“But WHY?” you ask. What's so bad about standard commercial cleaners? Well:
- “Many household cleaners contain a volatile organic compound (VOC) called 1,4 dicholorobenzene (1,4 DCB), which can reduce lung function by 4%.
- Ethylene-based glycol is used commonly as a water-soluble solvent in cleaning agents, but is classified as a hazardous air pollutant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
- Terpenes, a class of chemicals found in lemon, pine and orange oils, can morph into carcinogenic compounds when they mix with ground-level ozone.
- Chlorine, often labeled as “sodium hypochlorite” or “hypochlorite,” is one of the most common chemicals in household cleaners, although scientists won’t handle it without adequate protection. Decades ago, it was made one of the first agents of chemical warfare and for good reason—it’s dangerous. Chlorine can damage eyes, ears, skin and cause severe respiratory trouble.
- Ammonia, when in contact with bleach, will release toxic chlorine gas that can be deadly even in small amounts. “
Read more at Bioessential Nutrition.
Our bodies are pretty good at telling us what's healthy and what's not. I don't know about you, but my nose and eyes burn whenever I smell some cleaners, and if I'm around them too long, I get a massive headache. In contrast, while there are some natural cleaners that I don't really LIKE the smell of, they certainly don't hurt me.
So, let's take a look at some ways we can replace those products by making our own!
Cleaning windows and glass: White vinegar. That's all. Put some in a spray bottle and use it just like you would windex. I actually think it works better than windex, but it is definitely harsh on the nose. I've heard you can add lemon juice to make it smell nicer.
Natural laundry soap: Making your own laundry soap is SO easy and it's really cheap. There are lots of recipes online on how to do this, my favorites are this one for powdered detergent and this one for liquid detergent. As long as you use an all natural bar of soap, the end result will be natural too. I like using cheap bars of castile soap for laundry. You can also ask your favorite natural soap sellers on Etsy if they will sell you “oops” soap at a cheaper cost – it doesn't have to be pretty since you are just melting it down anyway.
You can also try soap nuts, which I haven't been able to check out yet, but they look rad and I've heard only good things!
Cleaning your dishes: Go here again because there is a great recipe for dish detergent. If you don't have a dish washer, remember to use very, very, very hot water to soak your dishes first and then very hot water to rinse them afterwards to make sure that you kill germs. Presoaking will also make washing the dishes easier. For stuck-on gunk, adding vinegar to the soaking water can help.
All purpose cleaner: Put some of your homemade laundry soap (1 tablespoon powdered or 3 tablespoons liquid) into medium-sized (16 oz. or so) spray bottle, fill the rest up with HOT water, shake it up and use it to clean counters, highchairs, etc. You want to use hot water at first just to make sure everything dissolves together, especially if you're using powdered soap. You can still use it after it's cooled down, though.
Carpet refresher: Get a clean, dry jar and pour in one of those little boxes (I think they're 16 oz.) of baking soda. Add about 15 drops of whatever essential oils you want (or more if you want to get crazy). My favorite combos are grapefruit + tea tree, lavender + tea tree, and peppermint + orange! Now seal the jar and shake it up. You can use it right away, but the longer you let it sit the stronger it gets! Just sprinkle it over carpet, let it sit for 15 minutes or so, then vacuum. You can also just use baking soda, but it's not as much fun.
If you don't have time or don't want to make any cleaners, Seventh Generation makes really great products and they are affordable, too. They even have coupons on their website if you want to try them on the cheap. I especially love their all purpose cleaner. I use it every day in the kitchen and bathroom to sanitize the counters!
I'm not going to lie, natural products don't always work as well as standard ones. (Except vinegar. Vinegar is a champ.) Most natural living enthusiasts (or something) seem to claim that natural is just as good, but that's not always true, or else the other products probably wouldn't even exist. I'm not going to try to pull one over on you. I just don't really care that I might have to scrub a little harder sometimes.To me, putting in a little extra elbow grease is worth the benefits of using natural products. But, if you do your best to keep things clean as you go, there's nothing to it really. Remember that housekeeping is a lot easier than house cleaning.