If anyone in your family complains of frequent headaches, respiratory problems, sneezing attacks or watery eyes, try replacing your household products with a natural alternative.
Although they may look and smell harmless, fumes from synthetic fragrances and cleaners have a pronounced effect on your health. While all ages are susceptible, babies and young children are especially at risk due to their small body and developing immune system.
Chemicals in household cleaners and air fresheners (which are really just synthetic fragrances that cover up odors) can trigger a wide range of reactions: trigger asthma and other respiratory problems, irritate the skin or eyes, and even affect your mood and behavior. Some chemicals have been associated with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and attention-deficit disorders.
To avoid necessary exposure to toxic chemicals, I make my cleaning products using the following ingredients. This would be a fun activity for kids – they enjoy making things and might even be more willing to help you clean with one of their creations!
If you prefer to purchase ready-to-use products, there are a number of green cleaning brands, but be selective. There is no way to regulate what the words green or natural mean, and companies are not required to list ingredients due to trade secrets.
ALCOHOL: Isopropyl or denatured alcohol (vodka, brandy, etc.) is preferable to rubbing alcohol because it doesn’t contain excess water or perfume. Alcohol can remove stains and act as a disinfectant. Remember that it is flammable!
BAKING SODA: When sprinkled on a damp sponge or cloth, baking soda polishes stainless steel or other hard surfaces without scratching. It increase the cleaning power of soap, softens hard water, cuts grease, deodorizes, and removes acidic stains. It can also be used as a laundry additive to help soften and clean clothes, and as a general all-purpose cleaner. I buy baking soda in a 5 pound bag and use it for just about everything – even in kitty litter.
To keep your refrigerator odor-free, set a small open box or container of baking soda inside. Be sure it is in a secure place – cleanup from spilled baking soda is not fun; I know from experience! When it stops working, I add the “used” baking soda to a plastic sprinkling container kept by my sink. A mix of vinegar, dish detergent, water, and soda (allow to soak) makes scrubbing of pots and pans obsolete.
WASHING SODA: This cleans better than baking soda, but isn’t as natural. While it won’t release harmful fumes, washing soda is caustic, so wear gloves when using. Like baking soda, it cleans grease and oil, re-moves wax and lipstick, neutralizes odors, and boosts laundry detergent. Keep washing soda away from fiberglass, aluminum or waxed floors—unless you intend to remove the wax.
CHALK: This mineral can be used to remove stains. Keep a stick of chalk in the laundry room for treating spills on clothing.
VITAMIN C – CAPSULES OR POWDER (Ascorbic acid). Cleans toilet bowls.
CORNSTARCH: Absorbs oil and grease, and can even be used to starch clothes.
BORAX: Kills mold, bacteria, and some insects. Cleaning your floors with it may discourage bugs and it is a great laundry additive. Not only does Borax boost cleaning, remove stains, and deodorize; it also eliminates mold, bacteria, parasites, and viruses. I sprinkle on unwanted bugs, knowing they will take it back to the nest – this works on most pests, so I don’t need to spray my home with poison. Always keep Borax and Boric Acid out of the reach of children and pets.
DISTILLED WHITE VINEGAR: Cuts grease, deodorizes, and is an excellent water softener. Also re-moves mold, stains, soap scum, and mineral deposits. Acts as a natural disinfectant to kill germs. When mixing vinegar and baking soda together, start with small amounts of liquid as the combination can overflow when activated.
ESSENTIAL OILS: Aromatic plant oils and herbs add fragrance to the air when diluted in water and sprayed. They can also be added to cleaning formulas. Some, like eucalyptus, lavender, and tea tree, have antifungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties. Pure essential oils can irritate eyes and skin upon contact, so handle with care and keep out of the reach of children.
PLANT BASED LIQUID SOAP: Look for gentle soap made with oils such as olive, palm, and coconut instead of petroleum derivatives or animal fat. These work best if you have soft water. If not, you may have to resort to detergents, but be sure they are biodegradable and free from chemical fragrance (perfume). Fels Naptha is a laundry soap that comes in a bar and is best for pre-treatment of stains before washing.
LEMON JUICE: A deodorizer, stain remover, and grease cutter. Acts as a mild bleach alternative when exposed to sunlight. Remember that concentrated lemon juice can bleach fabric if accidentally splashed on clothes.
OLIVE OIL: A natural oil that helps to nourish and polish wood.
SALT: An abrasive cleaner.
TOOTHPASTE: A mild abrasive. Cleans crayon marks from walls.
WHITE WINE: Dry white wine cleans and disinfects like vinegar. May also remove red wine stains.
Please note: While most of these ingredients are safe, all should be kept out of the reach of children and pets.