After the long and chilly winter season, when introspection and hibernation are the norm, spring starts to arrive, along with the impulse to invite in the new and create healthy, clean spaces. However, in today’s world of seemingly quick solutions via the plethora of choices available on the shelf, we are required to investigate with great care what is actually in these cleaning products that are affecting us all physically, mentally and emotionally. We take a look.
Synthetic household products contain harmful chemicals that react with ozone from the air and contain toxins like formaldehyde. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the inside of homes contain around two to five times more common chemical pollutants than areas outside of homes. And considering people spend around 90 per cent of their time inside, the denser concentration of chemicals indoors is significant. It has been found that these types of pollutants can cause headaches, flu-like symptoms, neurological issues and even increase of respiratory conditions such as asthma and allergic reactions of all kinds. Just do some quick and easy research and you will be horrified at the facts that most of these products’ manufacturers would not want you to know about.
It is no surprise therefore that shoppers have started reaching for so-called ‘green’ products, which they expect to contain significantly less amounts of these toxic substances. Many products even carry labels stating that the item is non-toxic, biodegradable, natural and organic, non-hazardous, non-flammable and non-corrosive. These are words that require repeated defining, considering the fact that there are many natural or organic chemicals that are part of nature and not necessarily good for you. It is also important to note that household cleaning products are not necessarily highly-regulated. In fact, cleaning product manufacturers are not required to disclose all of the ingredients used in the product on the label. Even companies that produce ‘green’ and ‘natural’ cleaners are not necessarily required to do so. So, instead of looking for the words like ‘green’ and other marketing keywords, first check the label and inform yourself. Even though many ingredients aren’t listed, it’s the first step in eliminating harmful products. If any of these ingredients are listed, find another product right away.
Avoid these toxic ingredients when buying cleaning products:
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including 1.4-dichlorobenzene, chlorine, ammonia, bleach
Sodium laureth sulfate
Sodium lauryl sulfate
Triclosan and other antibacterial agents (phenols, formaldehyde, petroleum solvents, perchloroethylene, butyl cellosolve). And phosphates, phthalates, ethanolamines, cresol, dye, ethanol, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, phenol, phosphoric acid, propellants and trichloroethylene.
Make your own
Using easily available household products such as lemons, vinegar, herbs, essential oils, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and bees wax. With some of these items below, you can clean just about anything.
Baking soda: Scrubbing, whitening
Beeswax: Polishing wood
Borax (sodium borate): Removing stains/disinfecting
Club soda (or any unflavoured fizzy water): Lifting stains
Corn starch (cornflour): Absorbing stains
Hydrogen peroxide: Disinfecting, removing stains
Lemon: Removing stains and odours
Liquid dish soap: Sudsing power
Olive oil: Polishing wood
Pine Oil: Cleaning soft wood floors
Plant essential oils: Chemical-free fragrance
Toothpaste: Polishing metal
Washing soda (sodium carbonate): Scrubbing, removing stains and cutting grease
White vinegar: Disinfecting, removing stains
Remember, even all-natural cleaning ingredients can be irritating. Open windows to ventilate rooms while you clean – and wear gloves. Store home-made cleaners in sealed containers, in cool and dry places. To make your cleaning formulas, you’ll need measuring cups and spoons, wide-mouth containers (glass is best) and narrow funnels. Use large stainless steel or glass bowls rather than ceramic or plastic ones that might absorb essential oil scents. Gather up an assortment of spray bottles, squirt bottles and shakers with flip tops.
Here are some helpful combinations:
1. Make an all-purpose cleaner by combining: ¼ cup baking soda, ½ cup vinegar and 2.2L of water.
2. Make a natural dishwasher soap by combining equal parts washing soda and borax.
3. To hand-wash dishes, use a wisely chosen liquid soapand add 3 tablespoons of vinegar to the soapy water.
4. Most homes do not need strong, chemical disinfectants. A natural disinfectant can be made by mixing: 4 tablespoons vinegar, two teaspoons borax, ¼ teaspoon liquid castile soap and three cups hot water.
