With Spring warming up the weather in most places, many are beginning the (sometimes dreaded) annual Spring Cleaning of their homes. Since Earth Day is this month we wanted to share some tips with you on how to “Green Clean” your home and use products that are safe for the environment and your family. Our hope is that you will take this information and implement it into your everyday life. While being mindful of the earth is the theme of April, we hope you will stretch your concerns throughout the year!
I don’t think I have ever met anyone who likes to clean on their hands and knees, scrubbing the floor with a brush and really using some elbow grease and I’m assuming you don’t either. While it is a necessary job from time to time, a common misconception is that extra elbow grease is required when using an all-natural cleaning products. While bleaches and chemicals may seem like better cleaners, there are risks that have to be considered including your health and the health of the planet.
What are these risks? Glad you asked. For you and your family, the most important thing to consider when using chemical cleaners are the toxins involved. According to Pediatrics magazine, a 2010 study found that 267,269 children were treated in emergency rooms between 1990 and 2006 for injuries related to exposure to household cleaners. While most of the harm was caused from ingesting the products (most commonly bleach from a spray bottle) there were also reports of chemical burns to the skin and sickness from airborne “second-hand” exposure for adults, children and even pets. Risks to the environment are not always as clear as those to our health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average home may have as much as 100 pounds of environmentally harmful chemicals in the basement, garage, and other storage areas. These chemicals end up in our groundwater when they are poured down drains and toilets or used to get that soap scum off the shower doors for example. “But my products say NON-TOXIC or ECO-FRIENDLY! This cleaner is BIODEGRADABLE.” Don’t be fooled! Claims of this nature are not backed up by federal or industry regulations and are instead listed on the bottle to trick you into believing you are buying a product that is safe for your family and the earth.
Being Green with Safe Cleaning Products
So what can you do? Plenty! We would like to share a list of eight essentials to keep on hand in your home to have a sparkling and green clean home! First, the big 3:
Baking Soda—this refrigerator staple can be used for scrubbing out even the toughest spots! Baking soda provides grit for scrubbing when added to water, vinegar, or lemon juice to create a fast-working foam. Sprinkle it on a damp sponge or cloth and use on countertops, sinks, ovens, bathtubs, fiberglass…you get the point. Instead of using chemical cleaners with bleach added to their formulas, consider swapping to baking soda; a more cost effective alternative and one that’s probably already in your home! ADDED BONUS! Baking soda can unclog your sink, naturally. Pour 1 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 3 cups of boiling water. By adding the boiling water to the baking soda, it changes its chemical composition and provides a safer choice than commercial drain cleaners which harm the skin, eyes, lungs and water supply.
Borax—this product can be found in most stores though it is usually overlooked. Use Borax to disinfect, bleach and deodorize by adding it to soap in your laundry. No longer will you need the plastic gallon of chemicals to pour into the wash or your usual all-purpose cleaner! Mix 1/8 c Borax with a quart of hot water, spray onto any surface and wipe clean with a rag. Cleaning is done!
White Vinegar—Works wonders when mixed with hot water for washing windows. Lose the blue stuff! Chances are you already have a bottle of this cleaning wonder in your pantry. White vinegar is useful in disinfecting, breaking up dirt and as a furniture polish. Dust and polish your wood furniture with a mixture of ½ cup white vinegar and one teaspoon olive oil. This makes a great all-natural alternative to aerosol cans of furniture polish, give it a try.
Each of these products are the shining stars of your green cleaning arsenal. Here are the backup players:
Hydrogen Peroxide—Provides bleaching and disinfecting action.
Lemons and Lemon Juice—cuts grease and acts as a natural cleaning tool! Sprinkle baking soda onto a cut lemon and use it as a natural scrubber.
Olive Oil—Picks up dirt and polishes wood.
Vegetable-based soap—Liquid Castile serves as a nonpetroleum all-purpose cleaner that can be used for everything from washing a car to washing a baby to scrubbing your floor! Dr. Bronner’s comes in a variety of scents.
Washing Soda—Removes stains, provides general cleaning and helps unblock pipes.
Now that you have the essential eight to consider in your next grocery list, let’s take a minute to review what is environmentally sound as far as labels are concerned.
Full Disclosure of ingredients on the package– While manufacturers are not required by law to list specific ingredients, you can still chose the products that tell you what’s not inside. “No ammonia,” “No sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate” for example.
Endorsement by a respected agency or organization– Cradle to Cradle, Leaping Bunny, the EPA’s Design for the Environment program, Natural Products Association, Forest Stewardship Council and Green Seal are examples of groups that analyze products and certify that their ingredients do not pose a risk to health or the environment.
Products making vague or unsubstantiated claims-“Natural,” “Eco-Friendly,” and “Non-Toxic” aren’t backed by any federal or industry regulations. Just because a label says “biodegradable” doesn’t mean its earth friendly… any substance can break down over time under the right conditions.
Specific Ingredients-Don’t buy cleansers containing surfactants such as alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), DEA, and TEA; nerve-damaging butyl cellosolve; chlorine; ammonia; fragrances containing phthalates; the antibacterial triclosan; and petroleum-based ingredients. Stay away from 1, 4 dicholorobenzen (a volatile organic compound also knows as 1, 4 DCB): It’s what puts the odor in mothballs and can also be found in insecticides-and it can trigger asthma.
Remember: what you use to clean is easily absorbed into your skin and body so make good choices with home AND body cleaning products.
Still want to learn more? There are great resources all over the internet. Some of ours for this post include thegreenguide.com, epa.gov/dfe and greenerchoices.org. Let us know what you think and what you clean your home with to get it naturally disinfected, glistening and glorious! We can’t wait to add to our list of green clean products!