Eco Alternatives to Toxic Cleaning Products by Amber C
Let’s begin with a fresh outlook on some of your favorite cleaning products, shall we? If you’re a fellow asthmatic, or allergy sufferer or if someone in your house is, we hope that you find this blog beneficial.
Bleach- Although bleach is an all-time favorite for brightening up ceramic sinks, toilets and tile floors, as well as scrubbing bathtubs, it can cause more harm than good. It burns your skin and eyes and irritates the back of your throat. Not to mention the irritating feel of the substance itself; even if you wear gloves, if it gets on you, you smell it for hours, and your skin feels weird. Bleach can eat its way through stainless steel and fabric, although that is quite rare as we do not use enough of it to let that happen. When we use it, we are not only causing damage to ourselves, but when we dump it on the lawn or even down the tub, it causes environmental damage too. Instead of using bleach, try using 3% Hydrogen Peroxide on its own, it sure packs a punch! It can be used to clean anything from toilet bowls to countertops or mixed with hot water for your floors. Bonus Points because it leaves no scent!
Glass Cleaners- Ammonia. That’s all that comes to memory when thinking about using a glass cleaner; having that mist fly back into your face or eyes is nothing short of a panic attack, thinking you’ve gone blind or having an asthma attack because the smell is so pungent. Why not try some Vinegar? (https://www.homedepot.ca/product/allen-s-950ml-lemon-cleaning-vinegar-spray/1001097220) You can use it alone or even spruce it up with a few drops of essential oils, and it’s safe for almost any surface except stone, ceramic, pearl, computers and phones as it is an acid made from fermenting things like rice, beer, wine and malt. Please DO NOT MIX WITH BLEACH. Mixing bleach and vinegar creates potentially lethal chlorine gas. If you notice a pungent smell after mixing household cleaners, you should immediately leave the area and try to breathe in the fresh air.
Cleaning Wipes- Disinfecting Wipes such as Lysol and Clorox contain compounds called Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QACs or QUATs), which are known to irritate the lungs and skin and have also been linked to asthma, reproductive issues, birth defects, and antimicrobial resistance. A great alternative is using microfibre cloths or even cloth diaper inserts - they don’t scratch surfaces, soak up excess liquid, AND they’re great for buffing out stains. For additional cleaning power, use a little Dawn dish detergent or add some lemon to the water.
Surface Cleaners- Cleaners for glass, wood polish, and shower walls have fragrance chemicals proven to irritate the lungs, which can be especially dangerous for people with respiratory problems and even household pets. As a safer alternative, try using a DIY all-purpose cleaner made with 1 TSP natural dish detergent such as Method or Seventh Generation, 16 ounces of water in a spray bottle OR one part white vinegar, one part water, some lemon rind and a dash of rosemary sprig to add a pleasant scent.
Toilet bowl cleaner- Among the most toxic household cleaning products, toilet bowl cleaners contain phosphoric acids and sulphates. When flushed, these chemical compounds can be harmful and contaminate groundwater and soil, leeching into any beneficial nutrients and possibly harming, killing or stopping plant growth and rendering soil useless for crops or other flora growth. When they wash into bodies of water, they contribute to toxic algae blooms, which local water life snacks on and, in turn, suffers from the aftermaths of toxins. Not to mention it stains the toilet. Try sprinkling a little baking soda into the bowl, add a dash of vinegar, close the lid and walk away. After 30 minutes, brush away those unsightly water stains and flush. Voila! Sparkling clean toilet once again.
Air Freshener- As good as air fresheners smell, the aerosol and fragrances used in the cans can trigger allergies and act as hormone disruptors. They can also harm the environment and air quality. Granted, all cleaning solvents contain pretty much the same chemicals but do we REALLY want to breathe it with every little product? Here is an alternative that works quite well: mix 25 drops of your favorite essential oil, 2 tbsp baking soda, and 2 cups of water into a spray bottle. You can also leave out baking soda or coffee grounds around your home to neutralize scents. For funky smells in your fridge, try putting a small amount of salt in an orange rind! The salt takes in moisture while the orange rind leaves a fresh scent. If you are a scented candle user, try using oil diffusers or Scentsy burners for wax melts, which eliminate exposure to harmful chemicals released when burning candles.
Drain Cleaners - Ok, these things work mega quick. But at what cost to the environment? By design, they contain a chemical called sodium hydroxide. This highly corrosive material not only removes stubborn clogs but can also burn and permanently injure the skin and other organic compounds. Timing for this product is also crucial; if left long enough, it can ruin the drain and piping in your home. Instead, why not go to your local Lowes, Home Hardware, Rona, Amazon or any home renovation specialty store and ask about a drain snake. It’s reusable and, when combined with half a cup of baking soda followed by half cup of vinegar, creates an excellent trade-up that won’t hurt you, your drain or your wallet.
Kitchen and Bath Cleaner- We all want these two spots in our home to be... well… spotless. They are the two most trafficked places with the highest touch points, and the cleaning products we use in them tend to include ingredients that maybe aren’t so good for us to inhale or touch. For example, chloroform in powdered or foaming cleaners creates a sweet signature scent in these products but is known to make people unconscious in small doses. Rubbing alcohol mixed with vinegar can also cause a chloroform reaction and become a corrosive material. To avoid any unplanned naps on the bathroom floor, try using a DIY cream cleaner comparable to Comet or Vim: use ½ cup baking soda or borax, 18 drops of essential oil, and 2 and ½ teaspoons of liquid Castille soap for a liquid product. If you want a dry product, use 1 cup baking soda, ½ cup salt (non-iodized), ½ cup washing soda and 5 drops of essential oil for scent. Another great recipe is 2 tablespoons Liquid Castile Soap, 30 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil, 1 tablespoon Baking Soda, 20 drops Sweet Orange Essential Oil, 2 cups Warm Water in a 16-ounce Spray Bottle.
Laundry detergent- Sensitive skin is no fun, everything irritates it, and it’s incredibly hard to rid yourself of any hives that spring up after using a harsh detergent. Laundry soap, just like the drain cleaner, goes directly into the natural waterways of streams and lakes through septic and sewage systems, leading to toxic algae blooms.
Here is a recipe for a gentler soap: grate one bar of unscented, hypoallergenic soap, and add 2 cups baking soda and 2 cups of washing soda. Mix the ingredients along with ½ cup Oxiclean for stain removal, another great option is True Earth laundry strips. For scent, try Method brand laundry boosters, and instead of Bounce dryer sheets, try foil balls, reusable dryer sheets or wool dryer balls which can be found at friendsheepwool.com.
Wood Furniture/floor polish- These cleaners contain chemicals such as kerosene, mineral spirits, silicone fluid, and unknown fragrance sources. They’re toxic for obvious reasons but are also no good for your beloved family’s inherited rocking chair or your newly installed hardwood floors. They work but can also cause splitting, salt residue and warping. After viewing a decent article on MarthaStewart.com, soft bristle brushes work much better for dusting, while vacuums work wonders for everyday debris. For deeper stains, use 1 tsp of castile soap in a 24-ounce spray bottle with hot water; lightly spritz your flooring and wipe up with a microfibre mop. Alternatively, good things have been written about Method Almond Wood Floor Cleaner when used with the Libman Wonder Mop, which you can find at Canadian Tire for just $20.
As an afterthought, we would like to advise against mixing things such as vinegar and rubbing alcohol, bleach and vinegar, or any other chemicals as they can be extremely harmful together.
Enjoy your weekend!