Everything we come into contact with on a daily basis affects our health, which in turn affects the condition of our skin. The food we eat, the air we breath and the products we put on our bodies, all contribute to our overall exposure to potentially dangerous toxins. Of course, the body is able to excrete and eliminate many of these, but there is no doubt that minimising exposure is a better way to go.
So, below we list 5 of the main cleaning products used around the home with their healthier alternative:
1. Floor and surface cleaners
Common toxins — Formaldehyde (used as a preservative) is a carcinogen and is irritating to the eyes, throat, skin, and lungs. Hydrochloric acid and sodium acid sulfate can burn the skin or cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach burns if swallowed; can also cause blindness if inadvertently splashed into the eyes.
The healthy alternative — Mix 1 cup white vinegar in a 4-Litre bucket of water; rinse with clear water. Most floor and kitchen surfaces can be easily cleaned using a solution of vinegar and water. For oven surfaces use 3/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup salt and 1/4 cup water to make a thick paste, spread on the surface and leave for a few hours before cleaning again with clean hot water.
2. Dishwashing and clothes detergents
Common toxins — Triclosan is an antibacterial agent known to cause immune system and endocrine system dysfunction.
The healthy alternative — For dishwashing, a detergent substitution is liquid soap. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of vinegar to the warm, soapy water for tough jobs. For clothes washing, mix 1 cup Ivory soap, 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup borax. Use 1 tbsp for light loads; 2 tbsp for heavy loads. There are many green brands of biodegradable detergents available both locally and online as well.
3. De-moulding and disinfectants
Common toxins — Phenol and cresol are both corrosive and can cause diarrhea, fainting, dizziness, and kidney and liver damage.
The healthy alternative — Mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mould. For disinfectant, mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar and 3 cups hot water. For stronger cleaning power, add 1/4 teaspoon liquid castille soap. Clove oil is also excellent for de-moulding.
4. Air fresheners and deodorants
Common toxins — Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are chemicals that are released into the air and are know to cause reproductive, respiratory, neurological, and developmental problems. Also linked to different types of cancer.
The healthy alternative — Baking soda or vinegar mixed with lemon juice in small dishes can absorb odors around the house, and house plants can also both absorb odors. Using bags of herbs and sweet smelling dried flowers can be very effective in your clothes drawers as well.
5. Polishing and window cleaners
Common toxins — Nitrobenzene can cause shallow breathing, vomiting, and death; associated with cancer and birth defects. Ammonia is an eye irritant and can cause headaches and lung irritation. If mixed with chlorine, it releases toxic chloramine gas. Short-term exposure to chloramine gas may cause mild asthmatic symptoms or more serious respiratory problems.
The healthy alternative — For wood, add a few drops of lemon oil into a 1/2 cup warm water and spray onto a soft cotton cloth. Wipe furniture with a slightly damp cloth, and finish by wiping once more using a dry soft cotton cloth. For steel, use a cloth dampened with undiluted white vinegar, or olive oil. For stainless cookware, mix 4 tbls baking soda into 4 cups of water, and apply using a soft cloth. For windows, mix 2 teaspoons of white vinegar with 1 litre of warm water. Use newspaper or cotton cloth to clean. Be careful not to use too much vinegar or it will etch the glass and cloud it.
In addition, baking soda applied to a damp cloth is a great all-round cleaner that can remove many ink, pencil, crayon or grubby finger marks. Rub gently, then wipe and rinse.
It’s so easy to use these healthier alternatives to generic cleaning products and reduce the amount of toxins you and your family come into contact with. It just takes a little forward planning and a slight change in your mindset. We’re so used to the convenience of just grabbing a product off the shelf, but it’s just as easy to use these substitutes once you’re stocked up with the basics. Give it a try!