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Why should you make the switch to non-toxic or natural cleaning products?
Studies show that our homes are more polluted than the outdoor air in most industrialized cities, and we spend about 90% of our time indoors.1(p5)
The 21 most common cleaning products used most often in our homes release over 450 chemicals into the air that are linked to cancer, asthma, infertility, and developmental problems!2
Chemicals found in our household cleaners and other items may cause or worsen a lot of conditions, including:1,3–5
- infertility in men and women
- immune system function (think allergies, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, etc.)
- early puberty in children
- rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (like Crohn’s and colitis)
I’ve been getting rid of my unhealthy commercial cleaners and replacing them with healthier cleaning products for the last few years. I am finally getting to the point where I have found natural, effective, and cheap cleaners for every area of my home.
With 5 kids helping me clean, I also feel a lot more comfortable letting them use our natural cleaning products.
Keep in mind that there are few rules on what ingredients companies have to list on their cleaning products, so even though some products will list a few ingredients, very few of them list ALL the ingredients.
Endocrine Disruptors (EDC)
Many air fresheners, plastics, cleaning products, and personal care products also contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These are compounds that can block normal functions of the all-important hormones in our bodies, and affect our immune and nervous systems (think of the MANY autoimmune and neurological diseases), reproduction, and development.
Endocrine disruptors are especially concerning in intense phases of development such as unborn and newborn babies, pregnant and lactating women, and puberty.3
Frequent sources of EDCs in your life are probably:3,4
- air fresheners
- plastic water bottles
- plastic food storage containers
- personal care products
A couple of tips for picking out safe cleaning products:2
- Don’t believe the claims on the label, even if they state they are safe or “green.”
- Look for the Ecologo or Green Seal as a clue that they truly are safer.
- Use the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Healthy Cleaning Guide. It’s an awesome free website that allows you to look up health and environmental safety ratings on thousands of products. They rate products and ingredients on a scale of A through F, with A being the safest, and F carrying the most health or environmental concerns. 2
- Even if the EWG website doesn’t list the product you are looking at, you can search for individual ingredients to see how they rate.
Super-safe, multi-purpose cleaning ingredients everyone can use:
We are all real people here and life is busy and demanding, so while I am a fan of making my own cleaners… right now, they also have to be EASY or it just won’t happen. I will include a mix of both DIY options and commercial cleaners for each area of your home.
Here we go….
Here is what I currently use in my laundry routine:
In the past, I’ve made my own laundry detergents using ingredients like Borax, baking soda, and Fels Naptha, but I just never felt like it worked as well as commercial laundry soaps. Also, Borax has an F rating (the worst safety rating) from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and carries high concern for reproductive and developmental harm, which I was shocked to see! Fels Naptha only gets a C rating, but baking soda is considered safe.2
I personally have not found a DIY laundry detergent that uses safe ingredients AND that I feel like works well. Here are some non-toxic commercial laundry detergents:
- 9 Elements Laundry Detergent, Eucalyptus scent
- Attitude Little Ones Fragrance Free Laundry Detergent
- Better Life Natural Concentrated Laundry Detergent
Laundry Stain Remover
DIY Laundry Stain Remover Recipe:
- 2 parts 3% hydrogen peroxide (B rating for safety on a scale of A-F)
- 1 part blue Dawn dish soap (C rating)
- Mix in an empty peroxide bottle. Squirt on stains before washing.
I’m now considering replacing my homemade stain remover with a commercial brand. Some products with good ratings include:
Dryer Sheets/Fabric Softeners
I use wool dryer balls. They both soften fabric and decrease drying time.
Honestly, for years before using wool dryer balls, I stopped using fabric softeners and dryer sheets all together because they tend to be heavily infused with harmful substances. I haven’t had any static issues or really missed them at all.
Commercial dryer sheets & fabric softeners:
- Grab Green Natural Wet Dryer Sheets
- Love Home and Planet Dryer Sheets
- Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Dryer Sheets
- Attitude Little One Fabric Softener
- Dropps Fabric Softener Pods
- Ecover Fabric Softener
Confession: I am a reformed bleach addict. I used to love the smell of Clorox bleach (C rating)… but once my kids started helping with the cleaning, I stopped using bleach cleaners so we wouldn’t end up with bleach stains on their clothes or the rugs or towels. Now I’ve also realized it has some safety concerns as far as skin and respiratory irritation, and even some cancer risk.
