Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Clean Your Air - Household Cleaners

Awhile ago I did a post on cleaning your air with plants...wanted to follow that up with how to clean your air with healthy household cleaners. In college, I bought Windex and the "typical" cleaners because that's what my Mom used, but once we got married and started re-analyzing our choices, the way we lived, and the effects these had on our home, health, and the environment, we knew a change needed to be made. Started by buying green cleaners but then soon after that began making our own, which ends up being a far cheaper alternative, but more on that later...

Since so much time is spent indoors and the air quality is much poorer than outside air, it's really important to do as much as we can to keep it clean. One of the best ways this can be done is by NOT bringing toxic cleaning products into our homes, as the majority of indoor pollutants are actually from cleaners. So what is supposedly cleaning our houses is dirtying the air we breathe!! Have you ever gotten a headache or been irritated at all whilst cleaning and wondered why? I know I used to!

With most regular cleaning products you're allowing toxic chemicals into your home that can lead to fatigue, illness, and disease. Especially if you have children (or are pregnant), you need to be careful, as little one's developing bodies are MUCH more susceptible to damage, specifically their nervous, reproductive, and respiratory systems. Think about where children play - on the floor - where they are much closer to the pollutants than adults are, because the floor is where allergens, dust, and heavier-than-air chemicals settle and collect. Further, children are constantly putting their hands into their mouths and thus more easily tranferring the toxic substances into their bodies...AND household cleaning chemicals are the most frequent type of chemicals involved in children's poisonings, which is scary.

I would suggest getting rid of the toxic cleaning products you have RIGHT NOW (some would suggest finishing them and then starting over "green"/healthy, so that's another option, but I think it's better to just rid your home of them). BUT don't throw them away - you have to dispose of them properly - if you just dump them, those chemicals end up in our landfills and then in our waterways!!! SO, contact your city or go to your city's website and find where/when to dispose of hazardous waste, because that's what your cleaning products are - HAZARDOUS waste! Isn't something wrong when what we're "cleaning" our houses with is considered hazardous??

Most people just continue to buy what they have always bought or what their parents did (me!!!) without really looking at what's in the products. But we need to, have to, because WE are responsible for our health, we can't trust the government and certainly NOT big business to take care of us! It's our responsibility, especially as parents. Thank goodness, there are many green options readily available now for purchase...Seventh Generation has some great products...and Ecover.

Look for products that ARE:

Bio-based and made from renewable sources - plant, vegetable, or fruit-based
Color-less/Clear - NOT formulated with dyes

DON'T buy products with these ingredients:

Artificial perfumes (like if it says "Fragrance")
Petroleum distillates or crude oil
Optical Brighteners
VOC's - volatile organic compounds
AND any Synthetic ingredients

Here are some others that you should look out for!

BUT really be wary of greenwashing from companies..."Greenwashing" is basically advertising and marketing of a product/company that makes it look "green" when in fact it really isn't - it's very misleading! S.C. Johnson and their GreenList line is a good example of this. The commercials and ads for their "green" products really upset me because some of their ingredients are certainly NOT green, not healthy, and are actually toxic (ethylene glycol and isopropanol, amongst others) and they themselves created "The GreenList" that their products fall under, which doesn't really make sense. So just be careful - really read the ingredient list and any warnings that the product has. Some others offhand to look out for include Target's Method line (thus the pretty colors of their products - and they have SLS and petroleum-based ingredients in some of them), and Clorox Green Works...supposedly Green Works is 99% "natural" (which really doesn't mean anything), but that 1% of "un-natural" ingredients is from petrochemicals (dyes) which give it that light green color, namely Kathon, which according to the MSDS for it, can be irritating to skin, damaging to eyes, and may cause long term adverse effects to the aquatic environment..." Hmmmm...doesn't sound very green!

As mentioned previously, I highly suggest INSTEAD making your own non-toxic cleaning products from common household items like baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, olive oil, castile soap, and pure essential oils. That way you know exactly what ingredients are in your products, and if you buy in bulk from places like Mountain Rose Herbs (try Costco or a grocery for bulk vinegar), you're reducing the amount of packaging you buy, as well as saving money. Find some inexpensive containers and spray bottles you can label to store your products in, some good reusable cloths, natural bristle brushes, and there you go! Here, here, and here are some excellent resources for making your own cleaning recipes - we use many of them and they work great!! BUT THIS ONE, this one is the best !!

One concern some people might have about non-toxic cleaning products is that they don't clean as well...well I'm here to tell you they REALLY do - I promise!!! A mixture of vinegar and water is the BEST window/glass cleaner I've ever used and baking soda is AMAZING - nothing cleans our sinks, showers, tubs, etc. better - seriously! Vinegar is effective at killing mold, germs, and bacteria due to its acidity and it's extremely economical - here are 1001 uses for vinegar, involving everything from cleaning to pet care! Baking soda is another cheap incredible cleaning ally and here are some great uses for it! Many pure essential oils have amazing antiseptic and antibacterial properties, such as tea tree, lemon, lavender, and many others, plus they smell beautiful! Really, you can get your home as clean (and healthier) with non-toxic products!

In the long run, it ends up being much cheaper and is SO much better for you and your family's health, as well as the health of the environment. Plus, it's so simple and easy....Do you see a pattern in my posts?? - Simple, easy, and inexpensive...:) So get to it - do some green summer cleaning - and get your home (and air) truly clean!


Jade said...

What great information! I've been slowly moving over to the 'green' products myself. I'd love to make my own though. Thanks for the links on this!

Angela Harris said...

Thank you so much Jillian for your detailed and thought out posts. I have an incredibly smart friend who talked me into getting rid of any cleaning products last year but I had never replaced them. I bought a 3 pound bag of baking soda and had never used it b/c I never looked up how. I've printed out this list and I'm off to find bottles and jars now. Can't wait for the next project to make our family healthier.