Most store bought and commercial cleaners are filled with toxic and polluting ingredients. These chemical-based products can have long lasting negative effects on our health and the environment.
Most federal governments usually don’t require manufacturers to list the ingredients used in a particular product. This can make it difficult for consumers to choose healthier options.
Luckily there are healthy choices available. Learn what harmful chemicals are commonly used in commercial products, and how you can make your own natural and eco-friendly alternatives.
What’s in your cleaning products?
There are a few unsafe and recurring ingredients commonly found in off-the-shelf cleaning products. Manufacturers use these harmful substances in order to save cost, production time, and increase shelf lives.
However, with the growing sentiment towards health and environmental problems, the demand for natural and eco-friendly products has increased.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysed data on the safety of chemicals used in household cleaning products in the U.S. They found that over half of the products used contained harmful substances to our lungs.
In addition, they also found that one in five also had ingredients that can cause asthma. The next time you are browsing cleaning products at the supermarket, check if they contain the following ingredients:
1,4- Dioxane is a harmful carcinogen that is known to cause organ toxicity and present in more than 22% of cosmetic and cleaning products. It is formed as a byproduct when common ingredients are mixed together and are usually contained in products that create suds – froth made from soap and water.
Furthermore, because it is a chemical produced in the manufacturing stage, it is not required by the FDA to be listed in labels.
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds or “Quats”
“Quats” are normally found in disinfectant sprays, wipes, and fabric softeners. They are considered pesticides, and therefore antibacterial, by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
However, Quats are often too strong for everyday household needs. Infact, quats are well known respiratory and skin irritants and the side effects of using it easily outweigh the benefits.
Because they tend to stay on surfaces for long periods of time, kids at home are at risk through continuous contact. There are plenty of healthy alternatives that do the same job with the same efficiency.
Bleach fumes are highly reactive and prone to forming other dangerous gases when in contact with acids such as vinegar, or ammonia. In addition, there are often large amounts of chlorine and chloroform present, both of which have been linked with long-term respiratory or neurological problems.
Perchloroethylene or “Perc”
“Perc” is usually found in spot removing, dry cleaning, or upholstery cleaning products. Suspected to be carcinogenic and potentially a neurotoxin, high exposure to this substance can lead to skin and respiratory irritation.
Ammonia is dangerous at high concentrations, and can severely irritate the skin and respiratory systems. Those with allergies or asthma are also at high risk when continuously exposed. It is important to wear gloves when dealing with full-strength ammonia products.
Antibacterials are toxic substances that can cause endocrine disruption and antibiotic resistance. While the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use and sale of a few types of antibacterial compounds in 2016, manufacturers will continue to create new variations at a faster rate.
Formaldehyde is commonly used as a preservative in cleaning products. Like some of the other chemicals on this list, it is created through a mixture of other common ingredients. Therefore, it isn’t required to be listed as an ingredient.
Short-term exposure to formaldehyde can result in skin and respiratory allergies. Ongoing but low levels of exposure can also result in eye, nose, skin, and throat irritations and asthma. This can make it especially dangerous for kids or the elderly.
2-Butoxyethanol or “2-BE, BCEE, or Butyl cellosolve”
2-BE can be found in stain removers, degreasers, and oven cleaners. It is also known as a skin and eye irritant by the centre of disease control and prevention (CDC), and can result in severe kidney and blood harm if exposed for extended durations.
Lastly, always be wary of products that list ‘fragrance’ or ‘scented’ in their descriptions. These substances are usually a combination of hundreds of different chemicals that can cause a wide range of health problems such as asthma and allergies.
On top of the listed effects above, most commercial cleaning products can burn the skin and eyes as well as potentially becoming fatal if ingested. Luckily, there are many eco-friendly ingredients that will get the same job done.
Benefits of natural and eco-friendly cleaning products
Here are 5 reasons why it’s better to use natural and eco-friendly cleaning products:
1. Fewer chemicals
A downside of commercially available cleaning products is the ingredients that are used to make them. Spray and scrub residue often linger in the air and surfaces. These substances are known to cause skin irritations and allergic reactions
Furthermore, the lack of labelling transparency and awareness of long-term risks associated with continued use can be dangerous for consumers.
2. Environmentally friendly
Homemade cleaning products are usually made out of baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar, which make them biodegradable, and environmentally friendly..
Chemicals used by large manufacturers harm the waterways and soil that they end up in. This upsets the natural balance and damages the already fragile ecosystem.
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) writes that there is little evidence to prove the superiority of anti-bacterial based soap products over natural soaps.
Furthermore, natural ingredients are better for allergies and those with respiratory conditions. They are also healthier for us because they don’t strip away the healthy layer of bacteria from our skin.
4. Money saver
Homemade natural and eco-friendly cleaning products are a great way to keep your household and wallet safe. They also cause significantly less wear and tear on your property and furniture which can save you significant money in the long-term on insurances and repair costs.
5. Reduce health issues
Natural cleaning products are better for our health because they aren’t overly strong. Most additives found in cleaning products like formaldehyde and chlorine bleach can result in severe health conditions such as chemical burns and poisoning.
