We all want our homes to be healthy, and free of toxins and other nasties.
Many of us have done a detox in order to eliminate internal toxins from our body, but how many of us do anything about the toxins in our own homes?
There are several things you can do to boost the health of your living spaces – and the wellbeing of those living in it.
Some of the products we buy to keep our homes clean and fresh may contain ingredients that are unhealthy or even toxic. The average home contains 500-1,000 chemicals, many of which we are unable to see, smell or taste. While these chemicals may be tolerated individually and in small doses, problems can arise when one is exposed to them in combination or in larger doses.
It is surprisingly easy to minimise the effect of these toxins in our day-to-day life by doing a little research and switching some of your old, toxic products for new, healthier versions.
Use these simple tips to add some green to your spring cleaning routine this year and create a home that’s free of potentially dangerous chemicals.
1. Switch to plant-based products.
Harness nature’s power by using plant-derived cleaners that are pH-balanced and free of toxins such as formaldehyde, ammonia, chloroform, phosphates, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) (were banned by most countries several decades ago) and 1,4-dioxane. Always read ingredient labels carefully and look for:
- Full ingredient disclosure
- Naturally derived ingredients, such as coconut, lavender, and citrus
- Hypoallergenic, especially for products that come in contact with your skin.
One great source is the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, which lets you research over 2,500 products to find your greenest choices, decode technical ingredients, manufacturer updates, and more. Looking for green, organic, or environmental friendlier cleaning products is great, but take that one step further: employ a do-it-yourself mentality and make your own household cleaners.
2. Use pet-friendly cleaning products.
Because of their smaller size, our pets are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of toxic cleaning products—their symptoms can range from respiratory and skin irritations to neurological damage. Using plant-based cleaners, especially on floors and carpets, is a great way to protect our pets—and the entire family—from harmful ingredients.
3. Find Natural ways to Replace Toxic Household Cleaners.
Everything from the air you breathe to the food you eat to the products you clean your house with can create a toxic overload. But you have more control than you might realize to minimize your toxic load, and optimizing cleaning products is a great place to start. If you’re ready to “green up” your household cleaning products, we have some amazing low-toxic alternatives that are simple, affordable, and will leave your house sparkling.
Natural Alternatives to Bathroom Cleaners
- Tiles: Steam the bathroom to loosen the dirt. Mix baking soda and lemon juice to form a paste. Rub the paste into the grout using an old toothbrush or your fingers. Leave for a few minutes or longer if they are very dirty, then wipe off with a damp cloth.
- The toilet: Wipe the outside of the toilet first using a solution of warm water and dishwasher soap. Then clean the lid — don’t forget the inside of the lid. Clean the rim using the same solution. To clean the bowl, use a good quality cleaner with a disinfectant. If the bowl is very stained, take ¼ cup of borax and ⅓ cup of white vinegar. Pour them into the toilet bowl and leave overnight. In the morning, brush and flush.
- The bath and basin: Clean with bicarbonate of soda and a damp cloth. This will also remove odors so there’s no chemical smell. To make your taps sparkle, clean them with white vinegar, but be sure to rinse them thoroughly with warm water or the vinegar may eat the plating.
- Showers: Clean the tiles as previously instructed. To clean the grimy film off the door, use white vinegar, rinse, and shine dry.
Natural Alternatives to Kitchen Cleaners
- Cleaning your oven: Use four teaspoons baking soda and one teaspoon borax. Mix to a paste with a little water. Rub onto the oven, then wipe off with a damp cloth.
- Microwaves: Place a lemon cut into two inside the microwave. Microwave on high for two minutes. Remove the lemon and wipe away the grease and grime.
- Drains: Put one tablespoon baking soda and one cup of white vinegar down the drain. Pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain. It will bubble and foam and sometimes spit back some dirt and slime. If it is very badly blocked, repeat this a few times.
- Dishes: Place two teaspoons of white vinegar into your rinse water to sterilize and give sparkle to your dishes.
- Cutting board: To remove odors from a wooden chopping board, rub with dry mustard powder, then brush off.
Natural Alternatives to Stain Removal
- Red wine: Cover the spill immediately with salt (plain salt will do) or baking soda. Wash as normal. If the spill is on a carpet, vacuum when the salt is dry.
- Salad dressing: Apply corn flour or cornstarch to absorb the grease. If an orange spot remains, blot (don’t rub) with white vinegar until the stain disappears. Wash as usual.
- Chocolate: Soak for 30 minutes in cold water then wash as usual.
- Curry: Squeeze lemon juice over the stain. Wash as normal.
- Mud: Allow to dry. Sprinkle bicarbonate of soda over the patch then vacuum.
- Candle wax: To remove candle wax, place a piece of brown paper over the spilled wax then iron until the paper has absorbed all the wax.
- Air freshener: Use two cups cold water, one teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (to neutralize the acid smells), one tablespoon lemon juice (to neutralize the alkaline smells), and a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Place all in a spray bottle and spray!
Natural Alternatives for General Cleaning
- Windows: Take a bucket of warm water. Add one part white vinegar to four parts water. Clean windows with a sponge. Buff with newspaper. Alternately,mix water and corn flour to a milky consistency. Use a cloth to clean and shine. You can also mix a quarter cup of white vinegar into a bucket of warm water. Wash windows with a soft cloth. Buff to a shine.
- General cleaner: Mix one cup white vinegar and cup water in a spray bottle. Spray and wipe. The odor will evaporate when it is dry. To remove stubborn marks, warm the mixture first. White vinegar can kill up to 92 percent of bacteria.
4. Breath fresh air.
Indoor air is typically 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Home insulation, so wonderful for keeping our homes warm in winter and cool in summer, doesn’t allow fresh air in, so we’re constantly breathing in the same stale air. Wall to wall carpeting keeps us cozy too, but can introduce a myriad of toxins to our well-insulated homes. They can also trap dirt, fleas, dust, dust-mites and lead.
Opening windows regularly to encourage good air circulation will flush out built-up indoor pollutants, known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
Use extraction fans to remove combustion pollutants when cooking. Use exhaust fans when showering or using the laundry dryer to remove excess moisture that can lead to mould growth.
Minimising the presence of airborne pollutants by choosing furnishing products made from natural fibres where possible, and taking care with your choice of consumables.
Inject some life and energy into your home with lots of indoor plants. They not only look amazing, but the impact of plants on air quality is well documented.
5. Keep house dust to a minimum (as more dust means more toxins).
Mop all surfaces at least once a week, dust surfaces with a damp cloth, and reduce clutter in the home where dust likes to settle and collect. Use a vacuum cleaner (with a HEPA filter, preferably) for your carpets. HEPA-filter vacuums capture the widest range of particles and get rid of allergens.
Making these simple changes in the way you clean will dramatically minimise your daily toxin exposure. Ultimately, you have a say in purchasing household cleaners.
These and other homemade alternatives to potentially toxic household cleaning products can minimize your toxic load while saving you money and potentially your health.
Manufacturers spend big money to make cleaning products look “green,” organic, environmentally friendly, or otherwise safe when they actually contain potentially harmful chemical ingredients. Just like with food, don’t go by what the front label says; flip the product around and read its ingredients.