While the word “chemical” has become a buzzword for harmful substances, I want to be clear from the start that not all “chemicals” are bad. “Chemical” is a chemistry term that refers to a compound or a simple substance. We are made of chemicals! However, the distinguishing word to pay attention to is either harmful or toxic.
Did You Know?
There are hundreds of toxic chemicals in common home cleaning products. These can include carcinogens, neurotoxic chemicals and endocrine-disrupting agents. Poison Control centers deal with hundreds of thousands of calls each year that are related to toxic exposures, including many involving children.
A popular laundry detergent brand actually had to create a commercial to warn parents to keep their convenient pod-style detergent out of the reach of children, in order to avoid accidental ingestion by those kids. In the commercial, this is compared to a child getting ahold of pharmaceutical drugs!
Furthermore, wastewater that’s been contaminated with a variety of toxic chemicals negatively affects our ecosystems. People often just wash stuff down the drain and forget about it. It doesn’t ever leave this Earth, and there are only so many ways to cleanse polluted water, especially once it contains harmful substances!
The phosphates found in soaps such as dish soap aren’t toxic, but they’re harmful to the environment because they encourage the growth of algae. In turn, algae consumes the oxygen in waterways, making them less hospitable to other wildlife and plants.
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Green Cleaning Alternatives
The good news is that you don’t ever need to buy common household cleaners again. There are plenty of “green” options in the cleaning aisles of grocery and department stores that are effective (and usually better than the typical stuff!).
However, these are often quite expensive, and if you don’t want to shell out that much cash, you can get away with using inexpensive household ingredients to clean and disinfect your home. Below, we’ve summarized the ins and outs of 11 of these common items and ingredients in order to help you get started with your low-cost green cleaning.
Vinegar, also known as acetic acid, is an excellent antimicrobial and antibacterial agent. Whether you use common white vinegar or cleaning vinegar (which is slightly more acidic), this is a natural disinfectant.
Vinegar that’s been diluted with water is also excellent for cleaning hardwood or bamboo flooring without damaging it. If you go this route, you won’t need to use harsh chemicals.
Another effective disinfectant is 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. It’s a great replacement for bleach when you need to brighten white clothes and disinfect countertops. It can be mixed with baking soda, vinegar and a few drops of your favorite essential oil to create an effective and whitening toilet bowl cleaner. It’s also a good preventative agent in regard to mold. To use it in this way, spray a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water into your showers and baths and let it dry.
Keep an open container or box of baking soda in your fridge to keep things smelling fresh. Combine it with a bit of vinegar to foam away grease and dirt, or mix it with a little water and use it to polish metal faucets or to clean your oven or stovetop. While it’s an effective cleaning product, it’s not so abrasive that it’ll be harmful to delicate surfaces such as marble or granite.
Different from baking soda, washing soda is also known as sodium carbonate decahydrate. It’s a bit more potent than baking soda, and can irritate mucous membranes such as nostrils or mouths, so it must be used with a bit of care. It’s great at dissolving grease and removing stains, and makes an excellent kitchen and bath cleaner. Just avoid using on aluminum, due to chemical processes that will end up tarnishing it.
Different essential oils have different properties, and some of these have antimicrobial abilities, such as tea tree, oregano, eucalyptus, cinnamon
Coarse salt makes an excellent scrub. It can be combined with a bit of oil or a few drops of water to create a gentler scrub that’s particularly useful for cleaning cast-iron cookware.
Lemons and grapefruits smell
It’s a good idea to cut up some lemon or grapefruit slices to keep in a homemade cleaning solution, and you can also put some down your garbage disposal, along with some ice cubes, to keep it smelling fresh. When you’re finished with your slices, put them in your compost pail to keep it smelling fresh(er) while it awaits garbage day or your next trip to your compost heap.
As an olive-oil based soap, castile soap is non-toxic and an environmentally friendly way to clean just about anything, such as dishes, laundry, kitchens and bathrooms—even your body! Some brands produce differently scented versions of castile soap as well. An important thing to check is that the brand you choose is made from olive oil, and contains no palm oil, as palm oil isn’t sustainably produced.
Vodka and Ethanol
Vodka does a great job at removing smells from fabrics, and can also be used as a disinfectant spray. Ethanol is an equivalent substitute as well. Be warned, though, that rubbing alcohol isn’t the same thing and can actually be harmful.
Regular olive oil or other vegetable oils can be used to polish wood. Just apply one of these oils sparingly to a rag or microfiber cloth, and wipe down any wooden surfaces that look like they could use a good polishing.
Creativity is key
The ingredients above can be combined in numerous ways to keep your household fresh and clean. As described, they each are versatile in and of themselves as well.
Remember, if we all do even a small part to benefit the environment, then the collective effects can be huge. Even if there are certain chemical-based home cleaners that you’re not willing to part with, perhaps you can manage to replace a select few of them with more eco-friendly alternatives.
Aside from your home, you can take care of your yard in a “greener” way, too. For more information, visit Organic Lawn Care: Solve 8 Common Lawn Problems Without Chemicals»