How many cleaning products does the average home use? A dish soap for hand washing, a dish soap for machine washing, rinse aid, laundry detergent, fabric softener, bleach, an all purpose spray, a disinfectant, a window cleaner, a bathroom cleaner, a high grit scrub cleaner and a soft scrub cleaner, a daily shower spray, a kitchen spray, wood polish, carpet cleaner, stainless steel cleaner, range top cleaner, oven cleaner, aquarium chemicals, carpet deodorizer, air freshener and sprays, and probably others that I’m not thinking of. Do you know what is in those cleaning products? Probably not, since there are not government regulations that require companies to either disclose their ingredients or to fully disclose their ingredients. And even if you do get some of the ingredients, what do they mean? What chemicals are dangerous? They wouldn’t be allowed to put them in products we use if they were dangerous, right? Wrong. Very wrong.
OSHA requires that employers keep data sheets for every chemical product a company uses so that employees can look at them at any time. But when we go to the grocery store to buy things as consumers, we don’t get a data sheet. We get advertisements to educate us! They tell us the floor isn’t clean if it doesn’t smell like pine! Good to know, although I don’t know what pine scent has to do with cleanliness. They tell us that we won’t have to clean because the bubbles will scrub for us! I have never seen any scrub brushes actually fly out of that can, though. They tell us that they are green! What does that mean, anyway?
The reality is that most cleaners are bad for the environment. Most cleaners contain known or suspected carcinogens, lung and eye irritants, stomach irritants and skin irritants. Many contain phosphates that are terrible for water ways and kill off fish and other marine life. The packaging fills landfills. Antibacterial agents lower our own ability to fight off germs while causing bacteria and viruses to mutate and become antibiotic resistant.
Are your only alternatives to these cleaners a dirty house or hours upon hours of scrubbing? Not at all! Most cleaners can be replaced with a few, non-toxic items that work just as well.
Soap: Soap is an amazing substance! It kills most of your everyday germs. It cuts through grease and dirt and allows it to be rinsed away. And you can get it in a variety of delightful forms that don’t include dangerous chemicals. I prefer a liquid castile soap like Dr. Bronner’s. Soapy water cleans counters, sinks, bathtubs, toilets, floors, tables, hands, feet, faces, stoves, and on and on. Put it in a spray bottle and it is all-purpose cleaner. Add 2-3 tablespoons of liquid soap to a 20 oz spray bottle of water and you’ve got a highly effective bug spray. Want it to smell flowery like chemical cleaners? Add a few drops of essential oil in your favorite scent. I keep a bottle in the van for cleaning up children, spills, dishes at picnics, etc. This is my go-to cleaner. *Soap will irritate eyes.
Baking Soda: Another amazing substance! Sprinkle on carpet to deodorize safely. Let sit for several minutes then vacuum up. Sprinkle on dried on messes, or things that need some abrasion and it cuts your scrubbing in half. Leave a dish of it sitting in an area that smells less than fresh and it will pull the bad scents out of the air. Burned dinner to the pan? Wash once, easily. Sprinkle baking soda on burned on areas. Wash again. Repeat as necessary and watch the mess disappear without the elbow grease. Have a pitted surface that is hard to clean (like plastic toys that hold dirt below the surface)? Sprinkle with baking soda, then spray on vinegar. The dirt will bubble to the top so you can wash it off. I took a glass peanut butter jar with a metal lid and used a nail to poke several holes in the lid. I put my baking soda inside and now I have a baking soda shaker. *Baking soda poses a mechanical hazard to eyes.
Vinegar: Dare I use the word amazing again so soon? Vinegar has so many uses that many people don’t know of. It is a good antiseptic and kills almost as many germs as bleach, without all of the harsh side effects of bleach. It removes rust and lime from coffee pots, fixtures, and other metal items. It is also a great deodorizer. Sprayed on baking soda, it will bubble and remove all baking soda residue. When we’ve got a sick kid in the house, we will use a vinegar and water (50/50) spray around the house to get rid of germs. It is also great in those proportions to mop floors. Some people love it for cleaning windows as well.
The majority of my cleaning is done with these three things. There are a few things that we do still use commercially prepared cleaners for. I’ve just found a great carpet cleaner for pet spots and stains which has come in quite handy for potty learning! It is made by Earth Friendly Products. We use Seventh Generation laundry detergent. We use dishwasher detergent made by Earth Friendly Products and hand dish soap by Seventh Generation. I have a glass cleaner made by Seventh Generation, but I rarely use it. And if you don’t want to use any commercial products, there are lots of recipes available online for laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and other cleaning preparations.
A few tips for buying commercially prepared cleaners:
* Buy something that states what is in it. If a company won’t disclose its ingredients, it has something to hide.
* Avoid chlorine bleach. It has devastating effects on living beings and the environment.
* Avoid antibacterial products.
*Be very careful with pine and citrus products. These are very strong and can cause great damage to anyone who might accidentally ingest them. Ingesting pine oil (as is used in Pine-Sol) can cause pneumonia among many other physical issues.
* Avoid unnecessary cleaners like air fresheners. Use baking soda or essential oils (or both) instead.
* Be careful with anything that you spray. Sprays are inhaled, and can cause irritation, even if you aren’t using chemicals.
* Be careful with packaging. Buy containers that can be refilled or recycled. Aerosols are terrible for the environment and should be avoided if at all possible.
* Avoid corrosive drain cleaners. Invest in a plumbing snake instead.
What tips do you have to add?