Do you want to hear something ironic? The household cleaners that we often use to rid our homes of dirt and germs leave toxic chemicals in their place. It seems strange to clean a surface, only to leave it worse off than it was before. Don’t you think? Instead of using toxic chemicals, try these homemade cleaning products to get your house sparkling.
Cleaning products are some of the most poorly regulated items on the market, yet they are often the most dangerous. Even those labeled “green” or “natural” may be full of chemicals that can damage your heart and your health. The cheapest and safest cleaning products are the ones you make yourself.
What’s wrong with store-bought cleaners?
Federal law requires that ingredients be listed on food, medications, and cosmetics packages but not on household cleaners. Unfortunately, that means that, in most instances, consumers have no idea what chemicals are in their homes.
Conventional household cleaners are packed with everything from formaldehyde to chloroform. Additionally, many cleaning products release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemicals vaporize easily, making it easy to inhale dangerous substances. VOCs cause pulmonary and cardiac problems, among many other health issues. In fact, a recent study found that exposure to VOCs may increase blood pressure. As a result, cleaning products have a history of wreaking havoc on health.
Can I buy natural cleaning products?
As consumers learn more about the harmful effects of toxic cleaning products, there has been an increased demand for safer options. Companies have responded by changing their marketing, but not always their ingredients or practices.
Many cleaning products are labeled with words like “green,” “natural,” “plant-based,” or “eco-friendly.” However, these terms are not regulated, so companies can use them to attract buyers to their products with little basis. For example, a product can have one natural ingredient and still be filled with toxic dyes, preservatives, fragrances, and irritants.
Not all cleaning product companies are deceitful, however. Some reputable companies are selling non-toxic cleaners that you can trust. Here are some ways that you can determine if a product is safe:
- Check for ingredients on the product or the website – If companies are genuinely going natural, they are proud of it and will list their ingredients. If you can’t find an ingredient list, the product is likely not as safe as it claims to be.
- Look for the USDA organic label – Many cleaning products claim to be organic but may only contain one or two organic ingredients. Only products with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic logo are considered organic. However, many excellent products don’t carry the USDA organic label, as becoming certified is cumbersome and expensive. Don’t rule a product out just because you don’t see that label.
- Check with reputable organizations – Organizations such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) research products’ health and environmental safety and typically publish annual reports on the safety of cleaning products.
Safe ingredients for homemade cleaning products
Cleaning solutions don’t need to be complex. Safe and effective ingredients that can be used alone or in combination are often found right in your home. You can complete many cleaning tasks simply with water, soap, and a bit of elbow grease. Here is a list of our other non-toxic homemade cleaning products:
Vinegar is one of the best ingredients to have on hand for natural cleaning. A mild acid, vinegar can break down dirt, stains, rust, and soap scum. Studies have also shown that vinegar is also a mild disinfectant. The antibacterial properties of vinegar help it kill unwanted microbes like the flu or tuberculosis.
While the acetic acid in vinegar is helpful for cleaning, it can damage some surfaces. It’s best to test a small surface area before cleaning the entire space.
The little box in the back of your fridge does more than just deodorize. Baking soda has been used as a natural cleaning solution for centuries. Unlike vinegar, baking soda is slightly basic, which allows it to react with acids in the air and neutralize them.
This slightly abrasive salt mixes well with vinegar to clean plastic, chrome, steel, and glass. Studies have shown baking soda to be an excellent tooth-whitener, so it stands to reason that it can also safely whiten tile, grout, and other hard-to-clean areas of your home. The abrasive nature of baking soda can damage things like glass, marble, and wood, so be careful when using it on surfaces that could become scratched.
When choosing a soap to clean your home, wouldn’t it be great if it was non-toxic enough to also use on your body? Castile soap is just that! Castile soap has a neutral pH and will clean everything from dishes to floors to toilets to fruit. It is derived from vegetable oils and is antimicrobial and antibacterial, without all the added chemicals. One study even found that it helped speed wound healing in animals. Castile soap is a great addition to your homemade cleaning products.
Lemon juice or citrus fruits
It’s no coincidence that many conventional cleaning products are scented with lemon. Not only does this fruit smell amazing when cleaning, but it also acts as a natural sanitizer, inhibiting bacterial cell growth. The acidic nature of lemons can cut grease and is an excellent choice for cleaning chrome, copper, and glass. Other citrus fruits like oranges, limes, or even grapefruit can do the trick if you are out of lemons.
