Having a clean environment is an important aspect of healthy living. It’s also just a better environment to live or work in. Cleaning with non-toxic cleaning products is an important aspect of healthy living. Neat, clean surroundings can also make one more calm and more efficient.
However, many of the cleaning products sold today are packed full of chemicals, many of which can be toxic and hazardous by emitting these into the air or absorption through the skin. Even many that are advertised as “green” can be quite toxic.
Indoor Air Pollution
The Environmental Protection Agency lists indoor air pollution as one of the leading environmental hazards and a lot of this comes from toxic household cleaners and air fresheners. What’s really alarming is that there are NO government rules or regulations that require manufacturers to disclose the chemicals that are in their products. The only thing that they do require is that products containing “registered” pesticides be labeled as such.
Some products such as oven cleaners have warning labels on them advising of precautions that should be taken when using them such as avoiding contact with skin, not inhaling vapors, etc. However, many other products carry no warnings whatsoever. Many offenders are marketed as “green” or “natural.” In fact, Simple Green ® is one of the worst offenders, containing many harmful chemicals. Here’s a list compiled by CBS News showing some of the most toxic products, however, it’s important to note that there are many, many more: https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/ewgs-hall-of-shame-of-toxic-household-cleaners/.
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds)
It’s not just cleaning products that are toxic; air fresheners and synthetic fragrances of any kind also contain harmful chemicals. Some of these chemicals include, but are certainly not limited to:
- Formaldehyde – This is a known carcinogen but the United States does not require it to be listed as an ingredient in cleaning products. It’s outlawed in the entire European Union and in Japan. The most common type of exposure is inhalation. For more details on formaldehyde, click HERE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formaldehyde
- Ammonium Hydroxide – can cause cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and burns.
- Ethanolamine – found in many detergents and furniture polish, it can cause skin rashes, respiratory distress, eye irritation, and more. Testing on animals has also shown that it can cause both liver and kidney damage.
- Phenol and Nitrobenzene – mainly found in furniture polishes, it can be absorbed by the skin and inhaled. It’s a known cause of skin cancer.
- Ammonia – This is a common ingredient in many different household cleaners including Windex, which is one of the most harmful products on the market. It can affect the eyes, lungs, and skin. Repeated exposure can wreak havoc on the endocrine system, kidneys, and liver. Windex is so toxic that it can also be used to kill wasps!
- Butyl Cellosolve – made by Dow Chemical and used in glass cleaners and other all-purpose cleaners, it has no smell. It’s either absorbed through the skin or inhaled. This one is particularly dangerous because it can lead to reduced fertility, liver damage, kidney damage, anemia, and even autism.
- Phthalates – This chemical is a carrier for fragrance and is found in glass cleaners, fabric softeners, deodorizers, air fresheners, and laundry detergents. Exposure to this chemical can cause asthma, allergies, and even reduce sperm counts in men.
These are just a FEW of the chemicals found in household cleaning products. When you think of the hundreds and hundreds of cleaning products on the market, it’s mind-boggling.
What is incredibly disturbing is that the average person has no way of knowing about the health dangers they are exposing themselves to just by cleaning or freshening their house. The likelihood of product labeling is slim to none. What’s also disheartening is that repeated exposure to these poisons (how often do you clean your house or wash your clothes?) causes them to build up in your system.
NonToxic Ingredients for Cleaning Products
Fortunately, there are safe alternatives to toxic cleaning products that work just as well without any of the health hazards. Here’s a basic list of what you’ll need to safely clean your home:
- Baking soda
- White vinegar
- Lemon juice
- Salt (the courser the better)
- Castile soap
- Rubbing alcohol
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Tea tree oil
- Cheap vodka
- Essential oils for fragrance
Castile soap can be used in all sorts of cleaning applications. Dr. Bronner’s is the most well-known brand, but if you are feeling particularly industrious or are on a tight budget, you can make your own! Here’s the recipe: https://nwedible.com/how-to-make-diy-liquid-castile-soap/.
I make my own non-toxic cleaning products. They’re quite easy to mix and I store mine in labeled, glass spray bottles that I ordered from Amazon. What’s also nice is the addition of essential oils for fragrance. You can customize that based on your preferences and they will leave your home smelling lovely.
Many of our grandparents used these products to clean with and I think they were on to something.
Nontoxic cleaning with essential oils and other natural substances can be just as effective if not more, are usually less expensive, pose no danger and smell nice.
