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Green Cleaning–Clearing the Air of Toxic Household Cleaners

By Kim Robson

Do your household cleaners require opening windows and wearing gloves to avoid exposure to dangerous chemicals? If so, common sense should tell you that’s not good for anyone in your home. In fact, these toxins have an even greater effect on our children and pets. As you know, babies and children touch and put everything in their mouths. The good news is that there are many non-­‐toxic cleaning products available on the market now, including, but not limited to, Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, Naturally It’s Clean, Ecover, Green Works, Shaklee, Simple Green, Dr. Bronner’s, Nellie’s All-­‐Natural, and All-­‐Green Janitorial Products.

There’s even better news: you can make your own cleaning products using combination of a few simple ingredients. You probably already have most of them in your home. These formulas are effective, and are guaranteed to save you money. First, gather a few supplies:

  • baking soda (cleans, deodorizes)
  • table salt
  • distilled white vinegar (cuts grease, deodorizes, removes mildew and stains)
  • olive oil (protects wood and leather)
  • natural soap without petroleum distilled (I recommend Dr. Bronner’s organic fair-­‐trade castle liquid soap. It’s non-­‐toxic and biodegradable
  • lemon juice (A powerful acid, it kills most household bacteria.)
  • Borax (Sodium Borate cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, and cleans walls and floors.)
  • essential oils of tea tree and lavender, available at health-­‐food stores (Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic, anti fungal, and disinfectant. Lavender is a gentle antiseptic and antibacterial, safe for expectant mothers, and can be applied directly to minor burns and scrapes.)
  • plain spray bottles (Be sure to label them clearly.)
  • wash rags (Ditch those paper towels, and use old cloth diapers, or cut-­‐up old clothes.)
  • All-­‐Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1⁄2 cup vinegar and 1⁄4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons Borax) into 1⁄2 gallon 
water. Store and keep for general use, especially on showers, chrome fixtures, windows, and mirrors. 
(If using on glass, be sure to follow the recipe, as too much vinegar in the solution could cloud your glass. Use crumpled newspaper or a lint-­‐free cloth to clean. Don’t clean windows when they are warm or the sun is shining on them, or you’ll get streaks. If you hate the smell of vinegar, try using straight lemon juice or club soda.)
  • All-­‐Purpose Disinfectant: Mix 2 cups water, a couple drops of natural soap, and 15 drops each of tea tree and lavender essenFal oils. Spray on any home surfaces you see fit: changing tables, cuang boards, countertops, phones, keyboards, door handles, walls, sinks, toilets. This mixture is not good for glass, as it will streak, but the formula is so safe and gentle you could literally spray it right on your kids.
  • Mold Fighter: Mix 2 cups water with three drops of tea tree essenFal oil. Spray walls and surfaces weekly and wipe dry. For problem areas, mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water and spray on mold. Let sit at least one hour before rinsing.
  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Spray with equal parts vinegar and lemon juice, then sprinkle on baking soda. Let sit for 10 minutes before scrubbing with toilet brush. Two parts Borax to one part lemon juice will also work.
  • Oven Cleaner: If possible, get the stain right away by liberally sprinkling table salt on the hot spill before the oven cools down. AUer the oven cools, rub off the spill with a damp cloth. Otherwise, use this formula: Mix 3⁄4 cup baking soda with 1⁄4 cup salt and 1⁄4 cup water to make a thick paste. Wipe down surfaces with a wet sponge, then spread paste throughout interior, avoiding bare metal and openings. Let sit overnight, then remove with a spatula and wipe clean. Steel wool can be used to rub out the tough spots.
  • Cup Boards: Scrub with a slice of fresh lemon and wipe clean. For tough stains, dribble lemon juice on the spot and let sit for 10 minutes, then wipe clean. Finish with a light coaFng of olive oil.
  • Dishwasher Soap: Mix equal parts Borax and washing soda. Washing soda is sodium carbonate, a mineral that might be irritaFng to mucus membranes. Or try Nellie’s All-­‐Natural Dishwasher Powder.
  • Drain Cleaner: Mix 1⁄2 cup salt with 1 gallon water, heat and pour down drain. For greater strength, pour 1⁄2 cup baking soda down drain, then follow with 1⁄2 cup vinegar. This creates a chemical reacFon that breaks down faOy acids into soap and glycerin, allowing the clog to pass down the drain. Wait 15 minutes, then pour boiling water down to clear the pipes. (Do NOT use if you’ve already tried a commercial product – the vinegar can react with the drain cleaner and create dangerous fumes.)
  • Furniture Polish: Mix 2 teaspoons each olive oil and lemon juice and apply to a soU cloth. Apply to furniture in wide strokes, then polish with a dry cloth.
  • Laundry Detergent: Mix 1⁄4 cup natural soap with 1⁄2 cup Borax and 1⁄2 cup washing soda. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load, depending on size and need. Or try Nellie’s All-­‐Natural Laundry Soda.

Many more recipes are available online. Eartheasy.com has an extensive list of green cleaning recipes. You’ll be shocked if you read some of the warning labels on commercial cleaning products. Not only will your family be healthier, but also you’ll save money, and your house won’t smell like a chemical plant! You’ll be glad you made the switch.

Did You Know?

Good place to include a source. Start with According to . . . , toxic chemicals in everyday household cleaning products poison, disfigure, and injure millions of people every year and account for 8.6 percent of all poison exposures. Most cleaners never have been tested for combined or accumulated toxicity, or for their effects on unborn children. In fact, the National Research Council states that “no toxic information is available for more than 80% of the chemicals in everyday-­‐use products. Less than 20% have been tested for acute effects and less than 10% have been tested for chronic, reproductive or mutagenic effects.”

In a study published by the European Respiratory Journal which tracked over 7,000 families, researchers found that when expectant mothers had been highly exposed to cleaning products, their children’s risk of asthma and persistent wheezing, as well as lower than normal lung function increased as much as 41%.

When the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was enacted in 1976, 62,000 chemicals were allowed to remain on the market without tesFng for their effects on health or the environment. In more than 30 years, the EPA has required tesFng of only about 200 of those chemicals and has parFally regulated only five. The rest have never been fully assessed for toxic impacts on human health and the environment. For the 22,000 chemicals introduced into commerce since 1976, chemical manufacturers have provided little or no information to the EPA regarding their potential health or environmental impacts.


About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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