The smooth nature of olive oil makes it a natural conditioner for various surfaces. Olive oil is excellent for homemade furniture polish, buffing streaks off stainless steel, and removing stickers or residue. It’s safe on leather and can even be used with a microfiber cloth to buff out those annoying water ring stains.
The lesser-known cousin of baking soda, washing soda has a similar chemical composition to baking soda, although its higher pH makes it stronger. With high safety scores from the EWG, washing soda is an excellent choice for laundry. Its high alkalinity makes it a fantastic cleaner and a water softener.
A natural solvent, washing soda can remove most stains, including blood and grease. It’s great for cleaning pots and pans and will also remove those hard-water stains in your bathroom. Washing soda can cause slight skin irritation in some, so we recommend using gloves with this natural cleanser.
Hydrogen peroxide is simply water with an extra oxygen molecule. This natural disinfectant has been used in the medical world for years. When it comes into contact with catalase, an enzyme found in most cells, it breaks the bonds and releases oxygen gas bubbles. As such, hydrogen peroxide is an excellent disinfectant for most cleaning jobs.
The bleaching effects of hydrogen peroxide make it a great stain remover as well. However, a recent study found that the use of hydrogen peroxide as a cleaning agent may contribute to indoor pollution, so use it sparingly and with caution.
100% organic essential oils
Essential oils are an excellent way to add a pleasant fragrance to your homemade cleaning products. In addition to its lovely scent, each essential oil has beneficial properties. For example, peppermint oil will keep unwanted pests away, pine is an excellent deodorizer, and tea tree oil is antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal.
Rubbing, or isopropyl alcohol is an excellent surface disinfectant with a broad range of uses. While there is a wide range of concentration levels, the best concentration for cleaning is 70 percent. Because alcohol can kill many viruses, bacteria, and fungi, it’s a great addition to homemade cleaning products.
Safe household cleaners
Non-toxic all-purpose cleaner
- 3 cups distilled water
- 3 Tbsp castile soap (adjust up or down as desired)
- 10-20 drops of essential oil of your choice
- Pour the water into a spray bottle, adding the castile soap and essential oil. Gently shake the ingredients in the bottle until mixed – store at room temperature.
- Apply the cleaner on surfaces and wipe with a damp, wet cloth. Be certain to remove all of the cleaner, as it can leave a residue if not wiped off appropriately.
Non-toxic bathroom cleaner
- 2 cups distilled water
- 12 oz rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
- 5-10 drops of essential oil of your choice
- Pour the water into a spray bottle, adding the rubbing alcohol, vinegar, and essential oil. Gently shake the ingredients in the bottle until mixed – store at room temperature.
- Use a damp cloth to pre-clean the surface. Apply non-toxic bathroom cleaner to the desired surface and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Wipe again with a damp cloth until clean.
Note: Do not use vinegar on granite or marble. Instead, replace vinegar with 4 ounces of alcohol.
Non-toxic oven cleaner
- 1/2 cup Castile dish soap
- 1 cup baking soda
- 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide
- 2 Tbsp vinegar
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- Mix all ingredients in a bowl until it resembles a thick glue.
- Remove all racks from the oven.
- Sprinkle water over the bottom of the oven.
- Cover the entire surface of the oven with the cleaning mixture.
- Let it sit for 20 minutes to several hours, depending on soil level.
- Use a damp sponge to remove the cleaning solution. It’s helpful to have a bucket of warm water for this step of the process.
- Repeat with a paper towel or damp cloth until all cleaning solution is removed.
Non-toxic carpet cleaner
- 1 ½ cup distilled white vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 3 tsp table salt
- 5-15 drops of essential oil
- Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle
- Spray the non-toxic cleaning solution on the carpet.
- Using a microfiber cloth or rag, spot-clean the carpet where needed.
- Allow the carpet to dry thoroughly.
- Vacuum the carpet to remove any dried residue.
Non-toxic wood cleaner
- 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup of lemon juice (3-5 lemons)
- 1 tsp castile soap
- 3-4 drops olive oil
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
- Saturate a soft sponge or microfiber cloth with the mixture, squeezing out any excess.
- Wash wooden surfaces.
The average American family spends upwards of $600 a year on cleaning supplies. That’s quite a sum to spend on toxic products that can cause your family to suffer from poor health. Making your own homemade cleaning products is much easier than you think. Put your feet up and enjoy your clean, safe home!
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Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD