Domestic chores form an inevitable part of our weekly schedule no matter where we live. If we stop cleaning our homes on a regular basis, the outcome may be quite dangerous for family well-being. Many people with busy lifestyles tend to speed up the cleaning process by using the strongest cleaners available on the market to maintain the hygiene in their homes. That is an acceptable option of course, however, we have to make sure that the method of sanitising is environmentally friendly and doesn’t hurt the health of children or pets. If you or other family members often experience some strange symptoms such as sneeze and cough, or even something more serious, like stomach aches, it’s time to stop and think about how you clean at home.
Commercial detergents are often caustic, toxic and there might be slight, invisible fumes left in the room after usage – a result of their chemical formula. Here are some tips and ideas on adopting a healthier lifestyle through green cleaning:
Common household toxins
There are many organisations and laboratories situated all over the world (like The Environmental Working Group) that examine the safety every common ingredient used in household products. Their conclusions are disturbing at the least – roughly 70% of the detergents and cosmetics found in the stores contain at least one ingredient, which is considered harmful to our skin or respiratory system. Here’s a short list of the most hazardous chemicals you should avoid:
- Bleach – the fumes of this product contain chlorine and chloroform. Both are linked to respiratory and neurological issues. Bleach also produces dangerous fumes when mixed with acids.
- Ammonia – it’s a dangerous skin and respiratory irritant.
- 1,4-dioxane – it’s a suspected carcinogen, you can find it in many multi-purpose detergents.
- Formaldehyde – it’s a known carcinogen, they use it commonly as a preservative in many detergents and hygiene products.
- Quats (Quaternary Ammonium Compounds) – these are found in most spray cleaners and fabric softeners, known asthma triggers.
- Fragrances – the pleasant smell of most detergents is achieved by mixing chemical compounds, that can trigger allergies and asthma.
Health implications from using toxic detergents
The health issues caused by using toxic household detergents, cosmetics and other similar products can vary depending on the level of toxicity, the length of exposure and the pre-existing health conditions of the person, but some of the most common problems are:
- Respiratory issues and asthma
- Hormone disruption
- A compromised immune system
- Various types of cancer
- Thyroid and reproductive issues
Benefits from going green
Less indoor air pollution. When you use regular toxic products, unpleasant smells can linger in the premises for a couple days after the cleaning. If you take the chance and go green – you’ll soon forget the strange odours. Additionally, you can improve the quality of the indoor air by placing some plants that are great air purifiers and don’t require a lot of care.
Child and pet-safe cleaners. In fact, smells are more than just unpleasant. They can be quite harmful for many home pets and what’s worse – for your children. If they are allergic to one or more of the chemicals used in store-bought cleaning products, serious health risks may exist without you even knowing it.
Healthier home interior. Going green is surely a wise move and it’s an easy way to take care of your family members’ well-being. Beside the pure air and nice smell, they will enjoy an environment that’s free of allergens and harsh toxins. Natural solutions will prevent skin irritations, too.
Better ingredients. Have you ever tried to read the fine print on the labels? You can mostly find at least 3 or 4 lines on complicated words – hard to read, even harder to pronounce and last but not least, nearly impossible to understand. Organic cleaners are much different and crystal-clear when it comes to the ‘what’s in’ topic.
Lower price. Not much need for further explanation. Homemade and green cleaners are an affordable option compared to the detergents you buy in stores.
Green cleaning alternatives
The non-toxic and nature friendly alternatives to common detergents are inexpensive to make, they can last a long time if stored in spray bottles or plastic containers, and there are plenty of tips and recipes for ecological detergents online, that can help you clean even the biggest mess. The basic ingredients you’ll need:
- White vinegar – a natural acid and antibacterial agent, perfect for eliminating stains and disinfecting almost everything around the house.
- Distilled water – this water is decontaminated, free of all hard elements, chemicals and bacteria.
- Baking soda – it works well on grease and other stubborn dirts when combined with vinegar. It absorbs moisture, lifts stains, and deodorises.
- Lemon juice – it’s also an acid, perfect for killing mould and mildew. It also has whitening abilities smells nice.
- Olive oil – you can use a few drops to polish wooden surfaces to perfection.
- Alcohol – vodka works great for disinfecting things like the fridge and other contaminated areas.
- Essential oils – they are good natural substitute for the added fragrances in most detergents.
A few nature friendly cleaning recipes
Here are some recipe examples for nature friendly cleaning detergents you can make yourself at home:
All-purpose cleaner. Mix ¼ cup baking soda and ½ cup white vinegar, add around 2 litres of warm water and put the solution into spray bottles. You can use it on all kinds of bathroom and kitchen surfaces, windows, inside the fridge, and more. You can add a few drops of essential oil of choice for a better smell.
Carpet stain removal. Apply on the stain, let it do its magic for a few minutes, and scrub the stain with a brush and some warm soapy water. For new and greasy stains, you can apply some cornstarch, wait for it to absorb the liquid (20-30 minutes), then vacuum. For older carpet stains, you can also try this natural paste – just mix equal parts borax, white vinegar and salt. Rub the paste into the stain and leave for a few hours. After that vacuum.
Oven cleaner. First apply some water to the oven surface with a sponge and water. Then get 1 cup of baking soda and spread it all over the oven. Then get some white vinegar, put it in a spray bottle and spray it over the baking soda. The solution will start foaming and fizzing. Leave it to work overnight, and in the morning wipe everything away.
Drain cleaner. If you want to clean your drain naturally, all you need is some water, vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda. Mix everything and pour it into the drain. It’s that easy!
Laundry detergent. Get 4 bars of castile soap, grate them and add 2 cups of washing soda. If you want, you can add a few drops of essential oil of your choice. Use 1-2 tablespoons per load of laundry. Store it in an airtight container with limited exposure to moisture and light.
Melanie Johnson is an Australia-based blogger and a marketing executive for Fantastic Services Group – a licensed home improvement company, which provides a wide range of services for commercial and residential clients in the fields of cleaning, gardening, handyman and pest control services.