by Amber Erickson Gabbey
Last month we talked about spring cleaning and how to tackle that task with minimal stress. Now let’s take it one step further. Spring cleaning (which doesn’t have to happen only in the Spring so don’t think you’re off the hook!) is about removing the old, and moving forward into the energy of summer without clutter and mess. For most of us, this means pulling out all the fancy cleaners and getting to work–but these could be doing more harm than good.
Cleaning products, while they do their job, often contain harmful chemicals and toxic ingredients. It’s generally a bad sign when the product tells you to use gloves and avoid breathing in the fumes. But inside a home, it’s hard to avoid inhaling the fumes and even with good ventilation, those chemicals will sit in the air, on the furniture, and in the carpet. You have to ask, is that what you want your family and pets exposed to?
TOXINS IN CLEANERS
Conventional cleaning products are probably the most dangerous chemicals in your home. The toxins in cleaners may contribute to indoor air pollution and can be harmful (if not deadly) if inhaled, ingested, and in some cases, touched. These chemicals are associated with everything from rashes to cancer. And chemical cleaners are not just harmful to people and pets, they are harmful to the environment, with every chemical that goes down the drain (like toilet bowl cleaner and corrosive drain cleaners) ending up in our waterways.
The hardest part about getting rid of harmful cleaners is that many people believe these chemicals are necessary to really clean and de-germ the home. That’s just not true. We’ve been taught to believe that cleanliness means the smell of bleach. Your home can still be fresh and sparkling without the use of harmful chemicals.
The good news is it’s possible to clean your home without these products, without these chemicals, and without the possible health effects.
Nowadays, you can find more natural cleaners at just about every place that sells cleaning products. These products include Dr. Bronners, Simple Green, Ecover, Bon Ami, Seventh Generation, Bio Green Clean, Meyers or Green Works, but the quality and price vary greatly. Green Works is made by Chlorox, so its affordable, but probably not as “green” as some of the others. Bio Green Clean is a great product, but crazy expensive. If you like the convenience of these products, look for key words like plant-based, non-toxic or biodegradable.
Replacing your old chemical cleaners with some of these brands is definitely a step in the right direction, but green cleaning can be even greener and cheaper. To really clean your home safely, all you need is a few basic, inexpensive natural ingredients: vinegar, lemon, baking soda, scouring pads and a hefty dose of elbow grease. Yeah, seriously. Baking soda works well to clean and polish hard surfaces and deodorize. It has some grit to scrub away soap scum and stains. Vinegar works as an antibacterial, killing germs on surfaces and also works to cut through grease and tough kitchen stains (like coffee stains in cups). Lemon is also a great antibacterial and smells good.
And using these ingredients is simple. Instead of glass cleaner, use plain water and 1/4 cup vinegar or 1 TBSP lemon juice. For showers and countertops, baking soda makes a great scouring powder. To polish furniture, use 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1 TSP olive oil mixture. Disinfect countertops and door handles with simple hot water and soap (like Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps). To freshen the air, use baking soda to remove smells and a little lemon juice or essential oil in a diffuser to add a pleasant aroma. For specific uses and recipes, you can find a ton of information online if you look.
MAKE YOUR OWN WONDER SPRAY
If you’re concerned that mixing up these recipes every time you want to clean something will be too inconvenient and time-consuming, consider mixing a batch of simple cleaner and use it on anything. Here is a basic cleaner recipe:
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 20 drops essential oil (lemon or other citrus are great) – optional
- 2 TSP borax – optional
- Hot water – add enough to nearly fill a 32-ounce container
- 1/4 cup liquid soap (either natural dish soap or Dr. Bronner’s)
- 32-ounce reusable spray bottle (found at Home Depot or clean and reuse an old bottle)
Add the vinegar, essential oil, borax and hot water to your container. Add the liquid soap last so you don’t have a bubbly mess. Use on stovetops, counters, door handles, microwaves, refrigerators, bathtubs, toilets, sinks or shelves.
Amber Erickson Gabbey, MA, RYT is a yoga teacher and freelance writer passionate about helping people live their healthiest and happiest lives possible. Follow her healthy living blog at Mindfully Written or @mindfullywrtn. When not writing, she enjoys hiking and mountain biking in the mountains surrounding her home in Colorado.