We take care of our health and the health of our families in countless ways everyday. Whenever you pack a healthy lunch for a child, make a doctor’s appointment for your spouse or meet a friend at the gym, you are making choices that positively affect someone’s well being. All these small, everyday things add up to big health payoffs in the long run.
One area that my patients frequently overlook in their everyday lives is the health of their home. Specifically, I am talking about the 4 or 5, or maybe even a dozen cleaners, disinfectants, and detergents that you use to keep your home and your possessions clean and fresh. For years many of us have been using any laundry detergent that is on sale or using the same bathroom cleaner that your mother had used. However, new research has shown us that these are not necessarily the best choices for our health.
Better Know The Risks and Warnings First!
Many commercial cleaning products are far from natural. In fact, most are made with toxic chemicals that are responsible for an alarming number of health problems. The Environmental Protection Agency says that pollutant levels in homes can be 5 to 100 times higher than outdoors! This is largely due to toxic chemicals in cleaning products.
You may want to reduce this risk by buying so-called “green” or eco-friendly cleaning products, but you need to be cautious when making your choices. Just because a product is labeled, “natural” or “environmentally friendly,” doesn’t mean it is non-toxic.
Unfortunately, no official standards exist, so these claims are undefined and unregulated. For example, only food can be certified organic; a soap or cleaner stating this claim has not met any particular criteria.
Instead of relying on undefined marketing terminology, take a look at a product’s ingredient list. If you see a harsh toxin like tricloan then you might want to try a lesser product that uses plant oils, like eucalyptus, rosemary or sage. Grain alcohol is much better for you than butyl cellosolve. You might also want to choose coconut or plant oil detergents instead of petroleum.
Some reliable companies making healthy-friendly and environmentally sound cleaners are Seventh Generation, Aubrey Organics, Bio Shield, Earth Friendly, Earth Power and Naturally Yours.
How to Clean Green
When it comes to laundering clothing and washing dishes, you should avoid products with synthetic fragrances, which can irritate skin, cause allergic reactions and provoke asthma. These cleaners may contain petroleum, a non-renewable resource, or toxic chemicals that do not easily biodegrade, threatening the environment. Instead, use products with vegetable-based oils such as corn, palm kernel and coconut.
To disinfect, it is important to avoid products containing chlorine bleach, which can burn skin and eyes, and contains carcinogens and nerve and immune system toxins. Also called sodium hypochlorite, bleach is found in many cleaning solutions and scouring products.
To kill bacteria, mold, and viruses in the kitchen or bathroom use white vinegar mixed with water. The best way to kill food borne pathogens such as salmonella is to wash utensils and cutting boards with hot, soapy water. A paste made of baking soda and water should be used in place of scouring products to clean sinks or bathtubs. For stains, replace standard bleach with borax, lemon juice, or vinegar solutions; or purchase non-chlorine bleach products from Ecover, Clorox 2 and Naturally Yours.
Furniture and metal polishes often contain formaldehyde, a harmful carcinogen. You can clean furniture with a mixture of olive oil and white vinegar. Toothpaste is a popular alternative for polishing silver.
To clean windows and mirrors, a solution of white vinegar and lemon juice in water is as effective as cleaners containing nerve-damaging butyl cellosolve and ammonia, which can harm airways.
When it comes to freshening up your home, just say no to aerosol and artificial fragrances. Not only do aerosols contain flammable and environmental damaging gas they also have nerve-damaging ingredients. The antidote to these products is to open a window and use plain old clean, natural air. You can also use cedar blocks in closets, natural potpourri without added “fragrance,” and baking soda, which is an excellent deodorizer.
As you can see, the health risks associated with home cleaners are vast. Thanks to recent research and increased public interest in environmentally sound and health conscious products, there are more options than ever to keep your home healthy.
Whether you make your own cleaners with everyday items like lemon and vinegar or sample some of the excellent products on the market, using natural cleaning products is the smart way to safeguard the health of your family.