Clean cleaning products

When trying to reduce the amount of toxins in our homes from the cleaning products we use and the effects that these chemicals can have on our health, there are various things that we can do. Some of these may prove more difficult than others.  

The easiest thing to do is to keep using products which are known to contain harmful chemicals but to use them more carefully. We should also take more care with items which are known to carry a particular risk e.g. aerosols, take steps to protect ourselves and others, and use fewer products in smaller quantities.

The hardest thing to do is to use natural, truly ecological products.

Organisations such as the Californian Environmental Protection Agency recommend various measures to avoid an excessive buildup of harmful chemicals inside buildings. Amongst these, they suggest using fewer products, using those with less or less harmful ingredients, reducing the amount of dirt that gets in by cleaning regularly etc.

The recommended measures include: reducing the use of cleaning products with lemon- or pine-based terpenes (especially where ozone levels in the environment are high or when using devices which can increase ozone levels inside the home, such as air purifying equipment or air ionisers), rinsing surfaces well after washing as well as any mops or clothes used, and keeping the room well ventilated during cleaning and for several hours afterwards etc.

We should be economical about which cleaning products we really need. By only using the basic essentials, this will reduce the complex chemical cocktail in our homes.

It is also important to keep all containers and packaging well sealed and to keep cleaning products in an area of the house where their chemicals will not be emitted into the air we breathe.

However, as much as we may try to reduce the use of products that contain toxins, we should really use those which do not contain these toxins at all.

Eco products

There is a growing market for cleaning products which do not contain specific harmful substances (e.g. synthetic musks) but yet which are just as or more efficient than those which contain toxins. You can get these products from ecological or organic shops.

We should also be aware of which products should truly be labelled as ecological. There are many products which are labelled as “eco” and may have got rid of a certain group of ingredients but they could still contain many other harmful substances. The truly ecological cleaning products comply much better with safety requirements.

An important point to remember is that we mustn’t confuse something being clean with it smelling of something. There are many chemicals used in synthetic fragrances which can cause problems. Something which is clean should not, in theory, smell of anything at all.

Homemade remedies

Finally, there are natural solutions which were used for a long time before industries decided to use so many synthetic chemical products. Using these solutions means you do not need to buy ready-made commercial products.

You can use ingredients such as:

  • Bicarbonate of soda or bicarbonate of soda

  • White or apple cider vinegar

  • Lemon

  • Borax (should be used with care)

    Vinegar is a product which has been used in household cleaning for a very long time. Due to its acidic content, it is a good disinfectant and anticalcifier. Vinegar can be used, by adding to water, to clean floors (if needed: with a small amount of soap). It also works well for cleaning glass, ceramic tiles etc. By adding salt or bicarbonate of soda to the vinegar, you will have a good multipurpose cleaner. This also works if you use bicarbonate of soda, borax and lemon. For a wooden floor, a simple mixture of olive oil and vinegar is enough and, to polish furniture, the same thing can be done with lemon.

    One place where strong chemicals are widely used is in the bathroom. However, instead of using these strong chemical products, you could leave a mixture of vinegar or lemon, and bicarbonate (with a small amount of borax) on the affected area for a few hours before scrubbing and rinsing well.

    Apart from using it as an odour neutraliser, we can use bicarbonate of soda to clean bathrooms, floors, refrigerators, carpets etc. by adding either hot or slightly cooler water. A strong and effective cleaning product for the kitchen can be made using bicarbonate of soda and lemon. By adding a bit of soap, this can also be used for cleaning the inside of the oven. For something like a blocked pipe, dangerous chemicals are often used but it is better to put a mixture of vinegar with salt and bicarbonate of soda down the drain and then leave the hot water running for a few minutes. It may also be useful to install grates or grills in the piping to prevent blockages.

    Ingredients which have disinfecting properties include: soap, borax and vinegar as well as essential oils such as thyme, juniper, cedar, eucalyptus, geranium, lavender etc.

    There are many other simple solutions which will in turn prevent us products containing harmful chemicals in our homes. The best way to find out which ones work is to experiment a bit.