Posts Tagged ‘non-toxic cleaning products’
This afternoon I will be giving a short demo on how to make your own green cleaning products at the H Street Festival in Washington, DC. Many natural ingredients found in your kitchen can double as safe and effective cleaning products. These cleaners are inexpensive and non-toxic to use, creating healthier homes in the cleaning process.
Why Should We Be Concerned with Our Cleaning Products?
- There are an estimated 80,000 different chemical compounds in use, of which 4000-8000 are estimated to trigger cancer.
- The average household contains anywhere from 3 to 25 gallons of toxic materials.
- Of the roughly 17,000 chemicals used in household products, only about 30% have been adequately tested for their effects on human health.
- According to The International Agency for Research on Cancer, 80% of all cancers are attributable to environmental influences.
Cleaning products are often defined as Hazardous Waste: Any material (gas, liquid or solid) discarded from the home that may, due to its chemical nature, pose a health threat to people, animals and the environment if handled or disposed of improperly. When you dispose of your cleaning products in landfills or down the drain, you negatively affect: fish, birds, soil, air, the water supply, and human health.
Toxic substances has become such a concern that it is currently in the National Spotlight. Currently there are two reform bills in Congress which would improve on the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act:
- Require industries to prove safety of chemicals
- Require basic information about all chemicals
- Suggest a program for the EPA to identify and clean up hot spots in the country where chemical exposure is particularly high
The House bill requires the EPA to take action on the 40 worst chemicals within the next year. One of the other reasons for public concern is that the current Act excludes cosmetics, food, drugs, and pesticides, and the EPA has only tested about 200 of the 60,000 – 80,000 chemicals in production in the marketplace. (Get more information on the proposed reform through various organizations: Healthy Child, Healthy World, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Occupational Health and Safety)
With so much unknown and needed reform still in the legislative process, we are better off at the moment taking matters into our hands. One way to do that is to make your own cleaning products with ingredients you can trust, and probably have in your kitchen right now.
Clean from your Cupboard: Green Cleaning Recipes and Tips
Vinegar naturally cleans like an all-purpose cleaner. Mix a solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar in a new store bought spray bottle and you have a solution that will clean most areas of your home. Vinegar is a great natural cleaning product as well as a disinfectant and deodorizer. Always test on an inconspicuous area. It is safe to use on most surfaces and has the added bonus of being incredibly cheap. Improperly diluted vinegar is acidic and can eat away at tile grout. Never use vinegar on marble surfaces. Don’t worry about your home smelling like vinegar. The smell disappears when it dries. Here are some uses for vinegar in the rooms of your house:
- Bathroom – Clean the bathtub, toilet, sink, and countertops. Use pure vinegar in the toilet bowl to get rid of rings. Flush the toilet to allow the water level to go down. Pour the undiluted vinegar around the inside of the rim. Scrub down the bowl. Mop the floor in the bathroom with a vinegar/water solution. The substance will also eat away the soap scum and hard water stains on your fixtures and tile. Make sure it is safe to use with your tile.
- Kitchen- Clean the stovetop, appliances, countertops, and floor.
- Laundry Room- Use vinegar as a natural fabric softener. This can be especially helpful for families who have sensitive skin. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store bought fabric softener. Vinegar has the added benefit of breaking down laundry detergent more effectively. (A plus when you have a family member whose skin detects every trace of detergent.)
Lemon juice can be used to dissolve soap scum and hard water deposits, as well as to clean and shine brass and copper. It can be mixed with vinegar and or baking soda to make cleaning pastes. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle baking soda on the cut section. Use the lemon to scrub dishes, surfaces, and stains. You can also put a whole lemon peel through the garbage disposal to freshen the drain.
Baking soda can be used to scrub surfaces in much the same way as commercial abrasive cleansers. Baking soda is great as a deodorizer. Place a box in the refrigerator and freezer to absorb odors. Put it anywhere you need deodorizing action.
3% Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen Peroxide is yet another fabulous wonder in the non-toxic world. It can be used for numerous things in the home and can even get rid of mold! Its properties are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and it can get rid of viruses. You can even use a capful daily as mouthwash. No more canker sores and your teeth will be whiter without expensive pastes! Pour 1 cup in your rinse cycle for some great white action as well.
