This is a guest post from my friend Alix McFee who just moved from Atlanta with her family and I (kinda) miss her. She’s my “chewy,” cloth diapering, vegetarian friend who teaches me lots of cool stuff, so I thought you’d enjoy her expertise on all-natural ways to clean your home without using chemicals. Comment below if you’re trying to keep chemicals out of your home!
Ah, the fresh smell of clean. It’s your reward for a hard day’s worth of scrubbing and mopping and wiping up spills.
Take a deep breath and inhale those formaldehyde, benzene, and phthalate fumes. You may even detect a few notes of chloroform and butoxydiglycol.
Wait, was that not the scent of clean you were looking for? Unfortunately, if you’re using most commercially available cleaning products, that’s exactly what you’re getting.
Products containing bleach, ammonia, and other chemicals off-gas to create hazardous indoor air pollution. Children and pets are most susceptible, but everyone can be affected. Some products are so harmful they will not only trigger asthma attacks in persons already afflicted, but can actually cause asthma!
The industry is largely self-regulated and there is no law forcing manufacturers to list a product’s ingredients. Some products list no ingredients, while others use vague terms such as “solvent” or “fragrance”. This makes it extremely difficult for you to judge how safe it is. Buying products labeled “natural” or “environmentally friendly” provides no guarantee. Citrus and pine oils are popular in natural cleaners, but did you know that they react with ozone in the air to produce formaldehyde?
Biodegradable. Nontoxic. Natural. Sound safe? Local chemists say think again. When shopping for “safe” household cleaners, don’t be fooled by environmentally friendly catchphrases, advises Carole LeBlanc, lab director of the Toxic Use Reduction Institute at UMass Lowell. Source: EWG.org
I’ve suffered from asthma almost my entire life. I can’t even walk through the cleaning and laundry aisles at Target or Wal-Mart without feeling my airways constrict. So, how do I clean my home?
Hot water. This is my number one favorite cleaner. Anything that can get wet gets washed with hot water. Get a bucket or bowl and fill it with hot tap water. Put on some gloves, grab a rag, and start wiping! The secret to cleaning with just hot water is to make sure the water is almost unbearably hot and to use a lot of it. Try it and see how much faster you will get stuck on food off of your table and countertops with hot water and a rag than you will with a bottle of cleaner and paper towels.
For disinfecting, elso keep a bottle of Seventh Generation Disinfecting Bathroom cleaner on hand for small jobs. It’s one of the few commercial cleaners I’ve found that does not need to be rinsed off, even on food prep surfaces.
Again, hot water to the rescue. I use a Eureka steam mop to clean all hard surfaces in my home. Wood, laminate, and tile all get squeaky clean and sterilized using only steaming hot water.
Hot water and a squeegee will keep shower stalls and walls clean. For a scrubbing, a paste of baking soda and water on a sponge or brush works wonders. Bar soap has been banished from our home so soap scum is almost never a problem. When we do get a ring around the tub, a half slice of lemon rubs it right off.
Talk about toxic! Most laundry detergents, softeners, sheets, and stain removers are chock full of ingredients that are bad for you, bad for your clothes, and bad for the environment. Did you know that dryer sheets contain tallow, or similar ingredients, that coat your laundry and build up over time making your towels water resistant??
It took a bit of research and then some trial and error, but we found a solution that works for us. We use Charlie’s Soap for all of our laundry. Just one ounce cleans an entire load without the use of optical brighteners, phosphates or perfumes. The best part is it rinses away completely so there is no need to use fabric softener. Stiff clothes and scratchy towels are caused by detergent residue. When there is no detergent residue, your clothes and towels will be naturally soft. For brightening whites and removing stains, nothing beats sunshine. That’s right, sunshine. Line dry or dry flat in direct sunlight and watch your whites whiten! Just ask any cloth diapering mom if you’d like a second opinion.
For more sophisticated solutions, just type “natural home cleaning” into your favorite search engine and watch the results pour in. Some people swear by vinegar and water to clean and others like tea tree oil and soap to disinfect. You’ll find easy and safe ways to clean silver, rugs, jewelry, windows, and more.
Ah, the fresh smell of clean…really clean.