Distilled white vinegar added to the rinse cycle makes a great fabric softener. It also removes odors. Hydrogen peroxide is a great whitener and, when used directly on clothes prior to washing, can be used in place of bleach to remove stains
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
- 20 drops Lemon essential oil (or 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
Note: If using lemon juice instead of lemon oil, you must store in refrigerator
Tips: Dip a clean, dry cloth into the polish and rub wood in the direction of the grain. Use a soft brush to work the polish into corners or tight places.
Some other easy ways to clean and disinfect without harsh chemicals include:
- Sprinkle a toilet brush with baking soda to scrub you toilet clean. To disinfect your toilet, you can occasionally use borax instead. To clean the outside of your toilet, just wipe with vinegar.
- Wipe away mold and mildew with straight vinegar.
- Sprinkle essential oil on a cotton ball and place it in a room to give it a fresh scent. (You can even do this in your car!) Experiment with different oils. Lavender is great for bedrooms to help you relax. Citrus oils smell wonderful for the rest of the house. Be sure to place out of reach of children and pets.
What green Goddess cleaning habits work for you? Do you have any tips or recipes to share?