Commercial cleaning agents are loaded with dangerous chemicals. And they are expensive – quite apart from their potential cost in terms of your family’s health! So why not make your own? It’s not only a safer option, but environmentally responsible too.
Spring has sprung, and many of you may be getting ready to spring clean your home. Before you do so, it’s important to know that many household cleaning products contain chemicals that could be harmful to your family’s health. They are loaded with strong, artificial colours and fragrances and harsh cleansing agents such as bleach, ammonia and acids. These products can produce indoor air pollution and irritate eyes and lungs. Many cleaners also contain unnecessary antibacterial agents (pesticides, technically) that can actually make bacteria stronger, and more resistant to antibacterial drugs.
Phthalates are one class of these harmful chemicals, linked to birth defects in boys, reproductive problems in men, and thyroid problems in both men and women. Low thyroid hormone production means lower metabolism, with an increased chance of weight gain. Phthalates are found in many types of cleaners, air fresheners and plastic products. In fact, new car smell and vinyl shower curtain smell are due to their phthalate content. On the label, phthalates are often listed as ‘fragrance’.
The immune system is affected by phthalates. They create an increase in inflammation in the body because of cell damage and hormone imbalance. This inflammation can also be associated with illnesses such as allergies, asthma and contact dermatitis. In addition, the increased demand for cortisol created by the inflammation causes an increased risk of belly fat, weight gain, and severe hormonal imbalances.
Now that we’ve discussed some of the problems these chemicals can cause, let’s look at a few options you can use to spring clean your home without toxins. Essential oils, derived from plants, are incredibly versatile: antibacterial, antifungal, wonderful air fresheners and excellent cleaners. Baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in small dishes absorbs odours around the house. Make your cleaners at home with a minimal amount of energy, effort and cost while significantly reducing your family’s toxin exposure. A basic shopping list includes baking soda, distilled vinegar, organic liquid dish soap or castile soap (available from faithful-to-nature.co.za), hydrogen peroxide (35% food grade from a health shop), borax, lemons, spray bottles, white vinegar and essential oils.
Throw away air-freshener sprays and plug-ins; they’re loaded with phthalates. Instead, freshen your home naturally with essential oils, organic candles, potted plants and fresh cut flowers. You can mix an essential oil with distilled water and put it in a spray bottle to spritz on your carpet, curtains and linens for a fresher- smelling room.
For recipes on how to make your own cleaning products, I recommend the Internet sites below. They cover basic cleaning recipes for the home, from tough jobs like drain cleaning to delicate natural solutions for antique linen.
PORCELAIN AND TILES
Keep your bathrooms and kitchen tiles spotless and hygienic with these natural cleansers:
- Baking soda and water: Dust surfaces with baking soda, then scrub with a moist sponge or cloth. If you have tougher grime, sprinkle on some salt, and work up some elbow grease.
- Lemon juice or vinegar: Got stains, mildew or grease streaks? Spray or douse with lemon juice or vinegar. Let sit a few minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush.
- Disinfectant: Instead of bleach, make your own disinfectant by mixing 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of a natural liquid soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil. It’s easy!
Vinyl and linoleum: mix 1 cup vinegar and a few drops of baby oil in 4 litres of warm water. For tough jobs, add 1/4 cup borax. Use sparingly on linoleum.
- Wood: apply a thin coat of 1:1 vegetable oil and vinegar and rub in well.
- Painted wood: mix 1 teaspoon washing soda (soda ash) into 4 litres of hot water.
- Brick and stone tiles: mix 1 cup white vinegar in 4 litres of water; rinse with clear water.
Most floor surfaces can be easily cleaned using a solution of vinegar and water. For damp-mopping wood floors: mix equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and water. Add 15 drops of pure peppermint oil; shake to mix.
Basic cleaning ingredients
If you’re starting a DIY green cleaner’s pantry, the following are the top ingredients that should be in a DIY cleaner’s cupboard:
- Baking Soda
- White Vinegar
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Essential oils*
- Castille soap
- Fresh herbs, citrus or citrus peels
- Olive or vegetable oil
- Washing soda
*tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus, or lemongrass oil
Cleaning recipe websites:
- http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/20-diy-green-cleaning- recipes-141129
- http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/latest/green- cleaning-spring-cleaning-460303