Lemon juice, white vinegar and essential oils – that’s all you need in order to avoid the negative health and environmental effects of cleaning
Did you ever notice how many cleaning products you use when you clean your house? Did you read the labels and the safety recommendations of any of them? Are you aware of how many chemicals are present in each product? Probably not. As we are mainly concerned about getting rid of the harmful bacteria and germs to prevent our children and us from catching a disease, the label only matters when it promises to kill 99.9% of the microbes.
Cleans the house, kills the fish
Ironically, while cleaning, you can be exposing yourself and your family to a number of toxic and harmful substances hidden behind the floral scent. The exposure to toxic cleaning products can have some immediate adverse effects but can also contribute to the development of other chronic diseases. Many ingredients found in common household cleaning products, like chlorine, ammonia, lye, sodium hydroxide, and propylene glycol n-propyl ether may cause lung irritation, eye and skin burn, increase the risk of asthma, and boost allergies. Other substances, like butyl cellosolve, petroleum distillates, nitrosamines and 1,4-dioxane may act as carcinogens, neurotoxins or hormone disruptors, causing the malfunction of the nerve and endocrine systems.
Besides the adverse effects of cleaning products on human health, there are also negative outcomes for the environment; after we use them, the substances find their way into the sewage and can reach rivers, the sea, and water reservoirs, affecting the balance of ecosystems. For example, phosphates – a common ingredient in laundry detergents- act as fertilizers in the waterways, producing algae overgrowth, which can deplete the water’s oxygen supply, causing the death of fish and other organisms.
The Environmental Working Group, an American non-profit organization focused on environmental health, did extensive research about the ingredients of 2,500 different cleaning products, ranking them into five categories from A to F: A being the safest. The results are quite alarming, as roughly 60% to 70% of the products were ranked as D and F, the most dangerous categories.
The research found that the most acutely hazardous cleaning products are corrosive drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and acidic toilet bowl cleaners, as they contain very aggressive substances to be more effective. However, in the rest of the categories, at least 50% of the products are still ranked in the lowest two places. In The Environmental Working Group’s website, you can find detailed information about brands, products and their specific threats to health.
There’s another way
At this point, you might be worried about what to do about this harmful stuff when you are supposed to keep your house clean. Well, you have some options. The first one is to pay more attention to the labels of your current products and try to find the ones that represent less hazard to health, avoiding those which are listed as poison or that include any of the hazard symbols in their labels. If you have to use any of the hazardous products, make sure to wear the appropriate protecting items, such as gloves and masks while cleaning and keep the areas well ventilated.
Try to use as less cleaning substances as possible. Dilute dangerous substances such as bleach by adding them to water (and never the other way around). Never mix different cleaning product. For example, Never mix bleach with acidic substances such as acidic toilet bowl cleaners. This action could release extremely dangerous chlorine gas. Chlorine is used as a chemical weapon in Syria these days, so you don’t want to produce it by mistake at home.
If you have a bigger budget, you can also visit the organic section of the supermarket or go to a specialized naturist shop where you will find a variety of safer options for cleaning based in bio-degradable and plant-based substances. But beware, some companies take advantage of the “eco-friendly” trend and they just green-wash their labels to make them look safe when they are not. Look for specific claims in their labels such as “no solvents,” “no phosphates,” or “plant-based,” instead of vague and ambiguous tags such as “natural” or “organic.”
However, if you want to be 100 percent sure that you are reducing your exposure to the minimum or if your budget is tight but you still want to keep healthy, we have excellent news for you. You can clean almost everything with ingredients that can be found in your kitchen. Hot water, vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda can make everything look new while not compromising your health. Here there’s a list of DIY recipes that you can prepare and use for each area of your house:
All-Purpose cleaner– Mix equal parts white vinegar and water. If you care about the fresh smell, you can add a few drops of the essential oil of your preference (you can purchase it in any nature shop). Mint or lavender oil are good options for it.
Tile Grout Cleaner– Mix 1 part water and three parts baking soda mixed into a paste. Apply to grouty area and then scrub with a scrub brush or toothbrush and remove with a warm cloth.
Glass Cleaner- For most of the cases, plain water and a mop will do the job. You can also add 50 milliliters of white vinegar or one tablespoon of lemon juice for the hard-to-remove spots.
Cookware– Mix equal parts lemon juice with sea salt and scrub. Baking soda paste is also a good option.
Toilet Cleaner-Mix white vinegar with some essential oil for freshness. Scrub as usual with toilet bowl cleaner.
Air Freshener– You can put Essential oils mixed with water into a spray container, or buy an essential oil diffuser which will automatically do it for you.