The intention of cleaning is to remove stains, dirt, unwanted organisms, and to ultimately clean up your environment. To accomplish this task we turn to our trusted cleaning products, but unfortunately it is not only cleaning our environment, it is polluting it as well. The chemicals in the cleaners can be inhaled and absorbed through the skin. This is indeed is an issue and there is plenty of ongoing research to support this. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website states that there are 2 to 5 times more pollutants in the home than outside the home regardless of where you live. Household cleaning products are listed as one of the major indoor pollutants. The EPA also determined that the concentrations of chemicals in the air persist long after use, meaning others are affected even if they aren’t present when you are cleaning.
Health Effects of Household Chemicals:
The following list of ingredients are commonly found in most cleaning products: Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), 1, 4-dioxane, d-limonene (terpenes), fragrances, parabens, ethylene glycol, phosphoric acid, hypochlorite (chlorine) and preservatives.
These chemicals have been linked to many different health issues. The chlorine chemicals, fragrances and the terpenes are irritants to the lungs and skin meaning it can cause asthma and dry and irritated skin. Dioxane has been shown to cause liver and kidney toxicity in animals and in humans. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and parabens are estrogen mimickers, meaning they can play a role in estrogen related conditions, including endometriosis, fertility and breast cancer for example. SLS and phosphoric acid also dissolves the oils on the skin which can make the skin extremely dry and irritated on contact. These chemicals in general can trigger headaches and fatigue for some sensitive individuals who are using these products.
Common Misconceptions of Cleaning Agents:
There is plenty of information on the health risks of household cleaners, however, the problems lie even deeper as companies do not have to disclose all of the ingredients used in their product. Only the active disinfectants are listed, so additional chemicals in the products, such as fragrances, dyes and preservatives are often left off of the label. This makes it difficult to know if you are using a safer cleaning agent even if you are aware of the health concerns.
Cleaning supply companies are smart. They know that their consumers are getting wiser and more environmentally aware and actually looking for “cleaner” cleaning products. To compensate for any potential loss in sales some common key marketing terms are thrown on the label like: natural, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly while the ingredients listed remains the same.
Clean Cleaning Agents:
It has been tricky finding non-toxic cleaning supplies. I have decided to share some of the products that I have found to not only be safe but effective.
1 part water to 1 part white distilled vinegar combined in a spray bottle is great for cleaning just about anything including the stovetop, appliances, countertops, bathtubs, sinks and mirrors. I will sometimes add in 1-2 oz of Dr. Bronner’s castile liquid soap to the solution as well for extra benefits. As a toilet cleaner I pour straight vinegar in the bowl and then scrub. The vinegar and water worked better than I ever expected. Vinegar is excellent at killing bacteria and mold making it perfect for most any dirty environment. I mostly use this combination for cleaning now. I don’t like the vinegar smell too much but it doesn’t linger too long and I am definitely getting used to it. J
Liquid Sunshine NonToxic Cleaner by Vermont Soap Organics
This product is made from saponified organic coconut, olive and jojoba oils, essential oils, organic aloe vera and rosemary extract. It is a great surface cleaner and can be diluted to use to clean floors as well. It has a nice citrus fragrance which isn’t too overpowering, but a chemically sensitive individual may not want to try this product. I have personally used it on my countertops and cleaning of my stainless steel appliances. I was most impressed with how effective it was at dusting furniture along with a microfiber cloth. I purchased this product on the manufacturer’s website: http://www.vermontsoap.com.
Green Irene Enzyme Cleaners
I had a patient introduce me to a few of the Green Irene products. The one I have used the most is the stain remover. Having a two year old and a dog says enough about the amount of stains that plague my house on a daily basis. The ingredients in the cleaners are plant based enzymes, coconut oil surfactant and essential oils. There are different cleaning agents based on the environment you are cleaning in for ex, bathroom, glass, stain and odor, kitchen, etc. The stain remover worked great for just about every stain I used it on. You can purchase the Green Irene products through ecozonallc.com.
There are many great non-toxic cleaning solutions out there so please feel free to post what you have found that works well that is chemical free.