There was a time when people had only a few options when it came to cleaning their homes. Today, you can walk down multiple aisles at Target and have the “luxury” of hundreds of products to choose from. While options are certainly nice to have, most of these products put our health at risk. But how? How can a product that we don’t eat, drink or apply directly to our skin affect our health? The fact is that when we clean with toxic chemicals, we ingest them through our lungs, and when we are washing our laundry or dishes with toxic chemicals, we absorb them through our skin. When you add it up, we are exposing ourselves to more than we realize, not to mention that it’s all going straight back into our water supply.
Many brands claim to be “natural” or “nontoxic” but the FDA doesn’t regulate those terms.
Unfortunately, shopping for nontoxic cleaning products is not as simple as going to Whole Foods or ordering a monthly bundle subscription. Many brands claim to be “natural” or “nontoxic” but the FDA doesn’t regulate those terms, nor does it require cleaning brands to disclose the ingredients on their packaging. In the industry, we call this “green-washing.”
Overwhelmed yet? Well, that’s what I’m here for! Green home cleaning products are more accessible, less expensive, and easier to use than you may think, and I promise they are just as effective. Below are a few of my tried and true favorites.
The Cleaning Essentials Spray Bottle has five recipes printed on the side for tile, wood, bathroom, glass, and kitchen. The clear bottle’s hashmarks show you how much of each ingredient you need to pour in—it could not be easier. And, I bet you have most of these ingredients in your home (distilled vinegar, baking soda, water, alcohol, and essential oils).
The one I use most is the kitchen recipe. Our marble counters take a beating, and I’m sure there are some nasty germs on them, too. To keep them at bay, the kitchen recipe contains alcohol, (avoid isopropyl alcohol—cheap vodka works best and is safest) essential oils, (I like lemon and tea tree) distilled white vinegar, baking soda, and water. Anti-microbial: check. Antibacterial: check. Real cleaning power: check. Nice, fresh smell: check. This (and the other recipes, as I tried them all) really work! Buy five bottles, fill them up, and never buy home cleaning products again. Boom.
For those of you who can’t be bothered to DIY, Better Life All-Purpose Cleaning Spray is great. This plant-based formula works just as well as its chemical-laden competitors on counters, toilets, walls, floors, you name it. And, it’s free of synthetic fragrance, dyes, petroleum solvents, VOC’s, alcohol, ethers, ethoxylates, parabens, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, and Sodium Laureate Sulfate.
Most laundry detergents contain Phenols like BPA (endocrine disruptors), Optical Brighteners (often made of Benzene, a carcinogen), Synthetic Fragrance (which contains phthalates, more endocrine disruptors), Phosphates (these have harmful environmental ramifications), and Synthetic Detergents (made of Petrochemicals and harsh Sulfates). Whew! That’s a lot of bad stuff.
My favorite laundry detergent is Green Shield Free & Clear. This detergent has a totally clean list of ingredients and the main cleaning agent is organic saponified coconut oil. The EWG gives this formula an A, and is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. I haven’t looked back since making the switch. Bonus: It’s available at most Whole Foods locations.
Dryer sheets are the worst! Get rid of them. Now. They contain synthetic fragrance (see above: phthalates = endocrine disruptors), Alpha Terpineol (causes respiratory problems and damage to central nervous system), Benyl Alcohol (respiratory irritant), Camphor (causes central nervous disorders), Chloroform, Ethanol, and Ethyl Acetate (all on the EPA’s hazardous waste list)…I could go on and on.
Dryer sheets are the worst! Get rid of them. Now.
For a while I just ditched fabric softener and used nothing, but I really missed the scent of “clean laundry” since I use a fragrance-free detergent. A few months ago, I discovered Woolzies Dryer Balls at one of my favorite Green Living retailers, and I love them. They naturally soften, reduce static and wrinkles, and they are totally chemical free. I add a few drops of lavender essential oil to them and throw them in the dryer to give my laundry a little nontoxic fragrance. Oh, and they last for 1,000 loads, so they are super cost-effective.
If you are a mom to little ones, it seems like you are always doing dishes. And, if you’ve tried making the switch to a less toxic alternative, chances are you really miss your bright green conventional formula that magically makes those dishes sparkle. What’s worse, most of those “natural” formulas aren’t even that much better for you or the environment than the bright green one. Most conventional dish soaps and dishwasher detergents contain harsh surfactants like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureate Sulfate (which cannot be metabolized by the liver), Synthetic Fragrance (endocrine disruptors) and dyes (linked to behavioral problems and cancer), and antibacterial ingredients like Triclosan (another endocrine disruptor, as it causes bacterial resistance in humans).
There are so many benefits to cleaning green. It’s safer for you, your children, the environment and in many cases it is much more cost effective.
There are only two brands of dish soap and dishwasher detergent that I can recommend with a clean conscience at this point: Eco-Me and Better Life. Everything else either has sketchy ingredients, doesn’t clean effectively, or both which is just cruel.
There are so many benefits to cleaning green. It’s safer for you, your children, the environment and in many cases it is much more cost effective. Whether you decide to make your own formulas or switch over to some new brands, it eventually becomes second nature—just like eating organic or reading the labels on beauty products. For more tips on switching to natural living, visit me at Bare Beauty.