Mix together 1 cup jojoba/olive oil and 1/2 cup lemon juice to create a homemade furniture polish. Mix together in a clean new spray bottle. To use, remember to shake before each application. Apply a small portion to your cleaning cloth. Spread the polish over the furniture, trying to polish evenly. Use another clean cloth to polish the surface dry.
Here are a few more useful ingredients to have in your house, along with their uses:
- Carnauba/Beeswax – floor and furniture wax
- Borax-deodorizer – all-purpose cleaner, rust-stain removal
- Toothpaste – metal polisher
- Washing soda (sodium carbonate) – grease and grime cutter, wax remover and deodorizer
- Citrus Fruits – disinfectant, grease cutter, deodorizer, flea repellent
- Eucalyptus/Neem Tree Oils – insect repellent
- Lavender Oil – disinfectant, deodorizer
- Tea Tree Oil – anti-bacterial, -fungal, and -viral, deodorizer
- Natural Vegetable-based Liquid Soap – grease and grime cutter, wax remover and deodorizer
When people are trying to live green, there are a few things we should try never to do. Here are 10 things you should never buy when you are living green. There are great alternatives to everything.
1. Styrofoam cups – Styrofoam last forever and does not biodegrade.
Alternative: Buy recyclable and compostable paper cups. Even better, start buying reusable mugs or water bottles that you can take with you. Great option is the Klean Kanteen.
2. Paper towels – Paper towels waste forest resources, landfill space, and your money.
Alternative: When you do buy paper towels, look for recycled, non-bleached products. Sponges made from cellulose is another option (Here is a quick look) Even better, buy organic dishtowels to wash and reuse.
3. Bleached coffee filters – Dioxins, chemicals formed during the chlorine bleaching process, contaminate groundwater and air and are linked to cancer in humans and animals.
Alternative: Look for unbleached paper filters. Even better, use reusable filters.
4. Overpackaged foods and other products – Excess packaging wastes resources and costs you much more money. Around thirty three percent of trash in the average American household comes from packaging.
Alternative: Buy products with minimal or reusable packaging. Even better, buy in bulk and use your own containers when shopping.
5. Teak and mahogany – Every year, 27 million acres of tropical rainforest are destroyed. Rainforests cover 6% of Earth’s surface and are home to over half of the world’s wild plant, animal, and insect species. The Amazon rainforest produces 40 percent of the world’s oxygen.
Alternative: Look for Forest Stewardship Council certified wood. Even Better, reuse wood, and buy furniture and other products made from used or salvaged wood. At the Secondhand or antique stores you can find old pieces of furniture that you can prevent from entering the landfills.
6.Chemical pesticides and herbicides – American households use 80 million pounds of pesticides each year. The EPA found at least one pesticide in almost every water and fish sample from streams and in more than one-half of shallow wells sampled in agricultural and urban areas. These chemicals pose threats to animals and people, especially children. They contaminate our food supply.
Alternatives: Buy organic pest controllers. Even better, plant flowers and herbs that act as natural pesticides.
7. Conventional household cleaners – Household products can contain hazardous ingredients such as organic solvents and petroleum-based chemicals that can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your indoor environment, posting a particular danger for children. The average American household has three to ten of hazardous matter in the home.
Alternative: Look for nontoxic, vegetable-based, biodegradeable cleaners. (See recommendations) Even better, try making your own green cleaner using vinegar, water, and castile soap.
8. Higher octane gas than you need – Only one car in ten manufactured since 1982 requires high-octane gasoline. High-octane gas releases more hazardous pollutants into the air, and may be bad for your car.
Alternative: Buy the lowest-octane gas your car requires as listed in your owner’s manual. Even better, take public transportation, ride a bike, or walk.
9. Toys made with PVC plastic – 70% of PVC is used in construction, but it is also found in everyday plastics, including some children’s toys. Vinyl chloride, the chemical used to make PVC, is a known human carcinogen. Also, additives, such as lead and cadmium, are sometimes added to PVC to keep it from breaking down; these additives can be particularly dangerous in children’s toys. PVC is also the least recycled plastic.
Alternative: Avoid plastics that are labeled as “PVC” or “#3.” Look for toys that are labeled PVC free such as the Green Toys. Better yet, purchase toys like Plan Toys that are made from recycled rubberwood trees, have formadehyde free adhesives, use soy and water based ink, and packaged in recycled materials.
10. Plastic forks and spoons - Disposable plastic utensils are not biodegradeable and not recyclable in most areas.
Alternative: Use compostable food service items.