To improve your healthy habits and sustainability, you can make household cleaning easier and safer with my best tips for nontoxic cleaners. Plus, learn about greenwashing, why I avoid the brand Method, and my favorite recipe for a DIY, homemade, all-purpose cleaner…
Are You Cleaning with Toxins?
Due to lax laws in the United States, manufacturers of cleaning products can put almost any ingredient they want in the products that end up in our homes, restaurants, daycares, schools, hospitals, and offices. With no federal requirements to disclose their ingredients either, known carcinogens and other substances that can aggravate asthma, harm fetal and infant development, or induce a host of other unwanted consequences are legally added in. With the increasing rates of cancer, miscarriages, and child development issues why keep using toxic cleaning products?
It’s not only human health and wellbeing to consider when choosing household cleaners. Many of the companies who manufacture conventional cleaning products (similar to the cosmetics industry) still elect to have the chemicals they use tested on animals in cruel lab experiments. Some of the animals that can be tested on in the U.S. include rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds, mice, rats, monkeys, cats, and dogs. Thankfully, sophisticated alternatives to animal testing are becoming more popular. Since they aren’t standard practice though, it’s important to choose cleaning products that are cruelty-free and made without caustic chemicals.
How Do Household Cleaners Affect the Health of the Planet?
The EPA names Volatile Organic Compounds as the worst environmental hazards in household cleaners. When chemical cleaners are rinsed down the sink, shower, toilet, or laundry, they’re directed to waste treatment facilities. However, nitrogen, ammonia, and phosphorous, specific types of VOCs, aren’t removed by these facilities and often end up in rivers, lakes, and oceans. There, the chemical compounds act as accelerated fertilizers that can lead to superblooms of algae. As the algae dies off, they deplete the water of oxygen, resulting in dead zones where fish and other forms of life can’t survive.
Oxygen depletion in water, known as hypoxia, is also a major factor for coral reef bleaching. Tragically, the world has lost approximately half of its coral reefs in the last three decades and most of the Great Barrier Reef is now dead or dying. Since coral reefs, like forests, absorb CO2 and act as the lungs of the earth, this is a serious crisis. On top of that, according to the World Wildlife Fund, about 25% of the marine life that exists in the oceans rely on coral reefs as their home or feeding grounds.
A lot of companies have jumped on the green bandwagon to offer seemingly natural or benign products. Unfortunately, for many companies, their drive for increased profits is often disproportionate to their actual integrity. There are two major ways this is happening; one is behind the scenes with political lobbying aimed at quietly killing legislation designed to protect or better inform the public. Two, clever marketing that can mislead the public.
Branding and seductive advertising goes a long way in convincing us that we’re making a good decision with the cleaning products we choose. Case in point, the brand Method. With soap fragrances such as Pink Grapefruit or Cucumber, people are often shocked to learn that this brand has been graded numerously with D’s and F’s on EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. So, forget the enticing packaging and ads. Use the non-profit database to find out how your products rank and to find the safest options out there.
Whenever possible, I also recommend supporting companies that only create green products. For example, if you were to consider an eco-friendly cleaning product from Greenshield vs. Green Works (by Clorox), skip Green Works. Even though Clorox has a line of green cleaning products, the chemicals Clorox uses in many of their other formulas have been polluting our collective environment and health for generations. Additionally, Clorox has the money and power to reformulate all of their products, but still hasn’t volunteered to do so. If you want to find out who owns the brands of cleaners you like, a simple search on Wikipedia can be amazingly revealing when it comes to corporate ownership and parent companies.
All in all, wouldn’t you rather support or reward the companies that are built on a foundation of environmental integrity and consistently prove themselves through their ingredients and business practices?
Holistic Secret: GreenShield laundry detergent is certified organic and has been rated the safest brand by EWG.
Streamlining Your Cleaners
For a long time, we’ve been told by advertisers that we need a different cleaner for each surface or specific job in our home. That message sells more product, but it’s totally unnecessary. Clear the clutter like Marie Kondo! By keeping things simple and nontoxic, you can save storage space and money while reducing the serious threat of indoor and outdoor pollution as well as accidental poisoning for children.
