by Brittany Shutts
Household cleaning products are often more dangerous than the microbial adversaries they were designed to kill. Indoor air pollution can reach levels between two and one hundred times the level of the pollution outdoors. A study from New Scientist in 1999 shows that mothers in households that regularly used aerosol sprays and air fresheners had 25% more headaches and experienced a 19% higher incidence of depression. The infants in the study suffered from 30% more ear infections and 22% higher rates of diarrhea.
With that in mind, finding the right products to clean your home may seem a daunting task. We discussed this topic in a previous article on this site. Increasingly, there are products on the market that offer a more natural and non-toxic way to clean.
The labels on cleaning products aren’t required by law to disclose more than the active ingredients, and the word “natural” can be misleading. Seventh Generation is one company that has nothing to hide. They have a policy of disclosing the ingredients on the label of their products. For many other products, the Material Safety Data Sheets are a valuable reference for comparing ingredients. Click here to access the database.
Chemical-free cleaning doesn’t have to be complicated, though. The simplest means to clean your home are probably already in your kitchen. They are safe for you, for children, for pets, and the environment. Some of the basics include white vinegar, baking soda, and liquid soap or detergent. By using these simple components, you can ensure that you know exactly what is on the tip of your sponge without expending your energy scouring labels instead of kitchen sinks.
White vinegar is hard to beat as a cost-effective cleaning solution. A standard quart of vinegar usually runs for about a dollar and the hefty jug costs little more. It eliminates 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of viruses without creating a haze of indoor smog—although it will leave your squeaky clean surfaces temporarily reeking like pickles. Also on its list of talents, it can be used to cut grease, clear clogged drains, and act as a fabric softener, thereby making the hefty jug a worthy investment.
To kill mold and offensive odors, fill a spray bottle with vinegar. Use it in your kitchen on the cutting board and other surfaces. In the bathroom, squirt some vinegar onto the rim of the toilet. It’s also great for cleaning mirrors and windows.
Penniless Parenting provides a recipe for a simple all-purpose cleaner that uses a kitchen ingredient that might otherwise be discarded: citrus peels. Collect your scraps of citrus peels in a quart to a half-gallon sized jar. When the jar is just about full, pour vinegar into the jar and let it stand for at least two and a half weeks. Strain the golden-orange vinegar into a spray bottle until it is half full. Fill the rest of the bottle with water and use it on all sorts of surfaces.
Baking soda is great for scrubbing and removing odors. It neutralizes the pH of acidic and alkaline substances. A box of baking soda costs under a dollar. A little bit sprinkled on a damp sponge can be used to scrub showers, tubs, sinks, and tiles. Mix a half cup of baking soda into a bucket of warm water for a gentle solution for mopping.
Nothing cleans like good old soap and water. A good soap for the job is Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, an organic liquid soap composed of vegetable and plant oils rather than animal products. A little bit of castile soap goes a long way, which will save you money and plastic bottles to recycle later. There are many natural scents to choose from, including peppermint, lavender and rose, and citrus. A number of useful applications for castile soap can be found at Networx. For more recipes for a non-toxic cleaning kit, click here for a list from Care2.
Looking for some help around the house? Maidorganic is a Connecticut-based cleaning service that uses only non-toxic, plant-based products. You can find more information at their website.
Are you wondering what to do with the Ajax and Lysol accumulating under the kitchen sink? Don’t forego the benefits of a non-toxic home and use them up. Visit to Earth911.com to find the chemical waste facility or collection program nearest you.
Image courtesy of rhinestoneworld.wordpress.com.