This season always brings around those long and evil “To Do” lists. If you are anything like me, I guarantee that some major cleaning projects are at the top of that list. This year, why not adopt safe cleaning practices with safe cleaning products in your home? Many of the cleaning products that have become household standards are surprisingly harmful to your health and the environment.
The good news is that you can make your own natural cleaning products with supplies already in your cupboards. Not only will these homemade concoctions save you money, but will be healthier for you, your children, pets and the rest of your environment.
Having a small child in our home has pushed me to research the subject and I have found and tested some great cleaning recipes. I have already begun replacing some brand name spray bottles from under the kitchen sink and I haven’t looked back yet. Below are a few of my new favorite ingredients and recipes.
White Distilled Vinegar – I never knew how many different uses there was for this product. I have started buying this stuff in bulk at discount stores. It seems to be my answer to just about everything!
Lemons – This universal fruit is good to have in the house at all times. With a relatively long shelf life (about a week or two at room temperature and up to a month in the refrigerator), you can place them in a fruit basket or pile them into a decorative vase or bowl, until they are needed. They can be used as flavoring in meals and drinks, deodorizing a room and they have natural bleaching and antibacterial properties.
Baking Soda or Borax – Great scrubbing power and deodorizer.
Liquid Dish Soap – Most cleaning can be done with just good old fashion soap and water. Check that your dish soap does not contain phosphates, chlorine, fragrances, dyes or surfactants.
- Can be used on any polished wood products. With just a few squeezes of lemon you get the scent you are accustomed to. Really any kind of oil will work here
- Vegetable oil, mineral oil, lemon oil, etc.
Glass Cleaner – This, by far, has to be the easiest product to replace! The hardest part for me was accepting that the beautiful blue color, that I had become so accustomed to working with, was not a factor in cleaning power. Honestly, not only do I faithfully use this universal cleaner for all glass in my home, but my whole kitchen is wiped with this mix – counter tops, stoves, inside the refrigerator, etc. I also use it in showers to cut through the mildew. Most window cleaners contain high levels of ammonia which is both caustic and hazardous.
- 50/50 – white distilled vinegar and water – Aerosol cans packed with wonderful fruity and flowery fragrances, formaldehyde, allergens and toxic Volatile Organic Compounds. Some actually act as anesthesia, coating your nasal passages with a film that blocks your sense of smell. These products are one of the most heavily marketed cleaning items and completely unnecessary!
- Ventilation! Open windows and turn on fans
- If tough cigarette or cooking smells like fish or meat are lingering. Boil a mixture of vinegar and water on the stove for 5 minutes
- I have also left out a saucer of vinegar in other rooms to absorb offensive smells
Floor Cleaner– Although it is hard to find out information on the ingredients of some cleaners, the fact that they are a skin and lung irritant is enough to persuade me to use something else. I used this last week and was amazed at the cleaning power!
- Sink or bucket full of HOT water
- Liquid dish soap (just a squirt)
- 1 cup vinegar
- A few sliced lemons and juice
Disinfectants – Found to contain cresol an agent that could cause potential harm to liver, kidneys, blood, brain and lungs. The only way to truly disinfect something is to boil in water for five minutes. For larger areas, like bathrooms surfaces see below.
- Undiluted Vinegar kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses)
- Follow with a fine mist of Hydrogen Peroxide for extra power
- Bucket or sink of Hot Water
- ½ cup Borax
Rinse Aid (Jet Dry)
– This is one of my favorites! An expensive agent used to help with the spots that water and soap will leave on glass. Rinse aids contain surfactants. Some environmentalists argue that when they these agents are washed down the drain they become a direct threat to the animals, ecosystems, humans and also act as a bridge for other contaminants to cause further damage.
- Put 100% vinegar in the rise aid compartment-that’s it, spotless dishes!
Carpet Freshener – Most of the flowery and fresh scented powders and sprays have unnecessary additives and fragrances.
- Sprinkle baking soda generously on the carpet and vacuum up an hour later.
In an effort to protect “trade secrets”, cleaning products are not required by law to list ingredients. These products don’t list them voluntarily for a reason. Many products that claim to be environmentally safe fail to provide back up. If a chemical product is absolutely necessary, open windows or turn on fans to get the air circulating and the fumes out.
The list is endless for the substitution of toxic cleaning products. Think twice the next time you grab that cleaning bottle! Remember many areas can be cleaned with a simple soap and water solution and with just a little bit of research and time you could potential save yourself and your home environment by preventing these deadly exposures.
For more information we recommend you read Home Safe Home by Debra Dadd and The Guide to Green Housekeeping by Christina Strutt.
Written by April Pond