Healthy Cleaning

by Girl Gone Domestic

One of the first step to detoxifying your home, or going “green”, is to attack your cleaning supplies.  Many of the cleaning products available on the market contain carcinogens such as formaldehyde, nitrobenzene, methylene chloride, and napthelene, as well as reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors. Not to mention other ingredients that cause liver, kidney and brain damage, allergies and asthma.  The chemicals in these cleaning products also contaminate and buildup in the air inside your home.  Some products release contaminants into the air right away, others do so gradually over a period of time.  Some stay in the air up to a year.  Research has shown that 50% of all illness is do to poor indoor air quality.

Here are some facts about common cleaning products:

ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER: often contains Propylene Glycol, a chemical that can cause nausea, convulsions, slurred speech, disorientation, and heart and kidney problems when ingested. Other all-purpose cleaners may contain Sodium Hydroxide, also found in drain cleaners, stain removers, and bathroom cleaners. A highly reactive chemical, Sodium Hydroxide can react violently with water and other materials, sometimes generating enough heat to ignite nearby combustible materials. Other health hazards can include blindness, scarring, and even death when inhaled in large amounts. Aerosol sprays containing this chemical can also lead to lung injury.

DISHWASHER DETERGENTS: often contain highly concentrated amounts of chlorine. A leading cause of child poisonings.

DRAIN CLEANER: often contains lye, hydrochloric acid or trichloroethane. Lye can burn skin and eyes and can damage the esophagus and stomach if ingested. Hydrochloric acid is a corrosive element that can irritate skin, and damage kidneys, liver and digestive tracts. Trichloroethane is an eye and skin irritant, that can depress the nervous system and damage liver and kidneys.

FURNITURE POLISH: many include Petroleum Distillates, a highly flammable skin irritant, and Phenol (see Air Fresheners). Some also include Nitrobenzene, a toxic material easily absorbed through the skin, or Methyl Chloroform, which can cause skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, headache, drowsiness, symptoms of drunkenness, kidney damage, liver damage, convulsions, and even coma. Other products contain Hydrocarbon Solvent, which can result in mucous membrane irritation. Higher concentrations of this chemical can cause headache, dizziness, and nausea.

MOLD AND MILDEW CLEANERS: ingredients often include Sodium Hypochlorite, a corrosive material that can irritate or burn skin and eyes. In cases of high exposure, can cause fluid to collect in the lungs, which can lead to coma or death. Many such cleaners also contain Formaldehyde (see Air Fresheners).

ANTIBACTERIAL CLEANERS: may contain Triclosan, a chemical that, if absorbed through the skin, may contribute to liver damage.

TOILET BOWL CLEANERS: may contain Hydrochloric Acid, a highly corrosive irritant to both skin and eyes that can also lead to kidney and liver damage. May also include Hypochlorite Bleach, another corrosive irritant that can burn eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Ingestion can lead to pulmonary edema, vomiting or coma. If combined with other chemicals may result in potentially fatal chlorine fumes. Other chemicals found in these products can include Phosphoric Acid, an extremely corrosive material that can cause severe irritation and burns to skin.

Sound scary?  What’s scary to me is that our children are the ones primarily affected due to their weaker immune systems.

So do we have to trade a clean house for our health?  No!  Instead trade those toxic cleaners for some homemade cleaners made with a few common items.

Here is a list of things I keep on hand and how I use them.

White distilled vinegar:

Mix equally with water and fill a spray bottle for a great all purpose spray.  I use this solution for windows, and mopping my laminate floors.  I use it full strength on my wood cutting boards, counter tops, toilets and any other germ catching surfaces.  And don’t worry the smell doesn’t last long.  Vinegar has antibacterial qualities, a straight 5 percent solution of vinegar kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses) and it has many, many uses.

Baking soda

I use baking soda as you would comet or soft scrub.  It has grit!


I also use this as you would comet and  in my toilet bowls, just sprinkle, let sit and scrub with toilet brush.  You can also use Borax as a laundry booster, in place of bleach or to make your own laundry soap.

Murphy’s Soap Oil

Every other week I wash my laminate floors with this and all my wood furniture.  Then I add shine to wood furniture by wiping on some olive oil.

Biokleen Dishwash Liquid 

This stuff is great!  I fill all my soap dispensers with it for our handsoap, I wash dishes with it, but it can also be used as bubble bath, its so mild and softens skin.

For the few dishes I hand wash, I use my new found favorite Twist sponge and for scrubbing I use copper scrubbers.

Throw it all in a basket and get the family involved in housecleaning, even the kids can be trusted with these cleaning supplies!  You can also skip the paper towels and use washable cloths.


Sources:  Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic (New Society Publishers, 2007) by Liz Armstrong 

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