Easy Steps to Cleaning Up Your Cleaning Products

Cleaning products are not regulated by the FDA; however, makers are required by the EPA to list ingredients that are active disinfectants or potentially harmful. Otherwise, they usually keep their other ingredients secret, presumably so competitors cannot copy their formulas.  Disturbingly, the EPA, under the terms of 1976's Toxic Substances Control Act, cannot require chemical companies to prove the safety of their products unless the agency itself can show that the product poses a health risk-which the EPA does not have the resources to do. 

The Environmental Working Group is a great resource to use to find out what is in your cleaning products.  You can also review the Environmental Working Group’s Top Green Cleaning Products by clicking here and search products that you use to see how they are rated by the EWG.  

Make your home Toxic Free.

Step 1: We recommend that you take inventory of your cleaning items and check to see if they contain toxic ingredients.  The following is a list of common household cleaners and detergents.

  • All purpose cleaner
  • Window/glass cleaner
  • Wood cleaner
  • Bathroom/tile cleaner
  • Toilet bowl cleaner
  • Dish soap
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Hand soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Carpet cleaner

My family uses Seventh Generation products (which can be found in most grocery stores) including their all purpose and toilet bowl cleaners, liquid dishwasher detergent and powdered laundry detergent.  I always buy scent free products and also make some of our cleaners using the below recipes for window and wood cleaners.  Generally speaking, if you are looking for safer alternatives, browse the cleaning products sections of natural foods markets such as Whole Foods, which are populated with lesser-known but more green-friendly brands and remember to look for fragrance free items.  Of course the only way to know exactly what ingredients are in your cleaners is to make your own.  Below are several recipes for making your own household cleaners.

DIY CLEANERS

Clean your home safely — and cheaply — with the following recipes:

Window Cleaner: Mix equal parts white vinegar (a natural disinfectant/deodorizer that reduces bacteria, mold, and germs) and water in a spray bottle.

Scouring Powder: Make a paste of baking soda and nontoxic dish soap (about 1 to 1 ratio, use less than you think you will need, it makes a lot; add water, if needed, to thin).

Wood Cleaner: Mix equal parts water and vinegar, plus a few drops of olive oil. Add essential oils for fragrance if you want. You can also add a small amount of nontoxic dish soap if needed.

Bleach: For laundry, add lemon juice (another natural disinfectant), borax, washing soda, or hydrogen peroxide to the rinse cycle. For general disinfecting, use nontoxic soap and/or white vinegar. Certain essential oils (including tea tree, lavender, orange, and eucalyptus) are antiseptic and can be added to water in a spray bottle to make all-purpose cleaners.

Basic sink cleanser — Combine ½ cup baking soda with six drops essential oil (such as lavender, rosemary, lemon, lime or orange). Rinse sink well with hot water. Sprinkle combination into sink and pour ¼ cup vinegar over top. After the fizz settles, scrub with a damp sponge or cloth. Rinse again with hot water. (From The Naturally Clean Home, by Karyn Siegel-Maier.)

Oven cleanser — Put a heatproof dish filled with water in the oven. Turn on the heat to let the steam soften any baked-on grease. Once the oven is cool, apply a paste of equal parts salt, baking soda, and vinegar, and scrub. (From Super Natural Home, by Beth Greer.)

Bathroom mildew remover — Good ventilation helps prevent mildew and mold. When they do occur, make a spray with 2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon each of tea-tree and lavender oil. Shake first and spray on trouble spots. The oils break down the mildew so there’s no need to wipe it down. (From Green Interior Design, by Lori Dennis.)

Carpet shampoo — Mix 3 cups water, ¾ cup vegetable-based liquid soap, and 10 drops peppermint essential oil. Rub the foam into soiled areas with a damp sponge. Let dry thoroughly and then vacuum. (From The Naturally Clean Home.)

Laundry soap — Try “soap nuts” made from the dried fruit of the Chinese soapberry tree. Available in natural groceries and online, the reusable soap nuts come in a cotton sack that goes into the washing machine with clothes.

Dusting — Skip the furniture polishes. Instead, use a microfiber cloth. Made from synthetic fibers that are then split into hundreds of smaller microfibers, they capture dust more efficiently than regular rags. If necessary, a little olive oil makes a fine polishing agent.

Resources:

DIY Non-Toxic Home Cleaners 

8 Hidden Toxins: What's Lurking in Your Cleaning Products?

See http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners for product lists

See http://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2016/04/ewg-ranks-cleaning-products-babies for information on cleaning products for infants