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When looking for natural and non-toxic cleaning products, avoid anything with synthetic ingredients or fragrances, petrochemicals, VOCs, chlorine bleach, phthalates, formaldehydes and more. You should always read the labels of any product, and if a product does not have a label with ingredients then it almost surely has harmful chemicals inside. Look out for words like Caution, Warning, Notice and Danger, which could signal a potential harmful chemical. Learn more about healthy cleaning products here.
When purchasing natural cleaning products make sure they bottle includes a list of ingredients. You should be able to pronounce the names of all of them and should know exactly what each one is. The best kind of natural cleaning product you can buy should be made with simple ingredients that you could find in the store and make yourself.
Exposure to these toxins indoors can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous systems. And we certainly don't want ourselves, our family or our pets to come in contact with these toxins or experience any of these health problems. Children and pets are especially at risk because they experience a higher dose of toxins, not to mention their immune systems are still developing and not able to shed toxins from the bodies as quickly as adults.
There are three categories into which most of the hazardous ingredients in household cleaning products fall are:
1. Carcinogens – Carcinogens cause cancer and/or promote cancer’s growth.
2. Endocrine disruptors – Endocrine disruptors mimic human hormones, confusing the body with false signals. Exposure to endocrine disruptors can lead to numerous health concerns including reproductive, developmental, growth and behavior problems. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to reduced fertility, premature puberty, miscarriage, menstrual problems, challenged immune systems, abnormal prostate size, ADHD, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and certain cancers.
3. Neurotoxins – Neurotoxins alter neurons, affecting brain activity, causing a range of problems from headaches to loss of intellect.
Here are some startling facts about the chemicals found in cleaning products.
- 17,000: the number of petrochemicals available for home use, only 30 percent of which have been tested for exposure to human health and the environment.
- 63: the number of synthetic chemical products found in the average American home, translating to roughly 10 gallons of harmful chemicals.
- 100: the number of times higher that indoor air pollution levels can be above outdoor air pollution levels, according to US EPA estimates.
- 275: the number of active ingredients in antimicrobials that the EPA classifies as pesticides because they are designed to kill microbes.
- 5 billion: the number of pounds of chemicals that the institutional cleaning industry uses each year.
- 23: the average gallons of chemicals (that's 87 liters) that a janitor uses each year, 25 percent of which are hazardous.
- White Vinegar
- Baking Soda
- Hydrogen Peroxide (3% concentration)
- Club Soda (plain)
- Lemon Juice
- Liquid Castile Soap
- Corn Meal
- Olive Oil or Walnut Oil
- Pure Essential Oils - like lavender, lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and tea tree oils
With all of these ingredients you can make your own natural and non-toxic cleaning supplies, which cost a lot less as well.
- All-Purpose Cleaners: This cleaner can be used for just about every surface in your home, from kitchen counters and appliances to bathroom surfaces and walls.
- Carpet Cleaner: To clean and disinfect your carpet, blend 1/2 cup baking soda, 1 cup borax, and 1 cup cornmeal. Sprinkle mixture over rug and rub with a cloth. Let rest for several hours or overnight, then vacuum. An even simpler way to clean your carpet is to sprinkly plain baking soda on your carpet, let rest for an hour and then vacuum up. You can also add dry lavender buds to the baking soda for an extra fresh smell.
- Hard Floor Cleaner: This solution can be used for all hard floors (except when directed by the manufacturer to avoid even mild detergents): Combine 1/4 liquid castile soap, up to 1/2 cup white vinegar or lemon juice, and 2 gallons of warm water in a large plastic bucket. Use with a mop or sponge.
- Glass Cleaner: To make your windows shine, you can simply use club soda in a spray bottle. Add 1 tsp. of lemon juice to increase your window cleaner’s degreasing power. Leftover newspaper works very well to reduce streaks
- Bathroom Surface Cleaners: You can use the all-purpose cleaners recommended above or, for even simpler bathroom cleaning, use baking soda or borax as a scouring powder. For a softer scrub, combine 1/2 cup baking soda with enough liquid soap to achieve a frosting-like consistency. You may want to add 5-10 drops of an essential oil for fragrance. Club soda works wonders on plumbing fixtures.
- Toilet Cleaner: Sprinkle baking soda or borax, or pour white vinegar into the toilet, and let sit for a few minutes. Scrub with a good toilet brush.
- Oven Cleaner: Cover the oven floor with baking soda, spray with water until very damp, and let set overnight. Spray with water every few hours before you go to bed to keep damp. In the morning, clean out the baking soda, and the stuck-on gunk will be loosened and ready to scrub off.
- Drain Cleaner: Put two tablespoons of baking soda into/over the drain of your sink or tub. Then pour one cup of vinegar on the baking soda. This will begin to fizz a lot and is completely normal. Wait a few minutes, and then pour a kettle of boiling water over the soda/vinegar residue.
- Mold Remover: Combe 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide or white vinegar with 1 cup water. Spray on mold and do not rinse. You can also treat mold with a spray mixture of 2 tsp. tea tree oil and 2 cups water.
- Wood Polish: To polish wood furniture, dab olive oil or walnut oil onto a soft cloth and rub.
- Silver Polish: Just put some toothpaste on an old toothbrush or wet cloth and go to town. When you’re done polishing, rinse the item well in warm water and then dry with a soft cloth.