If you’ve embraced the going green trend, then you’ve probably looked into natural cleaners. Most of us rely on classics from the grocery store to help us with washing counters, windows, and dishes. However, there are also many DIY options that you can try out which are non-toxic and just as effective. And if you’ve done your research about store-bought chemical cleaners, washing with vinegar (though not as pleasant a smell as Pine Sol) is probably looking more and more appealing.
However, before you get started, there are some things that you should know. Here’s a basic rundown to understanding natural cleaners:
How Do Cleaning Supplies Affect Your Environment?
Cleaning supplies vary greatly in what they’re made of and how they can affect you in your home. There are three major ways that their harmful effects are felt.
1: Ingestion. This is an obvious danger of cleaning supplies. So obvious, in fact, that few of us even consider it a danger, unless you have children or pets in the house. For this reason, it’s important to keep your cleaning supplies in a safe place away from curious noses. However, it’s also important to remember that if you have a teething baby or animals that chew or lick the furniture, things like furniture polish or stain removers can still pose a danger.
2: Irritating Fumes. This is probably the most common thing you think about when considering the toxicity of household cleaners. According to the EPA, phosphorus, ammonia, and nitrogen are the most harmful chemicals commonly found in cleaning products, along with other chemicals simply grouped as Volatile Organic Compounds (or VOC’s.) These chemicals can cause irritation, which you’ve noticed if you ever find yourself coughing while cleaning an enclosed bathroom. However, it’s important to note that even when you air out the place, these fumes contribute to environmental pollution and smog, to the point that the state of California has actually put a limit on the use of these chemicals in order to keep public air healthy.
3: Contaminated Waterways. Even though this danger doesn’t seem immediate to your own home, all of us who are concerned about the environment must consider how the things we flush down the sink affect our water supply and natural organisms who share our areas. Many sudsing agents, such as diethanolamine or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are washed away in the water and can cause problems for local wildlife and agriculture.
Before You Use DIY Cleaners….
Cleaning agents can be created at home from household products, and often it’s easier than you think. Many people prefer this over chemical cleaners from the store, but it’s important to remember a few things if you’re going to start using DIY cleaners. Number one: just because you made it yourself doesn’t mean that it’s completely safe and non-toxic. Many at-home recipes will call for ammonia, which can still be an irritant and ingested poison. Others ask for rubbing alcohol, which might sound non-toxic (after all, people drink alcohol all the time!) but remember that isopropyl alcohol (aka rubbing alcohol) is different from alcohol found in beverages, and 8 ounces will kill an adult.
Secondly, remember that vinegar and lemon isn’t the solution for every cleaning problem that you have in your home. What kind of cleaner you use will depend on where you use it. For example, the acid in lemon and vinegar can be harmful to granite or marble countertops. And often, a big job like cleaning out the oven won’t be taken care of with just lemon juice.
Here are some of our favorite recipes for homemade cleaners.
General All-Purpose Cleaner:
1 Cup white vinegar
1 Cup water
Mix together in spray bottle and use with everyday cleaning. If you want to mask the smell of vinegar, add some essential oils.
Degreaser (great for the kitchen and dishes):
½ tsp Castile soap
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Cups water
1 Tbsp baking soda
Mold and Mildew Removal:
2 tsp tea tree oil
¼ Cup baking soda
2 Cups water
½ Cup white vinegar
½ Cup vodka
1-½ Cups water
10-20 drops of essential oil for a better odor