5. Home-made cleaners for floors are also simple. To clean linoleum or vinyl, combine: 1 cup vinegar, 3 drops of baby oil and 2.5L of warm water. People can still get tough jobs done and stick to natural cleaning solutions by adding ¼ cup of borax to the floor cleaner. Wooden floors are easy to clean with a mixture of equal parts vinegar and vegetable oil.
6. Home-made cleaners for bathrooms: To clean a toilet, add 10 drops tea tree oil and three cups white vinegar into the toilet bowl and let sit for 15 minutes. Vinegar is an excellent ingredient for home-made cleaners used in bathtubs and showers because, unlike soap, vinegar does not leave a residue. Fill a spray bottle with half water and half vinegar for a basic shower cleaner. Add liquid detergent for extra strength. Leave the spray for 30 minutes before rinsing off.
7. A spray bottle filled with club soda makes a perfectly efficient glass cleaner or mix ¼ cup white vinegar or 1 tablespoon lemon juice, two cup water, 3-4 drops liquid soap (optional). Mix and spray or wipe on; for the best shine, use old newspapers.
8. Remove rust stains with a paste from water and cream of tartar.
9. For a dirty oven. Make a paste by combining: 1½ cups baking soda, ½ cup salt and ½ cup water. Spread the paste inside the oven. Leave the paste in the oven overnight. When morning comes, add ¼ cup of vinegar with ¼ cup of water in a spray bottle and spray inside the oven. The solution must be rinsed off well to avoid a residue.
10. Reclaim counters by sprinkling with baking soda, then scrubbing with a damp cloth or sponge. If you have stains, dust surfaces with baking soda, then scrub with a moist sponge or cloth. Knead the baking soda and water into a paste and let set for a while before you remove. This method also works well for stainless steel sinks, cutting boards, containers, refrigerators, oven tops and more. If you have tougher grime, sprinkle on some kosher salt, and work up some elbow grease.
11. Got stains, mildew or grease streaks? Spray or douse with lemon juice or vinegar. Let sit a few minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush.
12. Grout cleaner: Kill mildew and whiten grout without chlorine. Baking soda with white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide is the perfect combo for this job. Combine ingredients to make a paste. Let stand for 30 minutes or more, then scrub.
13. For a clogged drain, use a plumber’s snake or an untwisted coat hanger to pull out as much gunk as possible. Pour ½ cup baking or washing soda down the drain; gradually add ½ cup white vinegar. Let fizz and dissolve. Carefully pour in boiling water from a kettle (and stand clear). Wait half and hour. Repeat as necessary. Before calling a plumber (if all is not yet clear), let things cool off and snake again.
14. To clean cloths and sponges: Renew sponges and dish cloths by placing them in just enough water to cover them. Then add ¼ cup white distilled vinegar. Let them soak overnight. Or you can soak a sponge overnight in a strong white distilled vinegar and water solution to remove dirt and slime. Rinse several times with cold water and let air dry. Get stained white socks and dingy dishcloths white again by adding one cup of white distilled vinegar to a large pot of water, bring it to a rolling boil and drop in the articles. Let soak overnight. Bicarbonate of soda is also good to freshen sponges – soak stale-smelling sponges in a strong baking soda solution to get rid of the mess (4 tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in 1L of warm water). Freshen linens and clothing by adding ½ cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle for fresher sheets and towels.
Thanks to their citric acid and natural antibacterial and bleaching properties, lemons have a lot of uses around the house, from cleaning up tough messes in the kitchen to improving personal appearance.. Lemons also smell great and aren’t likely to cause damage to materials around what you are cleaning such as fabric or wood. When cleaning with lemons always rinse with warm soapy water and dry with a clean cloth afterwards. One of the very few things you can’t clean with lemon juice is anything that is brass plated as the juice will damage the item. Aside from that, here are a few reasons why cleaning with lemons is a good idea. Lemon juice can be used instead of bleach, as a degreaser. