In the US, for example, one in three people suffer from allergies, asthma, sinusitis, or bronchitis (US National Center for Health Statistics). Some cleaning chemicals are allergy and asthma triggers, so treatment for these conditions should include reducing synthetic chemicals in the home environment. Yet the federal government doesn’t require cleaning product manufacturers to list ingredients on their products. This makes choosing healthier products difficult for consumers. Therefore, a number of questions exist in order to determine the best steps to determine the steps to clean your home in a healthier manner.
WHAT’S IN YOUR CLEANING PRODUCTS?
- Quaternary Ammonium Compounds or “Quats” that are often asthma triggers found in spray cleaners and fabric softeners.
- Chlorine Bleach fumes can contain chlorine and chloroform, which have been linked to respiratory and neurological effects and cancer. Bleach is also highly reactive and can form other dangerous gases when it contacts ammonia or acids such as vinegar.
- Formaldehyde, a preservative, is a known carcinogen.
- Perchloroethylene (“PERC”) is found in spot removers, home dry cleaning products, and upholstery cleaners. PERC is a probable carcinogen and neurotoxin.
- Ammonia is a respiratory and skin irritant.
- Antibacterials, many of which have been banned by the FDA from hand and body soaps in 2016, may still be found in cleaners. The banned substances have been linked to endocrine disruption and antibiotic resistance. However, safety data on many antibacterials used as alternatives is scant.
- 2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE, BCEE, or Butyl cellosolve) is found in laundry stain removers, oven cleaners, and degreasers. 2-BE is a skin and eye irritant that made the list of toxic substances in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
- Diethylene Glycol Monomethyl Ether (also DEGME or Methoxydiglycol) is a solvent used in some degreasers and heavy-duty cleaners. It has been banned for use in cleaners in Europe because of its linked to reproductive health effects.
- Fragrance is a common ingredient referred to simply as “fragrance” that may contain hundreds of different chemical compounds. These may include phthalates, an endocrine disruptor. Fragrances may trigger asthma and allergies.
HOW HARD WILL IT BE TO FIND SAFE INGREDIENTS FOR SUBSTITUTIONS?
Here is a list of common, environmentally safe ingredients that you can use alone or in combination for a wealth of household applications. The vast majority of cleaning projects can be tackled with nothing more than vinegar, baking soda, soap, and water, but other ingredients are useful for specific jobs.
ARE THERE QUALITY HOMEMADE, NON-TOXIC CLEANING PRODUCTS?
1. Baking Soda – Trusted for over a century, baking soda cleans, deodorizes, softens water, and scours.
2. Soap – Unscented soap in liquid form (along with soap flakes, powders, or bars) is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Castile soap is one example of an excellent, versatile cleaning ingredient. Avoid using soaps that contain petroleum distillates.
3. Lemon Juice – One of the strongest food acids, lemon juice is effective against most household bacteria.
4. White Vinegar – Use white vinegar to cut grease; remove mildew, odors, and some stains; and to prevent or remove wax build-up.
5. Washing Soda – Washing soda or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a mineral. It cuts grease; removes stains; softens water; and cleans walls, tiles, sinks, and tubs. Use with care, since washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
6. Vegetable or Olive Oil – Use in homemade wood polishes.
7. Alcohol – Alcohol is an excellent disinfectant. However, some safety concerns with isopropyl alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol) make other forms of alcohol the more cautious choice. Vodka is a potent odor remover, and other forms of ethanol (grain alcohol) can be used for cleaners and disinfectants.
8. Cornstarch – Use cornstarch to clean windows, polish furniture, and shampoo carpets and rugs.
9. Citrus Solvent – Citrus solvent cleans paintbrushes, oil and grease, and some stains. But beware: citrus solvent may cause skin, lung or eye irritations for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.
10. Oxygen Bleach – Oxygen-based bleach (usually made from sodium carbonate and/or peroxide) gently removes stains, whitens fabric, and has a number of applications in household stain removal. Many common brands of oxygen bleaches have a number of additional (and less benign) chemicals, so it’s best to look up the brand in the Environmental Working Group’s cleaners database before using.
11. Hydrogen Peroxide – A common disinfectant for wounds, hydrogen peroxide can also be used for disinfecting in the kitchen or bathroom. Its mild bleaching effect makes hydrogen peroxide an excellent stain remover for fabrics and grout. It may cause skin or respiratory irritation, so handle with care.
With all of these available to either work independently for natural cleaning or combine for their useful benefits, there is much to gain for both the natural atmosphere of your home and the health of your family. Considering the dangers of the many chemicals that come in the cleaners purchased from the store, there are alternatives for all of these in some natural form, providing an incredibly pure and safe option to cleaning the house.