DIY option: add ½ cup of white vinegar to the wash and a few drops of Melaleuca essential oil to whiten and brighten clothes. Soak for a few hours for extra power.
I’ve also heard spraying vinegar on sweat stains before washing is effective at preventing yellowing though I haven’t tried it!
Commercial Bleach/Whitening Options:
- Earth Friendly Products Ecos OxoBrite Multipurpose Stain Remover
- Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach
- Seventh Generation Chlorine-Free Bleach
My cleaning kit for the bathroom is pretty simple. I put everything in a cleaning caddy that can easily be carried from bathroom to bathroom on cleaning day (right now my kids take turns cleaning “zones” each Friday). The caddy includes:
- Cleaning rag: microfiber rags, especially the ones from Norwex are the most effective.
- Norwex glass cleaning rag: all I need is this and water for clean mirrors and windows. But you can also use a spray bottle filled with equal parts white vinegar and water with a microfiber rag or newspaper.
- Old toothbrush: I like this for small spaces around the sink and toilets, and also baseboards.
- Pumice stone: the best for hard water stains in toilets and sink drains. This is just volcanic rock that comes in a little stick in the cleaning aisle. It is softer than porcelain but harder than mineral deposits, so it basically scrapes them off without scratching the toilet. It’s amazing what a little pumice scrubbing will take off! Don’t use it on plastic or painted surfaces…it will scratch (ask me how I know).
- Multi-purpose cleaning spray: I make my own super simple spray using:
- 1-½ cups water,
- ½ cup vinegar, and
- 30 drops of essential oils
- 1 drop dish soap
I like this spray because both vinegar and many essential oils are antimicrobial, so I am still cleaning AND sanitizing with this spray. I will list some essential oils with cleaning properties below.Baking soda: I buy baking soda in the big 13 lb bags and fill a salt shaker with it for cleaning the toilet and shower. I sprinkle it around and follow it with spray vinegar or my all purpose cleaner (which contains vinegar), then scrub and rinse.
I love that all of these things are safe and easy for my kids to use, and mostly really cheap.
Surface Cleaners: I use the DIY Multi-purpose cleaning spray I mentioned above. Some natural store-bought cleaners include:
- DIY oven cleaner recipe from Cha Ching Queen
- Aussan Natural Oven Cleaner (this is the best rated oven cleaner on EWG’s guide with a D rating)
DIY Furniture Polish: You can make a really easy furniture polish at home by adding equal parts olive oil and vinegar to a spray bottle, along with 10 drops of lemon, orange, or arborvitae essential oil (5).
Commercial options include:
Hard Floor Cleaning
For hard floors, adding a little white vinegar to warm mop water is a cheap and effective DIY option.
I also have a steam mop with a washable microfiber cover that doesn’t require cleaner. I use this for a quick mop.
DIY options: Sprinkle baking soda across the carpet, let it sit for 30 minutes, then vacuum it up. Or you can give it a boost by mixing 2 cups of baking soda with 10 drops of essential oils (like lavender, lemon, cypress, or eucalyptus). Sprinkle it on the carpet and let it set for 2 hours, then vacuum.6
Carpet stain removal:
- biokleen Bac-Out Stain and Odor Remover
- Martha Stewart Clean Carpet Stain Remover
- Opt for steam cleaning machines over chemical cleaners
- Simple Green Naturals Carpet Care
- Biokleen Carpet and Rug Shampoo
My husband is especially obsessed with clean smells, and the air freshener industry is a big one. But it turns out that many of those wax candles, melts, and air fresheners are putting all kinds of nonsense into the air that increase the risks of hormone-disruption, developmental and reproductive problems, allergies, and neurological problems!2
Our solution is an essential oil diffuser. Add a few drops of essential oils like lemon, lavender, orange, peppermint, cinnamon and others. Diffused oils smell great AND can elevate your mood and have many other health benefits. Certain oils like oregano have even been shown to kill dangerous microbes when diffused through the air!
So there you have it! My favorite natural cleaning products! I am really happy with the changes we’ve made so far because not only do I feel good about what I am putting into our air and on our surfaces, I am also comfortable with my kids being around these cleaners, and they have actually saved us money!
What natural cleaning products work well for you?
1. Chapter 5: Indoor Air Pollutants and Toxic Materials | Healthy Housing Reference Manual | NCEH. Published February 1, 2019. Accessed June 15, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/publications/books/housing/cha05.htm