Today”s Daily Tip: If you say you will start something in a week it will never happen. Get what you need to make the changes now. Make your commitment and stick to it for a month. I know it is hard. I know it is a lot of work. I know you can do this. (Amanda Klenner-Labrow, Natural Living Mamma)
So there are way too many cleaning products to choose from these days, all promising magical, shiny, clean results. However, none of ‘em tell you what the possible side effects are of the toxic chemicals in the ingredient lists that fog your house once you finish a cleaning episode. I’m going to discuss a few must haves that are essential tools for a fresh and clean home as well as some of the best and worst to avoid, according to the Environmental Working Group, a searchable database that rates commercial products.
First rule of home cleaning: it doesn”t have to be expensive. You can do a lot of things with a few items, specifically vinegar, baking soda, a bottle of 80 or 100 proof vodka (I’ll explain in a second), and some essential oils like lavender, lemon, and tea tree. An additional item that I use frequently is an essential oil diffuser.
- For general cleaning purposes such as toilets, counter tops, sinks, and tile floor, vinegar is great. Yes, there is a pungent, acidic smell at first, but it goes away eventually. If you can’t stand the smell, add three to five drops of one (or two or three) of the aforementioned essential oils to your spray bottle and shake. Now you have a nice smelling, germ-fighting cleaner in your hand.
- Sprinkle baking soda in the bathtub and then some vinegar over it to soak for a bit; use a rag to scrub the grime and this combo will compete with any commercial cleaning product with no toxic byproducts.
- If you have a funky smell, put some baking soda in a bowl to help absorb the funk (see the Hall of Shame list below for what fresheners to avoid!)
- In a small, clean glass spray bottle (amber glass is best), fill three quarters with vodka. Add 15-20 drops of the essential oils and shake. Use this as room spray that freshens but can also help keep bad germs at bay. You can spray door knobs, bed sheets, floor mats, etc.
- There are several types of essential oil diffusers you can use. I use an electric plug that comes with small pads. I add about 5 drops to the pad, plug it in, and I get a refreshing home within minutes that last for a few hours. There are also ceramic and casino online soapstone stone varieties that may require a tealight.
- If your sink is backed up, pour liberal amount of baking soda in the drain with vinegar on top. Let the combination sit and bubble for up to 3o minutes. Pour boiling water down the drain. This can be done several times in a row, if need be, to get things moving.
- As usual, these things should be kept in a dry, cool spot, away from your kiddos’ reach.
Second rule of home cleaning: these cleaning materials are easy to find. I use Arm & Hammer baking soda, but if you can only get to a Dollar General that sells generic brand, no big deal. I use distilled vinegar, no special brand of vodka, and I have essential oils from several companies. Many people swear by DoTerra or Young Living or Mountain Rose Herbs. Ehhhh. For cleaning purposes, I strongly feel that as long as you are buying pure essential oils (fragrance oil is not an essential oil!!!!!), you can choose your own. I do happen to favor Mountain Rose Herbs. I like their business model, packaging, and wide range of products.
Third rule of home cleaning: when in doubt, check EWG (Environmental Working Group). This nonprofit organization is a beacon of light uncovering the all-too-common toxicities that are present in our home and body products. According to EWG, “Fumes from some cleaning products may induce asthma in otherwise healthy individuals. A large and growing body of evidence links frequent use of many ordinary cleaning supplies at home or on the job with development of asthma and other respiratory problems.” Each product they access is given an average grade based on the individual grades of the ingredients that make up the commercial product. Just a quick peek at the database will tell you that products claiming natural don’t have any weight. This term is not regulated so any old marketer can slap that adjective on a product and tickle that crunchy part of your brain that urges you to buy natural things. Here is a quick list of the A grades and the Hall of Shame, according to EWG:
The A’s-You can feel good about these products:
- Heinz Vinegar, Distilled White Vinegar
- Green Shield Organic Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Whole Foods Market liquid dish soap, Mandarin
- Ecover ZERO Automatic Dishwashing Soap
- Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Hemp Pure Castille Soap Baby Mild
Hall of Shame- You really should consider finding a place that will accept and discard toxic materials:
- Air Wick Freshmatic Compact; Febreze and Glade automatic fresheners
- Comet Disinfectant Cleanser Powder (includes formaldehyde, benzene, and chloroform!)
- All of the following have asthma-causing ingredients: Clorox, Fantastik, Febreze, Formula 409, Easy-Off, Lysol, Mr. Clean, Spic and Span
- Static Guard (this stuff isn’t even allowed in the European Union)
- Walmart Great Value Heavy Duty Oven & Grill Cleaner, CVS/pharmacy Fume-Free Oven Clean: both emit toxic fumes with chemicals that can burn skin, lungs, and eyes
- Drano- can cause caustic chemical backsplash, i.e.: your skin will suffer big time if it gets on you
Do you have products that you still need to throw out (because maybe you secretly love how they work)? What are your favorite cost-effective and non-harmful cleaning products?
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