Because eco-friendly products contain natural ingredients that you would be able to touch and ingest, it is incredibly safe for you and your family to use.
How can I clean my house without chemicals?
While there are natural and eco-friendly cleaning products sold commercially, most of them are often priced higher and only available in certain stores.
Thankfully, there are many alternatives, most of which can already be found in your pantry. Vinegar, baking soda, soap, and water get the job done most of the time, but there might be some ingredients that may surprise you.
Safe ingredients to use in homemade substitutions
Baking soda has always been known to be a good cleaner and deodorizer. Use it on utensils to remove water stains or to get rid of greasy residue lying in pots, ovens, and fridges.
White vinegar is a great grease remover. They also help get rid of stains and odours, as well as preventing the build-up and growth of bacteria.
One of the strongest, but safe to use acids around. Lemon juice acts as a natural antiseptic and antibacterial liquid by dissolving germs and bacteria. Doesn’t need to be mixed with any other liquids, and is more effective the quicker it is used after squeezing.
Can be used on most materials like wood and fabric, but avoid leaving it to soak on natural stones, or brass plated flooring and countertops. This is because the low pH will corrode the top layers over time.
Alcohol is an amazing disinfectant. There are some concerns around certain types of alcohol, but they are generally safe to use in reasonable amounts. For example, vodka is known as a very effective disinfectant and odour remover.
Cornstarch can be used to polish the furniture, clean windows, and shampoo rugs and carpets.
Can also be known as SAL Soda, washing soda is a mineral that works well against grease and stains. Perfect for cleaning tiles, kitchen sinks, and bathtubs.
Hydrogen peroxide is a strong disinfectant that is commonly used for wounds, but also useful in the kitchen and bathroom. It works the same way bleach does, but not as harsh and without as many fumes.
This makes it much safer to use. However, it should still be handled with care as it can cause some skin irritation. It is best to use it diluted with equal ratios of water mixed together.
Natural and eco-friendly alternatives
While these are slightly more expensive options, they can also be more convenient at the same time. When browsing for soaps, natural and eco-friendly keywords like ‘unscented’ foams, and ‘citrus solvent’ for spray cleaners, are best.
Furthermore, picking options like hydrogen peroxide and oxygen bleach, while not completely risk-free, are still much safer for use at home. Oxygen bleaches are sodium carbonate or peroxide based removers that are milder, produce fewer fumes, and stay shorter on surfaces.
Homemade cleaning products every household needs
Whether it’s finding recipes for natural cleaning products that disinfect, or eco-friendly products for the bathroom, we’ve got you covered.
DIY cleaning products are a great way to save the environment and your wallet. Here are 7 different types of cleaners every home needs.
All purpose cleaner
Mix ¼ cup of baking soda with ½ cup of vinegar and 2L of water. Use on stains caused by water such as shower stall panels, bathroom fixtures, windows, and mirrors.
You can also combine this with natural fiber cloths which will help lift harsher layers of grease and dirt.
Air fresheners usually mask smells and coat our nasal passages with ‘scents’ and ‘fragrances’ to distract your body from odour. However, this doesn’t solve the underlying problem.
Natural air fresheners are designed to absorb and remove the molecules that cause odour. This is also healthier as it kills any bacteria before they grow.
Baking soda, or vinegar, mixed with lemon juice in a small dish can act as an air freshener. Place them around the house and you will soon have fresh smelling bathrooms, pantries, and refrigerators.
Wiping utensils and cutting boards with vinegar and rinsing with some light dishwashing liquid can get rid of stronger smells like fish and onion from lingering. You can also add a slice of lemon to garbage disposals to get rid of the lingering waste odour.
Bathroom mould is a common problem in households around the world. They are also a health and safety concern. Fortunately, baking soda and some water do the trick. Make sure to let the cleaner sit for a few minutes before scrubbing and rinsing with water.
Carpet stain remover
Mix equal ratios of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on any stains on the carpet and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Make sure to scrub with diluted dishwashing soap after.
If the stains are fresh, you can also sprinkle some cornstarch and leave it to sit for 15-30 before vacuuming.
Clothing stain remover
Food and sweat stains can be treated with vinegar directly sprayed on prior to putting the clothes into the washing machine.
Oil and grease cleaner
Thick grease spots can be cleaned by sprinkling baking soda directly onto the area and scrubbed with a wet brush or cloth.
Window cleaner recipes have to be followed properly as too much or too little will either etch and cloud the glass, defeating its purpose. Mixing 2 teaspoons of white vinegar per 1 quart of warm water will do the trick.
Make sure to use an absorbent cloth in order to not create streak marks. Using non coloured black and white newspapers are also a great way to avoid leaving spots on the glass.
It is important to think about the long-term effects of using natural and eco-friendly products as opposed to the short-term ease of harmful commercial cleaners. Not only is protecting the environment important for any of us, it is also good to keep our households safe from chemicals and toxins.
While there are companies that do manufacture non-toxic products, they are often more expensive than their competition. This makes homemade and DIY recipes the best option. They are also a better decision morally and financially.