Safe Alternatives for Cleaning Products
The good news is that there are many easy ways that you can substitute these cleaning agents – such as:
* White vinegar and water (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water) mixed in a spray bottle. This is also excellent for cleaning stainless steel appliances. It is also a disinfectant and a degreaser.
* To kill germs and disinfect, use cheap vodka. Pour some onto a rag to wipe things down or put some in a spray bottle.
* Baking soda is great for scrubbing, deodorizing, and removing stains.
* Lemon juice – neutralizes alkaline substances like soap scum and dissolves dirt.
* Hydrogen Peroxide and Isopropyl Alcohol – both excellent disinfectants.
* Olive Oil – great for polishing wood, removing scratches, and also shining stainless steel. Use a dry rag afterward to soak up all excess oil.
Here are some simple Non-Toxic Household Hacks:
All-Purpose Cleaner: Put 1 tablespoon of mild dishwashing liquid (or a few squirts) and 5 drops of lemon essential oil into an empty spray bottle and fill with water. Shake and use.
Floor Cleaner: 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar, 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol, 10+ drops of lemon essential oil, and fill the rest of the bottle with water.
Window/Glass/Mirrors Cleaner: Put one cup of distilled white vinegar into a spray bottle and fill the rest with water (leaving some room at the top). Add 10 drops of lemon essential oil or not. Shake and use.
Toilet, sink, tub, and shower cleaner: 3 cups of water plus 3 teaspoons of tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Shake. Spray on the surface and let it sit for 20-30 minutes and then scrub. It will clean easily and disinfect.
Wood polish: Combine 1 1/2 cups olive oil, 1/2 cup of white vinegar, and 50 drops of lemon or orange essential oil. Spray on furniture and buff with a dry, lint-free cloth.
Carpet Deodorizer: One 8 ounce box of baking soda, mix in 5 – 10 drops of peppermint or lavender essential oil. Sprinkle lightly over carpet and let it sit for 30 minutes or so and then vacuum up.
Fabric Softener: Mix 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 3-5 drops of lavender essential oil. Put into the rinse cycle.
Sink/tile/grout scrub: Mix baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and 10 drops of tea tree oil to form a paste. Use a scrub sponge or brush and scrub and rinse.
Drain cleaner: pour a half cup of baking soda down the drain. Then mix 1 cup of white vinegar and lemon juice from one half of a lemon and pour it down the drain. It will make the baking soda foam up. After 5 minutes pour a gallon of hot water down the drain.
More Nifty Hacks
To keep fruit flies away, reusing a bottle such as an olive oil bottle like this (see photo), rinse it out well, then mix ½ cup apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of honey, pour into the bottle using a funnel, and set near your fruit bowl. I left mine for an entire year and it caught hundreds of them and I never saw any flying around. If you don’t have a bottle like this handy, you can use a jar, put saran wrap over the top and punch some holes in the top with a fork. The idea is that they follow the sweet smell into the bottle and it’s not so easy for them to get out.
For ant bait, you can mix boric acid and sugar and place some onto a small plate or dish, and place in your pantry or under cabinets.
Sachets to keep moths away and keep your clothes smelling lovely: combine lemon peel, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon sticks, eucalyptus, lavender flower petals, and place in small sachet bags and place in drawers or closets.
To make your laundered clothes smell incredible, put about 10 drops of lemon or peppermint or lavender essential oil onto a clean washcloth and put it in the dryer with your load of clean clothes to be dried.
Dust mites: You can add 20 drops of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil to your laundry detergent when washing bedding and this will help to kill any dust mites. Another option is using tea tree oil which has disinfecting properties.
You can deodorize your vacuum cleaner by putting some lemon or peppermint essential oil onto a small portion of tissue and vacuum it up. Do it just after changing the bag or emptying it and it will last until you dump it out again.
Cleaning with essential oils is wonderful. In my opinion, they work better than any cleaners you could buy, they are non-toxic, have disinfectant properties, and shine things up beautifully. I recommend using a glass container or a glass spray bottle and labeling them clearly so you don’t mix them up.
Great Resources for Non-Toxic Cleaning
For fantastic essential oils that are less expensive than most while also being pure and high quality, I recommend MotherE. They also have kits to make your own cleaning products that make it super easy. Check it out HERE.
And there is a book that you can buy and download that has a ton of wonderful formulas for almost anything you can imagine: