One of the first things I did in my quest to “healthify” and detoxify our home was to clean up the cleaning products! I talked a little bit about how I got started with this in my post Getting Healthier – The Beginning. It is ridiculous how toxic and yucky that most cleaning products are. Sometimes I think the chemicals that we use to clean with are worse than the stuff we are cleaning up! Many have VOCs (volatile organic compounds), corrosive substances, and ingredients that are neurotoxins and carcinogens as well as other things that can seriously affect our health and the environment. So many of the products we had been using really bothered my lungs and gave me asthma problems, and I used them anyway! Not to mention the fact that when you spray a chemical cleaner, the tiny particles get into the air, and then into your lungs, and go immediately from there to your bloodstream. Even the ones that you squirt on or pour in actually “off-gas,” which means that chemicals are released into the air from the product. You know that “fresh” smell you get when you use toilet bowl cleaner? Yeah, that’s off-gassing. And yeah, that fresh scent is basically poisoning you.
The first thing I did was to get rid of the aerosol sprays like Lysol and Oust, and other air fresheners. I also trashed the Scrubbing Bubbles and spray-on cleaners. They are some of the worst about getting into your lungs and bloodstream. Then, I replaced them, one by one, with non-toxic, environmentally and health-friendly alternatives, many of which I make myself or simply use ordinary ingredients that I already have around the house. I will admit that I still buy Soft Scrub Gel with Bleach because I can’t find anything that will clean the black-colored mildew from my grout and caulk. Still working on replacing that one. But, everything else is clean and green! And let me say this: you don’t HAVE to make your own cleaners. Yes, it is more economical, but I realize some of you just don’t have the time (or don’t want to take the time) and that’s OK. You can still buy stuff at the store that will work AND be greener and healthier. But here are the things that we use:
1. Laundry Soap–I almost always make my own. I got busy and bought Biokleen on sale at Sprouts last time, but before finishing off the bottle, I started to noticed that my towels were smelling stinky. Not sure if it was the soap or coincidence, but I made up a new batch of my homemade recently, and the towels are smelling better. I just like the homemade stuff, and it’s really cheap to make—much cheaper than buying the more natural soaps at the store. I will post the recipe soon.
2. Laundry Stain Remover–I use a mixture of 1 tsp. Dawn, 3-4 tsp. Hydrogen Peroxide, 2 tbsp. baking soda. Mix together, rub into the stain gently with a toothbrush, and let sit for 1-3 hours. This gets out grease spots and armpit stains too! Works great. I’m pretty sure Dawn is not THE most eco-friendly, but I think it’s better than Shout or Spray n Wash, and I believe this stain remover works better than either of those. It even got baby poop stains out of some friend’s baby clothes that had been sitting for a long time. It’s possible that it would work with a more natural dishwashing liquid. I will try it out sometime soon and let you know. NOTE: Don’t let this stuff sit on your clothes too long. I left it on some garments overnight, and not only did it take the stains out, it took some of the color out with them. Yep, that’s how well it works! Thankfully, they were old clothes 😉
3. Laundry Softener–I use wool dryer balls. They soften the clothes without chemicals and they reduce most of the static. I have found that if there are synthetics in the dryer (like polyester or esp. lycra), there is still a little bit of static with those items in the dry-dead of winter time. But I can live with that small amount of static. The dryer balls also cut down on drying time, so they’re economical in that way. I bought some on Etsy when I first started using them, and they came apart. Then I made my own, but after much use, they are coming apart too :/ I will be trying and reviewing a set of dryer balls and doing a giveaway from Woolzies in the next week or so, and am very excited about that! If it’s scented laundry that you think you will miss by giving up dryer sheets, you should know that the VOCs from the chemical fragrance that is on dryer sheets are SO bad for you. Alternatively, you can put essential oils on wool dryer balls and achieve that purpose with a completely natural and nontoxic scent…AND as a plus, you get to pick or make your favorite fragrance 😉
4. Dish Soap—I have been using Seventh Generation dish soap and really like it, although I realized the other day that it has Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (grrrrrr), so I’ll be switching that next time, probably to Biokleen. I’ve used Biokleen before and it’s fine. I liked the Seventh Generation better, but don’t want one with SLS.
5. Dishwasher Soap–I still use regular dishwasher soap–Target’s Up brand gel. Haven’t found a different one that really works well, or that I can afford. I tried making my own, using several different recipes, and none of them did the trick. I am glad that the Target brand doesn’t have phosphates. I’m not absolutely sure it has bleach either, and that’s a good thing. What I do know is that it gets my dishes clean and doesn’t leave a filmy residue all over them, and that’s the important thing 😉
6. All-Purpose Cleaner–I have been using Biokleen All-Purpose Cleaner, but am planning to switch to the Thieves cleaner from Young Living next time. Biokleen has been OK—it hasn’t performed the way that I hoped it would on all jobs, although it has been great in my Hoover carpet washer! I use it just like I would the commercial cleaner that came with it and it has done a fabulous job. Thieves is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal (pretty much anti-everything), and it smells great, so I am looking forward to making that switch. I imagine it will do great in my carpet washer as well.
7. Toilet Bowl Cleaner–I clean my toilets with 1/4 cup Borax and 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar. Pour both in, let sit for about 15 minutes, scrub, and flush. That’s it. The instructions say you can let it sit longer (like overnight) but I can’t ever wait that long without having to USE the toilet (sometimes 15 minutes is a stretch!), so whatever to that! I do loathe the smell of vinegar so I usually make citrus vinegar out of citrus rinds. Just put your rinds in a jar after juicing them, cover with vinegar, and let it sit. It still smells vinegary, but the citrus helps a lot! I re-use my rinds again and again.
8. Glass Cleaner—I make my own, although I am going to have to find a new recipe that will work better on the car windows. We have pecan tree sap that makes such a mess on our windshield and windows, and while the glass cleaner I have works great for mirrors and house windows, it falls short on the car. I feel sure there is another out there that will work—just gotta find it 😉
9. Furniture Polish—I make my own here too, from lemon juice and olive oil. It makes a good dusting solution and polishes and conditions wood too. Smells nice and lemony, and is made with actual lemon juice, as opposed to lemon Pledge that is fake.
10. Produce Wash–I use Grapefruitseed Extract (GSE). 10 drops or so in a bowl of wash water. I think it’s a good idea to rinse your produce first, put it in the bowl, and let it sit 10 minutes or so, for the best cleaning results. Rinse again before using. You can make it in a spray bottle, if you prefer. Put about 60 drops of GSE in a regular sized spray bottle and fill it up with water. Spray the veggies and let them sit for 10 minutes or so, and then rinse before using. I have also used vinegar, but hate the smell, so GSE has become my new favorite!
11. Drain Cleaner/Un-Clogger—I use 1/2 cup baking soda (pour it in the drain) followed by 1/2 cup vinegar. You are supposed to put something over the drain (like a bowl or container) and let this sit for 15-30 minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever done that but I will next time. After letting it sit, carefully pour a kettle of boiling water down the sink. If you have a clog, this should take care of it. If not, you may have to repeat this process more than once. I think there are some other alternatives out there to drain cleaner besides this one, which is good because commercial drain cleaner is nasty stuff.
12. Odor Eliminating Spray (like Febreze)–I have found that vodka works amazingly well for this. If you add some baking soda to your spray bottle of vodka, it’s even better, and way more effective even than Febreze. I pour a little bit of baking soda into my spray bottle and then fill it with the vodka. You don’t want too much soda or it will clog your sprayer. Shake well. It doesn’t really dissolve, but you want to at least disperse the baking soda throughout the vodka. Spray on your clothes or upholstery or whatever you’re deodorizing and then let dry. The alcohol will dry pretty quickly, although you do want to be sure and spray enough on there to do some good. Sometimes the baking soda will leave a fine white powder when it dries. No biggie—just brush it right off. If you have a really stubborn stink, you may have to do this more than once. I have found that it will conquer even really bad odors though and it leaves behind no funky “oversmell” like Febreze, nor does it leave any kind of weird residue like Febreze. It’s pretty stinkin’ awesome. Or non-stinkin.’ as the case may be 😉 Yeah, I like corny puns.
So that’s it! There are many other cleaning alternatives out there, and I probably haven’t covered even all the ones I use, but these are the ones I use most often. Good luck! It really is a great feeling when you can clean your clean 😉