It’s that time of year again for spring cleaning your home.  However, it’s important to consider that the typical home contains about three to ten gallons of toxic materials in various cleaning products.  Remember, even the so-called “green” cleaners on the market can contain harmful ingredients.  Let’s explore the “good, bad and ugly” of this subject and learn how to substitute non-toxic ingredients for the toxic ones.

The Good:

Baking Soda – It’s a versatile cleaner and can be used to clean your oven (baking soda and water to make a paste); unclog a drain (pour down drain and then slowly pour vinegar after it); deodorize carpets (simply sprinkling carpet liberally and waiting at least 15 minutes, then vacuum); it’s also a deodorizing toilet scrub (pour ½ cup of baking soap and about 10 drops of tea tree essential oil into the toilet bowl, follow with ¼ cup vinegar and scrub with toilet brush).

Vinegar – Vinegar is another versatile cleaner.  It can be combined with hydrogen peroxide and works exceptionally well as a disinfectant and sanitizer; you can combat mildew by spraying straight white vinegar on moldy area and let sit for 30 minutes.  Scrub with sponge if needed and rinse with warm water; to use an all-purpose countertop cleaner, mix equal parts of vinegar and water.  Spray on and wipe off; for tile floors, mix one part white vinegar with two parts warm water in a bucket.  Scrub with a rag or mop.  No need to rinse (do NOT use for varnished wood or other wood flooring, however). As an all-purpose mirror and window cleaner, simply mix one part white vinegar with four parts water.  Spray onto mirror or window and scrub off with sponge or rag.

Coconut Oil – Can be used to clean, sanitize and condition wooden cutting boards.

Castile Soap – Can be used as an anti-bacterial disinfectant (mix two cups of water with three tablespoons of castile soap and 20-30 drops of tea tee oil.  Spray onto surface and wipe clean); You can also mix equal parts of liquid castile soap and water (add to that about two teaspoons of lemon juice to a mixture of one cup water and one cup soap) and use as a dishwasher detergent.  Use white vinegar in the rinse compartment.

Olive Oil – Use as a conditioning furniture polish.  Mix ½ cup olive oil with ¼ cup of lemon juice.  Clean furniture by putting mixture onto a soft, lint-free cloth and wipe off.

The Bad (and ugly to your health):

Glycol Ethers – Mostly found in paints, perfumes, soaps, cosmetics, and foods and can possibly cause liver and kidney damage.

Phosphates:  Typically found in dishwashing detergents and cause significant environmental damage.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC):  These are contained in paints, varnishes, air fresheners, and disinfecting cleaners, just to name a few.

Phthalates:  Phthalates are used in hundreds of consumer products, including soaps, detergents, insecticides, and food packaging.  They can cause reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, cancer, and organ damage.

Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs):  This is a common ingredient found in laundry detergents and conventional all-purpose cleaners (it is banned in Europe).  It is a known potent endocrine disrupter.

Petroleum Solvents:  Usually found in floor cleaners and may damage mucous membranes.

Formaldehyde:  Found in spray deodorizers and is a suspected cancer-causing agent.

Butyl Cellosolve:  Typically found in all-purpose and window cleaners.  May damage your kidneys, bone marrow, liver, and nervous system.

Chlorine:  Found in automatic dishwashing detergents, chlorine bleach, chlorinated disinfectant cleaners, mildew removers, and toilet bowl cleaners.  Breathing in chlorine fumes can irritate the lungs.  It is particularly dangerous for those suffering from heart conditions or chronic respiratory problems such as asthma or emphysema.

Ethanolamines:  Found in laundry detergents, glass and surface cleaners, disinfectants, household cleaner wipes, and all-purpose cleaners.  This substance is irritating to the skin, eyes, and lungs.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate:  A surfactant, detergent, and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic products, as well as in industrial cleaners. It is present in nearly all shampoos, scalp treatments, hair color and bleaching agents, toothpastes, body washes and cleansers, make-up foundations, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents, and bath oils/bath salts.  It is a skin and eye irritant and is considered to be potentially carcinogenic.

So let’s vow to get rid of the toxic and “ugly” cleaning products in our homes and garages and replace with the healthy alternatives.