by Holly Pellham Davis
Just saying the word, “March” fills my mind with thoughts of marching through every room in the house and doing a complete clean out. By the time the dust settles, I have to confess, there is not much left on the shelves, counter tops, or in the drawers. It all has morphed into a sea of bags labeled “donations” and “re-sell” which makes me feel so much lighter, refreshed and cleansed... almost as good as I imagine I would feel after a “We Care Spa” retreat. (Okay, maybe that’s a stretch.)
I love downsizing, detoxing, reducing, reusing, repurposing, simplifying “things” in life. One of my favorite places to “clean out” is the cleaning bucket. Seems kinda strange doesn’t it? ... cleaning out the cleaning bucket... but it makes me nuts to have 5,000 products to clean the bath tub! Do we really need all that? And, should we be in cardiac or respiratory distress, from the toxic fumes all in the name of a streak free mirror?
The fact that over half of all cleaning products contain chemicals that harm the lungs (what about the brain and liver?) and another 22% cause asthma in healthy adults leaves me even more breathless. Add the stats of increased respiratory allergies almost tripling in 2008-2010 and findings that people who used spray cleaners to clean their homes at least once per week has a 30-50% increased risk of asthma. Air fresheners, glass cleaners and furniture spray were frequently used products.
Some Health issues linked to Cleaning Products/Chemicals include:
Respiratory allergies and distress Toxicity in the body through inhalation and skin contact.
Skin irritations, allergies Cancer. (especially blood cancer ie: Asthma Burns and Poisoning.
Recently, I penned an article on the “Air we Breathe” and the importance of clean air indoors and our overall health. Products that mask, fragrance and/or chemically disinfect our air, products that clean, polish and wax surfaces, products that retard bacteria, remove mold or bleach surfaces in wet areas. These cleaning products gas off or evaporate into the air we breathe effecting our health both, short and long term. Exposures can leave chemicals lingering in our bodies for decades with devastating effects.
Let’s put on some gloves, a white mask (if needed), a cute apron, and get to work!
First, we need to grab a container that will hold “toxic” products (we must dispose of them properly- you do not want to be drinking it down the road. It all goes somewhere, right? Visit Dallas County website for locations and directions.
Review products you have on hand: The majority of cleaning products do not list the complete ingredients on the label. It’s a dastardly, devious thing to do. Luckily, we can usually discern for ourselves if a product has a high probability of containing toxic substances. If in question, toss it. (properly)
Most people have 1)house cleaning products, 2)kitchen cleaning products, 3) laundry products and then 4)garage type (lawn and auto) products. Hit all areas separately.
Refer online to Environmental Working Group’s Product database if you have a question.
Dispose of any product that contains the following:
Products Listed on EWG List of Shame:
Chlorine / Bleach
Petroleum Dirivitives ie: Mineral Oil, Wax
2-butoxyethanol (2-BE) carcinogen, respiratory irritant.
Phthalates ie:Butyl Benzyl Phthalate
Benzene, Dioxane 1,4, Ethylene Oxide
Citrus and Pine Cleaners
All Paints, Solvents, Thinners.
Fuels should only be safely stored away from the house.
Pesticides, Baits, Herbicides, Weed Killer, Round-up, Ant Killer
Aerosol with fluorocarbon Containers
Any Chemical Listed in California’s Prop 65 List of Chemicals known to be Carcinogens and cause Reproductive Toxicity
Formaldehyde (carcinogen) Releasing Chemicals list via EWG:
Remove & Discard all products containing toxic chemicals listed above and/or products you have deemed toxic.
Please include: Laundry dryer sheets, Petroleum based and scented candles, air refreshers, deodorizers, and “Fabreeze type” products.
“Clean” DIY Alternatives:
Vinegar & Water. Vinegar is my very favorite cleaning product. I mix 1 part vinegar to about 3 parts water, in a spray bottle to clean bathtubs & showers. (mix with baking soda and Bronner’s soap for a mild abrasive and tile, porcelain cleaner) For mold removal, spray hydrogen peroxide after the vinegar spray to do the trick! Add a spray of peroxide anytime you need antibacterial or extra germ fighting action, perfect for the toilet bowl! Add vinegar to the rinse cycle of the laundry for extra brightening, softening and freshness! Clean your countertops, granite, marble, sinks. Just spray and wipe with clean re-usable cleaning towels! For a true air refresher, room oder remover, place a small bowl of white vinegar on the counter top! Hydrogen Peroxide in a spray bottle: Use hydrogen peroxide for mold and anti bacterial uses in the bathroom, kitchen and laundry. Spot testing is always recommended. Peroxide in a spray bottle application is a great alternative to cleaning fruits and vegetables as well as disinfecting cutting boards. Be sure to rinse and let the food dry prior to consumption. Gloves are strongly suggested, as the peroxide can burn your hands.
Baking soda is fantastic for deodorizing carpets and pet areas. Just sprinkle prior to vacuuming designated areas. Baking soda can be easily mixed with an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice to increase cleaning power. It can also be mixed with water and liquid dish soap, to create a nice cleanser for tile or other non- porous surfaces including sinks and ovens. Hot Water: Nothing can take the place of good ole hot water. One of the best perks for under the counter instant hot water is the ability to put it on a dry clean cloth and clean plus naturally kill germs in an instant. Hot water cuts grease and gets the shine on!
Plant Oils: Olive Oil, Lemon Oil: One of the worst violators commonly comes in the form of furniture polish. Skip the exposure and danger with a non-toxic do it yourself concoction of Olive Oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and lemon oil. Spot test first. Apply to clean dry cloth, then furniture. For best results, use microfiber cleaning towels to remove toxic dust prior to oil.
Green Light Cleaning Products:
You can also check the EWG website (although I don’t agree with some product listings.)
Some of my favorite products are listed below:
Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent
Seventh Generation Liquid dish soap
Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes
Method Glass Cleaner
Method Almond Wood Cleaner
Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner
Other Clean Fresh Living Cleaning Tips include:
Protect Yourself: Dust particles can contain highly toxic, very dangerous contaminants such as formaldehyde, lead, mercury, arsenic, pesticides and flame retardants. Please use gloves and a white mask while dusting.
Pre-Clean: I recommend going over furniture, blinds and other dust collecting objects with a microfiber cloth prior to using a furniture cleaner or oil. Conserve: Use washable cleaning or automotive towels to replace paper towel waste. Lint free linen drying towels are great for glass and mirrors. Bare feet rule: Have people remove their shoes prior to entering your home. This greatly reduces the dirt and dust accumulations.
Frequently vacuum using HEPA filter the carpeted areas of your home. Replace air filters often.
Keep it movin’: Keep air circulating in your house at all times. This is absolutely essential. Open doors and windows when possible and get the flow going. Add fans if necessary.
Give a Green 411 to the housekeeper: If you have a house keeper on the scene, make sure you teach then how to and what goes where.
Label with a list of applications. ie: Bathtub.
Remember, even if you aren’t home while your house is being cleaned, its in the air, in the dust and in you..
Now that we have cleared the air with clean fresh cleaning products for our home... whatta ya say we use some of our left over house cleaning ingredients for a refreshing glass of water... squeeze the lemon, hold the olive oil.
Cheer’s to Clean Fresh Living!