Common cleaning products, disinfectants and air fresheners are creating a toxic environment at home. Try natural alternatives and live longer.
Toxic chemicals in the home impact our health, causing ailments that range from respiratory ailments to cancer. A US EPA study on indoor air quality found that the use of common cleaning products result in levels of several Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that are on average two to five times higher indoors than outdoors. During (and for several hours immediately after) certain activities such as paint stripping, levels may be at 1,000 times the background outdoor levels. Natural non-polluting alternatives are available to replace many common cleaners and some products such as paints, paint strippers, and other solvent-based products. Solvents should be used with extreme caution and with adequate time and ventilation for the toxic chemicals to leave the indoor space before you go back into it.
How to do it now!
Replace toxic cleaning products with non-toxic (or low-toxic) alternatives. Stock up on a few safe, simple ingredients that can be used in most cleaning situations. Soap, water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, borax, and a coarse scrubbing sponge can take care of most household cleaning needs. Of course, you can buy ready-made chemical and toxin free cleaning products, but be sure you know what you are looking for and that the manufacturing company is ethical and trustworthy.
For general household cleaning, the following suggestions will save you money, reduce toxic chemicals in your home and prevent their flow-on effect in the broader environment.
In the kitchen
Replace the petroleum-based surfactants, phosphates and other toxic chemicals found in basic detergent with an old-style soap (made from coconut or olive oil) and add the essential oils that delight your nostrils.
Home-made dishwashing blend
Mix in a plastic squirt bottle and shake before each use. Change the blend of essential oils (and seed extracts) to suit.
When washing greasy dishes add half a cup of vinegar or lemon juice to the wash.
Simple sink cleaner
Mix all ingredients. Rinse sink with hot water, wash with sink cleaner, rinse again with hot water. Probably using half this mixture would be adequate.
Useful for greasy stove tops, floor patches or BBQs. Use the dishwashing blend and add hot water plus a few drops of rosemary, lavender, or citrus essential oil.
Greasy, dirty floor cleaner
Combine ingredients and mop the floor. Rinsing is not necessary.
Citrus floor cleaner
Combine in a bucket and mop! No rinsing is necessary.
A simple cleaner that will deodorise as well as clean.
Mix into a paste and apply to all areas of microwave with a cloth or sponge. Wipe and rinse well, leave the door open to dry in the air. Wash the microwave's glass plate with the dishes.
This recipe is capable of cleaning an oven: you just need some hot water and soapy suds.
There is really no need to use bleach or disinfectant in the bathroom or toilet. After all, you do not eat off the surfaces! If you feel you must use bleach use one that is free from chlorine to reduce the risks.
In the bathroom
Mould and mildew prevention formula
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Spray and leave on affected areas to rest for a few hours, then wipe off. Respray and leave without rinsing.
Whitening scouring powder - The combination of borax and citrus peel kills germs and removes stains.
Combine all ingredients in a plastic container, shake and sprinkle over the area to be scrubbed, then rinse.
In the laundry
Washing in cold water will prevent clothes shrinking as well as some colours from running. It is also best for delicate garments.
With store-bought washing powder the usual recommended capful is almost twice as much as you need for an average load. Excess detergent can build up in pipes and can actually trap dirt in clothes. Using less detergent is cheaper, easier on the environment and gentler on your clothes.
Add vinegar to a load as a fabric softener. Vinegar will also reduce soap residue and break up grease and oil, and is a natural bleach.
Basic laundry liquid for top-loaders (makes 30gms)
Combine all ingredients in a heavy plastic container, such as an old ice cream container, and mix well. Depending on the load size and dirtiness use a quarter of a cup to half a cup.
Hard-water washing powder for top-loaders - Normal washing powders cannot work as efficiently with hard water. In this formula vinegar and borax are used to soften the water.
Combine the soap, washing soda and borax in a heavy plastic container and mix well. Combine the vinegar and essential oil in a separate container or bottle. Use half a cup of soap mixture for a load and add half a cup of vinegar mixture during the rinse cycle.
Cockroaches. A mixture of equal parts borax and sugar placed in jar lids under the cupboards and the refrigerator can help with keeping cockroach numbers down. Keep well away from children and pets.
Cleaning silver. Boil two-three inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate and a sheet of aluminium foil. Totally submerge silver and boil for 2-3 minutes more. Remove silver from the pan and wipe away tarnish with a clean cotton cloth. Repeat if necessary.
Wall cleaner.This formula will safely clean painted walls and wallpaper (provided it is washable wallpaper).
Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake before each use. Lightly spray where needed and wipe clean with a damp cloth.
Note: Although these ingredients are of an organic origin they can't all be used with complete impunity. Always be careful with some essential oils and with borax. Keep them away from your eyes and certainly keep them away from small children and pets.
Learn about the effect of household chemicals on your health. The following sites list common chemicals found in household products that can damage your health.
Why is this action important?
Having poisonous chemicals in the house creates a likelihood of you absorbing some of their toxins over time. This can lead to respiratory problems, sore eyes, irritated skin and even cancer. As these chemicals leach out into the environment they persist and accumulate in soils and waterways and can make their way into the food chain.
Many toxic household cleaning products don't list their ingredients on the container; they only give you a number to call if poisoning should occur and rarely warn of possible adverse health implications from use.
This topic is a large one, but here are some headline toxins found in common cleaning products and the ailments they can cause.
|Activity||Common toxic ingredients|
|Dishwashing liquid||naphtha, chloro-ortho-phenylphenol, diethanolamine, petroleum-based surfactants (dishwahing liquids are a leading cause of posisonings in small children)|
|Automatic dishwashing detergent||phosphates (trisodium phosphate, luminum phosphate, etc), chlorines|
|Toilet bowl cleaner||naphtha|
|Mould & mildew cleaner||formaldehyde|
|Air fresheners||naphthalene, formaldehyde|
|Carpet & upholstery shampoo||perfluoro-octane sulfonate, tetrachloroethylene|
Some of the effects of these chemicals on your health
|Naphtha, Naphthalene||damages eyes, skin, respiratory system, central nervous system, liver, kidneys|
|Diethanolamine||damages eyes, skin, respiratory system|
|Chlorine||damages eyes, skin, respiratory system|
|Sodium Hydroxide||damages eyes, skin, respiratory system
|Boric Oxide||damages eyes, skin, respiratory system
|Trichloroethylene||damages eyes, skin, respiratory system, heart, liver, kidneys, central nervous system; can cause liver and kidney cancer
|Benzene||damages eyes, skin, respiratory system, blood, central nervous system, bone marrow; can cause leukaemia|
|Dichloroethylene||damages eyes, skin, respiratory system, blood, central nervous system, liver, kidneys;can cause liver and kidney tumours<|
|Formaldehyde||damages eyes, respiratory system; can cause nasal cancer|
|Perchlorethylene||damages skin, liver|
|Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)||damages skin, eyes, liver, reproductive system; can cause cancer of the pituitary gland and liver, leukaemia|
|Ethyl acetate||damage eyes, skin, respiratory system|