Our readers know to check ingredients in food, cosmetics, and skin care products for health effects and are practiced at carefully reading labels and researching ingredients. Finding non-toxic beauty and personal care products is important. Another class of products where we need to put the same care into our purchases is cleaning products. Cleaning supplies are essential and used regularly around the house in large quantities. Being aware of the ingredients and choosing non-toxic cleaning products and ingredients is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
So what is hiding in the everyday cleaning products we buy? Which ingredients should we try to avoid? Here are some of the common ingredients in commercial cleaning products that can be toxic and may have negative health effects. Try to avoid or use less of these.
Ammonia: Ammonia is the most widely manufactured chemical in America and is a colorless but sharp smelling gas. Exposure comes from inhaling the gas and via skin contact and can lead to corrosive cell damage. High amounts of ammonia can cause burns in the stomach, throat and mouth.
Bleach: Bleach is often added to cleaning products in a bid to control viruses, bacterias, mold, and much more when cleaning any type of surface. Bleach is another corrosive chemical that causes irritation and cell death with contact. The worst side effects happen in the respiratory system and eyes.
Abrasives: Abrasives are ingredients that scrub off a thin layer of the surface being cleaned and along with it, the dirt and bacteria sitting on the surface. Abrasives can be physical such as, pumice or brillo pads or made of chemicals which use a chemical reaction to remove a layer of the surface, such as aluminum oxide or boron carbide. Physical abrasives are generally not detrimental to our health, but can be detrimental to some surfaces and cause scratching. The abrasives that we need to worry about more are the chemical ones as they can cause lung damage when inhaled.
Acids: There are many household cleaners that have acids within their ingredient lists, such as drain cleaners and rust removal cleaners. Skin damage, blisters, and eye irritation are all common when contact with these acids occurs.
Dyes: Dyes are often found in many different household, cosmetic, and healthcare products and it is this colorful addition that can be toxic to many people. Synthetic dyes are made from hydrocarbons which typically come from coal tar. These dyes can affect the nervous system and the immune system when users have adequate contact with them.
There’s good news for those disheartened over the truth about cleaning supplies and the ingredients they contain. There are natural cleaning methods that can sidestep the dangerous ingredients that come with commercially manufactured cleaning products and help us live with a healthier, non-toxic version of a clean house.
These all-natural cleaning methods have been around for generations and work just as well as any household cleaning products you can buy. You should incorporate more of these natural ingredients and methods into your cleaning routine.
Vinegar: Vinegar is considered a multipurpose cleaner that is nontoxic and healthy to handle. The acetic acid in vinegar makes it a wonderful disinfectant and can help lift dirt, grease, and bacteria from the surfaces you want to clean.
Baking Soda: The use of baking soda in cleaning has been around for eons and is still a good solution for natural cleaning today. Unlike vinegar, which has a pH of 2, baking soda has a pH of 9, but still helps to clean up dirt and grease in areas you’d like to clean. It also happens to be a more abrasive cleaner, helping you scrub in a healthier way.
Lemon Juice: Lemon juice is a great way to disinfect things in your house without chemically damaging your skin and lungs. As the holy grail of all things that can clean your house naturally, lemon works as a bleaching agent, air freshener, insect repellent, kills bacteria, and much more. The acidic nature of lemon juice creates an unhealthy environment for bacteria, therefore making surfaces bacteria free.
Essential Oils: Essential oils are commonly used for personal care but they can help care for your home as well. Lemon or Tea Tree essential oils are an excellent way to freshen your space and banish bacteria. Eucalyptus oil is a great one to erase moldy odors. One favorite way to use citrus essential oils is by adding a few drops to garbage pails or garbage disposals. All funky odors will be replaced with lovely fresh scents. Read more ways to use essential oils around the house in this popular article .
Castile Soap: Castille soap is a vegetable soap that has been traditionally made with olive oil, water, and lye. It is gentle on skin and works just as well as damaging chemicals, without the risk. Castile soap is perfect for laundry, floors, kitchen, along with many other things.
For healthy cleaning, homemade recipes for non-toxic cleaning supplies are super helpful. Need recipes and tips for deep cleaning everything in a house? Here are some of our favorites!
- 2 cups of white vinegar
- 2 cups of water
- 30 drops of lemon essential oil
- 20 drops of tea tree essential oil
- Mix ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to combine. Use as a spray cleaner in the kitchen or bathroom.
- Heat oven to 125 degrees.
- When the oven is warm, spray areas that need to be cleaned of food and grease with vinegar until lightly damp.
- Add salt onto areas with vinegar.
- Turn off the oven and let cool.
- Wet a towel and scrub away the food and grease!
- 1 cup of distilled water
- 10 drops of a natural dish soap
- 20 drops of thyme oil
- Mix together in a bottle or bowl. Use sponge or microfiber cloth to wash kitchen items.
- 2 cups of water
- 3 tablespoons of liquid castile soap
- 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil
- Use to disinfect all household surfaces
If you are unsure about the safety of a cleaning ingredient that you are considering, look up how safe it is at the Environmental Working Group’s Website.
And if you don’t have time to make your own non-toxic cleaners, here are some non-toxic, Be Vivid You-approved commercial cleaners to try.
- Bon Ami Powder Cleaner
- White House Lemon Scent Cleaning Vinegar
- Ecover Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Ecover Zero Dish Soap
- Honest Disinfecting Spray
Being clean doesn’t mean that you have to deal with chemicals on a day to day basis! Find a natural oasis with these non-toxic cleaning ingredients and products that will leave both you and your home healthier!