With the environment so much in the news these days, I seriously wondered what could I possibly do that would make a difference. The subject seemed too huge, too overwhelming, I had no clue where to start. So I began by looking at what I was putting my grocery cart every week. For years I happily purchased window cleaner, floor polishes, waxes, bathroom scourers, you name it; I tried it in my attempts to keep a house clean with minimal effort. I paid no attention at all to what I was spraying all over my house and I loved the smell of bleach; to me it meant “Clean”.
Until, that is, I did some research on household cleaners.
Boy did I get a shock.
Many common household cleaners contain toxic substances which can be harmful to our health. Including the artificial perfumes and scents used to make our homes smell like mountain streams or fields of flowers. When you realise that everything that we use in our homes eventually finds its way to the oceans and into the food chain of every living being, no change that we can make to what those things are is too small.
How do they get away with this? Simple; they don’t have to tell anyone. While the U.S. requires manufacturers to label hazardous household cleaners with general warnings, the specific ingredients that are in these cleaners are considered trade secrets and do not have to be listed. Think about that for a moment, to protect ‘trade secrets’, the ingredients do not have to be listed.
The bottom line: you have absolutely no idea what you are exposing yourself and your loved ones to when you use many commercial cleaning products.
After doing a lot of research I decided to eliminate as many toxins, additives and artificial ingredients as possible from our home. I felt that this was one small thing I could do to help make the world a better place. While avoiding commercial cleaners is not the only answer to the problem of toxic pollution, it is a step in the right direction. The more people that commit to avoiding them, the lower the pollution levels will drop.
Am I being needlessly alarmist? I don’t think so. If you have children, pets and hardwood floors you know that they all enjoy getting down on the floor and playing on it, maybe eating food that fell on it when you weren’t looking. That means that whatever you cleaned your floor with is not only being rubbed into their skin and clothes, they are also eating it as well. This is what we need to remember every time we use a cleaning product. Everything we clean with and wash with is being absorbed into our bodies and affecting our entire system.
The chemicals commonly used in household cleaners can interfere with the function of hormones, both ours and the fish and animals around us. They affect the nervous system, in a bad way; they are toxic to the respiratory and reproductive systems of both us and animals, and they can be carcinogenic. For many of us they don’t appear in large enough quantities to have a noticeable effect. But, these chemicals end up in the water supply and affecting the fish and plants which in turn affects the entire food chain of everything on Earth.
If you lable read while you shop, you will notice that many of the commercial cleaning products on the store shelves either do not list ingredients or have very vague labels. Without specific labels there is no way to know what you are cleaning with, touching, and inhaling. One thing cleaning product labels do contain is lots and lots of warnings. They all state, KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN and then list warnings such as:
- May cause stomach irritation. If swallowed, drink 1 or 2 glasses of water to dilute.
- In case of eye contact, flush with water.
- If comes into contact with skin wash affected areas with large amount of soap and water.
That sounds serious to me.
There is a website set up called the Environmental Working Group’s Consumer Guide. On it you will find listed many brands of make-up and household cleaners along with their ingredients (if they are listed). They then rate these from A to F.
An “A” indicates very low toxicity to health and the environment and extensive ingredient disclosure. An “F” means the product is highly toxic or makes little to no ingredient disclosure. A “C” indicates an average cleaner that poses no overt hazards and provides some disclosure of ingredients.
The list of chemicals in the average cleanser is kind of scary to be honest.
Polymers –Synthetic materials used as plastics and resins.
They can cause skin irritation/ allergies, vision damage, and negative effects on aquatic life.
Plasticizer – Additives to plastic to increase flexibility.
These can cause respiratory damage, developmental, endocrine, or reproductive effects (including breast cancer risks and reduced sperm counts in men), and negative effects on aquatic life.
Surfactants – Compounds that lower the surface tension between two liquids.
Surfactants may cause skin irritation, allergies, skin damage, respiratory damage, and negative effects on aquatic life.
Solvents – Liquids or gases that dissolve other substances.
According to OSHA, exposure to solvents can cause damage to the nervous system, reproductive system, liver and kidneys, respiratory systems as well as risks for cancer and dermatitis.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by cleaning products. Glass cleaner, floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner, stove-top cleaner, disinfectant, deodorizer, each one insisting you have to have it for the task at hand.
But do you really need it?
Nope. Instead of spending on cabinets full of specific, expensive (and toxic) cleaning products, you can use just six basic supplies to cover 40 different household tasks, from removing tea stains to getting rid of ants.
White distilled vinegar
Liquid dish soap (dawn dish wash, castile soap)
Melamine Foam Pads (Be careful, these are essentially extra fine sandpaper and can damage some finishes).
Note: You can also add essential oils in whatever flavor you want if you desire.
Next Month I'll be detailing some of the cleaning recipes i use every single day to keep my house clean. Then in June we have a bunch of recipes made entirely of essential oils perfect for cleaning things like sponges and cutting boards.
Clean your home and freshen the air with our safe, non-toxic all natural Green Clean. Created with care to give you a healthier cleaning experience, Green Clean will get rid of common household ickiness in your bathroom, kitchen and just about anywhere else in your house.