The good news is that the options for nontoxic cleaning products have increased so much in the last decade that you can find healthier, cruelty-free alternatives to every type of cleaner. Better yet, you can make your own nontoxic cleaners which will save you money and reduce packaging waste that would likely end up in a landfill.
Popular, Nontoxic, Cleaning Ingredients
There are plenty of nontoxic ingredients to choose from to clean your home. Keep things simple and discover which ones you like best for your cleaning needs.
- White Distilled Vinegar – choose organic and/or non-GMO for all-purpose cleaners and as a nontoxic drain cleaner
- Lemon juice – for all-purpose cleaners, cleaning wooden cutting boards, deodorizing, cleaning garbage disposals, cleaning copper, and much more
- Castile Soap – like Dr. Bronner’s, which can be diluted for multiple uses
- Baking soda – for multiple uses, including drain cleaning with vinegar
- Washing Soda – for laundry, degreasing, and brightening
- Hydrogen peroxide – a healthier, nontoxic alternative to bleach
- Oxygen bleach – some are rated safer than offers
- Cornstarch – organic and/or non-GMO for cleaning silverware and stovetops
- Olive oil and other cooking oils – for furniture polish recipes
- Essential oils – to naturally fragrance homemade cleaners (for aquatic health, use sparingly, if at all)
- Citrus solvents – as degreasers, removing permanent marker stains on certain surfaces, and diluted for multiple cleaning uses
- Isopropyl alcohol – as a disinfectant (use sparingly, if at all) and for pen stains on certain fabrics
- Salt -for cleaning and stain removal
Holistic Secret: Conventional mothballs have been known to contain paradichlorobenze, a chemical that’s particularly toxic to the liver and kidneys. Nontoxic versions can be bought or made with cedar oil or cedar chips or a combination of peppermint, rosemary, thyme, cloves, and lavender.
Sustainable Cleaning Supplies
Too many cleaning supplies eventually end up in the landfill. Things like synthetic dish sponges, scrub brushes, counter wipes blended with synthetic fibers, and paper towels sourced from trees. So, explore these ideas to make your home cleaner and greener.
- Biodegradable sponges for dishes and general cleaning (by companies like Twist)
- Reusable cleaning cloths like bar mop towels or bamboo towels (to replace or reduce paper towels and non-biodegradable counter wipes)
- Stiff scrub brushes made from coir (coconut), bamboo, or other biodegradable materials (instead of plastic)
- Specialized pumice stones for cleaning stubborn toilet rings (instead of harsh chemicals)
- Old toothbrushes (that are marked) for cleaning tile grout (instead of harsh chemicals)
Holistic Secret: A basket filled with homemade or nontoxic cleaning supplies and biodegradable sponges makes a cute and memorable housewarming or spring-cleaning gift.
How to Easily Make a Nontoxic, All-Purpose Cleaner
Are you feeling ready to clean without toxins, or start making some cleaning recipes at home? Try whipping up this effective all-purpose cleaner in seconds and see for yourself why more and more people are skipping store-bought formulas.
All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe
- 1 ½ c organic, white distilled vinegar
- ½ c water
- 1-2 drops of peppermint essential oil (optional)
- 3 drops of lavender (optional)
Pour ingredients into a clean spray bottle (ideally a reused bottle), secure the top, shake well, and then label it. This cleaner can be used on most counters, stoves, and other surfaces that an all-purpose cleaner is designed to clean. Of course, testing it on a small area first is a good idea.
Holistic Secret: If you own a Swiffer, ditch the disposable wet and dry refill cloths that are sold and simply attach a clean rag or sock. It’s cheaper and eco-friendly. By avoiding the fragranced versions it’s even healthier too.
Use Your Purchasing Power
Every time you clean your home and do laundry, you’re voting with your money. To cultivate greater health and wellbeing for people, animals, and the planet, be sure to use nontoxic cleaners and encourage others to do the same.
My mission: As a Holistic Health Coach & Eco Expert, I’m dedicated to leading you straight to the core of what it takes to enjoy a new level of vitality, desired weight loss, sustainability, and detoxification. Enjoy my transformative programs and experience true health with true purpose!
 Environmental Working Group. EWG.org. “About EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.” Accessed October 6th, 2015. http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/methodology