Many people feel the only way to get a really good clean is with strong chemicals that kill everything. You might feel safer destroying every living organism, but do we really need to use toxic chemicals to get our homes clean?
These chemicals could end up causing minor to serious and even life-threatening health problems.
- Chemicals found in cleaners are not safe and they add pollutants to your home.
- According to the EPA, levels of pollutants in indoor air can be 2-100 times higher than outdoors. Much of this comes from chemicals in cleaners.
- Asthma is on the rise, and children regularly exposed to “acceptable levels” of cleaning solvents are four times likely to develop asthma than those who are not.
- These chemicals are also dangerous for our pets, whether they breathe them in or accidentally consume them.
- Approximately 500,000 tons of liquid cleaners go down US drains each year and pollute our waters.
- Companies are not required to list ingredients for cleaning products.
- Less than 20% of products are tested for safety.
There are a lot of chemical ingredients to watch out for, but many found in common household cleaners include ammonia, triclosan, perchlorethylene, chlorine, nitrobenzene, formaldehyde, bleach, and phosphates.
But clean doesn’t have to mean harsh. Before heading out to buy supplies, check your cupboards for some of these everyday items that are safe, natural, effective and, best of all, cheap.
Baking soda: Baking soda isn’t just for baking. It’s great for all-purpose cleaning because it disinfects, deodorizes and removes stains. Use it on the sinks, tub, oven, and counter-tops. Sprinkle it on your carpet before vacuuming, but make sure you don’t have a HEPA filter on your vacuum as the baking soda will clog the vacuum. Line the litter boxes with a cup of baking soda before adding kitty litter to help with the odor. Have a stinky drain? Pour down half a cup of baking soda followed by a cup of white vinegar. Let it bubble for ten or fifteen minutes, then rinse with hot water.
Borax: Found in the laundry detergent aisle, this mineral is an alternative to bleach. It strengthens the effectiveness of soap, deodorizes, disinfects, and kills mold and bacteria. Note that although Borax is natural, it is still toxic to pets and children, and it is rough on skin. Wear gloves when handling the substance.
Distilled white vinegar: Vinegar is a grease-cutter, a stain remover, a natural disinfectant and works to soften water, too. It dissolves hard water stains and scale, removes gummy residue from stickers. It is fabulous for cleaning windows and works very well in the laundry to remove any detergent from your clothing. Washing your floors with vinegar is infinitely safer than using ammonia if you have pets or children who walk or crawl on your floors.
Essential oils: Lavender, lemon, rosemary, peppermint, grapefruit and tea tree oils are great for adding a bit of fragrance to your homemade cleaning solutions. They also have disinfectant properties. Thieves oil is also a strong natural disinfectant, and there are a line of cleaners that use this essential oil blend as the main ingredient.
Hydrogen peroxide: It’s not just for scrapes and cuts. Use it to disinfect counter-tops or to clean bathrooms. You can add an equal part of water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil for a pleasing scent. Keep this one out of children’s reach.
Lemons/Lemon juice: Try juicing a lemon to remove grease, disinfect, remove stains and to replace bleach. Throw the lemon rind into the garbage disposal for a natural freshener.
Liquid Soap (Castile or Murphy’s Oil Soap): Made from vegetable and hemp oils, it has no animal fats, is organic and all natural. Due to its super concentrated properties, one bottle of soap goes a long way, which cuts down on the use of plastic bottles. Castile soap is a type of soap made exclusively from vegetable oil rather than animal fats or synthetics. Great as a clothing detergent too.
Salt: Salt can replace cleanser because it works as an abrasive. Try it on stubborn sink stains.
Here are a few recipes for cleaning solutions.
All-purpose cleaner #1: Mix 1 part vinegar and 4 parts water to fill a spray bottle. Add a few drops of essential oil, or a tablespoon of lemon juice. Use to clean countertops, bathrooms and sealed floors or other sealed surfaces.
All-purpose cleaner #2: Mix 1/8 cup of baking soda in a quart of warm water. Add a few drops of lemon or lavender oil if desired.
Soft Scrub: ½ cup baking soda, add enough liquid soap to make a frosting-like consistency, add 5 drops of antibacterial essential oil, mix together. Use with a cloth, rinse when finished.
Glass cleaner: Vinegar — either straight or mixed with an equal amount of water — is a good substitute for standard glass cleaner. Rubbing alcohol works, too. Adding a few drops of lemon oil works great too.
Natural “Goo Gone”: To remove gooey things off of windows, sticker or tape residue, or other substances like that, add a couple drops of pure lemon oil to the area, let soak in, then scrape or wash off. Works great.
Wood cleaner: A teaspoon of lemon juice, a tablespoon of olive oil and about a cup of warm water will work well here.
Furniture polish: ½ tsp jojoba oil, ¼ cup vinegar or lemon juice.
Oven cleaner: Use a couple tablespoons of baking soda topped with an equal amount of liquid soap. This mixture works well on the inside of an oven. Wipe clean with a wet rag dipped in some vinegar to prevent streaks on metal or stainless steel. Salt with a few drops of water also will treat stubborn oven stains.
Clean a microwave: Cut up a lemon and put into a bowl of water. Heat in microwave for 3-5 minutes. Wipe**Tip: use lemon juice when you make a cleaner, heat lemon to clean microwave, then dispose in garbage disposal to freshen that as well! 3 in 1!
Toilet bowl cleaner: Pour 1 cup Borax into toilet before you go to bed. The next morning, clean with a toilet brush.
Rust Remover: Sprinkle a little salt on the rust, squeeze a lime over the salt until it is well soaked. Leave the mixture on for 2 – 3 hours. Use leftover rind to scrub residue.
To get rid of odors, make your own natural air freshener spray with essential oils. Simply mix 10 drops of your favorite oil (lemon or lavender are my favorites) with water or grain alcohol in a spray bottle, and use as desired. Also works great on pillows and bed sheets, or as a car freshener.
In the laundry room, baking soda is a great boost to detergent because it deep-cleans clothes and removes stains. Cornstarch absorbs oil and grease, so it’s a good thing to try before resorting to harsh stain removers. Borax will improve detergent’s cleaning power and can be used in place of bleach. Laundry nuts (organic laundry soap) are also a wonderful detergent alternative, and wool dryer balls can replace toxic dryer sheets.
Whatever you decide, just know that there are alternatives to dangerous and expensive chemicals. You can easily and safely improve the health of your family, pets and the environment. And most importantly, have fun with it! These are easy to make, fun to use and they smell great!