Most of the home cleaning products that line hardware and grocery store shelves are truly massive chemical cocktails. When you look at the ingredients, you would never think to ask for the recipe so you could make it yourself! Unless you use non-toxic home cleaning products, there’s a good chance that your cleaning efforts aren’t actually effectively “cleaning”. Most home cleaning products are filled with harmful chemicals and if anyone can tell me what turns a collection of chemicals into the smell of “Summer Rain” or “Berry Breeze”, do let me know!
When Josh and I moved into our new home, I felt like we had this incredible opportunity to do the right thing. We were mindful about the sofa we purchased, the wood that was used on our closet doors, our new bed, right down to the de-chlorinator we installed to remove all chlorine from the water that enters our house. Yes, we recognize that we are in the extreme category on these things, but we’ve also each read enough books and seen enough cases of chemical sensitivity and auto-immune disease to know that every bit of effort matters.
A healthy lifestyle comes down to more than just diet and exercise. We can fill ourselves to the brim with clean water, organic produce, non-GMO fare and high-quality superfoods, but if we’re slathering our homes in toxins and laundering our clothes with chemicals, we’re doing ourselves a real disservice.
Some of the most dangerous toxins out there reside in our cleaning products, and we’re putting our health at risk by exposing ourselves to them on a daily basis. Researchers at the University of Washington tested a variety of popular household cleaning products, including air fresheners, all-purpose cleaners, soaps, laundry detergents, dish soap, dryer sheets and fabric softeners, as well as personal care products like shampoos, deodorants and lotions.
In summary, this is what they found:
- A whopping 133 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the products – even in those labelled ‘green’, ‘natural’ or ‘organic’.
- On average, 17 VOCs were found in each product, with anywhere from 1-8 of those 17 chemicals being toxic or hazardous.
- Nearly half of the products contained at least one of 24 carcinogenic air pollutants that have no safe exposure level, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Why are VOCs dangerous?
Volatile organic compounds are gases emitted from solids or liquids. They’re found in many household products, from paints and varnishes to cleaning products and disinfectants. The EPA states that some of the risks associated with VOCs are:
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Headaches, loss of coordination and nausea
- Damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system
- Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals, and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans
VOC exposure doesn’t just happen while we’re using the products – they can linger afterwards and while they are stored. As well, VOC levels can be 2 to 5 times higher indoors as compared to outdoors.
Some of the common carcinogens the researchers at the University of Washington found in cleaning products were:
- Methylene chloride
But it isn’t just this one study that points to the health risks of VOCs and the dangers of cleaning products. For example:
- This study of female homemakers showed that housecleaning increased respiratory symptoms in women with asthma.
- When researchers in Sweden tested the air where children slept, they found that VOCs were associated with a higher risk of multiple allergic symptoms, rhinitis and eczema.
- People who clean their homes with bleach were found to have more lower respiratory symptoms.
- This study, where participants self-reported cleaning product use, discovered a link between using cleaning products and breast cancer.
- The dangers to those working the cleaning industry have been well documented. Some of the risks to professional cleaners include asthma and dermatitis, and they are generally more susceptible to respiratory and dermal issues.
- Many cleaning products contain ‘fragrance’, which is an umbrella term for a cocktail of chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions, respiratory issues like asthma, headaches and hormonal disruptions.
- Let’s not forget about the harm to the environment when we flush those cleaners down our drains.
We are obsessed with having every surface of our homes and bodies scrubbed clean, but our perception of what’s clean or not has become tainted by the messages that we need to be surrounded by the smell of “Lemon Breeze” or “Cottage Pine”. The cleaning product industry rakes in over 50 billion dollars a year in the US – so these companies are focused on what’s best for their bottom line, not for our health.
Of course, I’m not saying that you should stop cleaning your home, especially your kitchen where bacteria can thrive. But there are so many natural options for effective household cleaners that you can easily make at home.
To get you started, here are my Top 10 Non-Toxic Home Cleaning recipes from around the web.
10 Non-Toxic Home Cleaning Recipes
Note: On the following links below, it’s possible you’ll see various brands of essential oils being recommended. Living Libations is the only essential oil brand I use*. It’s not the only one out there, but there are several very popular ones I would strongly recommend avoiding. You can read more here.
DIY All-Purpose Cleaner
A three-ingredient recipe that will cover all of your basic cleaning needs. Plus, a neat trick for turning glass bottles into spray bottles!
Natural Citrus All Purpose Cleaner
By Tori Avey
This is a fun one – the process is kinda like making quick pickles, but you won’t be eating what’s in this jar. All you need are citrus peels, vinegar and water. That’s it!
Homemade Glass + Mirror Cleaner
By Live Simply
You don’t need bright blue or green liquids to get your windows and mirrors clean and streak-free. This recipe also includes a video tutorial so you can see how easy it is.
Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner
When my husband and I went shopping for a new toilet, we discovered that you can buy Teflon-lined toilets so nothing sticks to the insides. Well, I don’t want to eat off Teflon and I don’t want to poop in it either. Instead, I use homemade toilet bowl cleaner to keep the toilet tidy and fresh.
Homemade Borax-Free Laundry Detergent
It costs less than $8 to make this natural, non-toxic and borax-free laundry detergent. Practically Functional breaks it all down for you – it costs less than a quarter a load. Amazing!
Natural Stain Remover
An easy, low-cost, chemical-free option for getting those tough stains out!
Grease-Fighting Lavender Dish Soap
By Hello Glow
Some store-bought natural dish soaps just don’t get things as clean as you want them to be. Not with this dish soap, which will get rid of grease and residues. And if you don’t like lavender, try another scent.
Homemade Air Freshener Spray
By DIY Natural
I can’t stand air fresheners – they not only contain harmful VOCs, but they also, in my opinion, make rooms smell worse than the actual scent they’re trying to cover up. This three-ingredient air freshener spray helps to remove odors, not just mask them, and it won’t leave you with that toxic chemical stench.
DIY Carpet Freshener Powder
This is a great way to clean your carpets without having to shampoo them all. Simply sprinkle this natural carpet freshener on a dry carpet, leave it overnight and vaccuum it up in the morning. So easy!
DIY Natural Hand Sanitizer
We don’t need to be 100% sanitized at all times, but clean hands are important – especially if you’re not close to soap and water. Great for car trips, hiking, camping, or when you’re out and about doing errands.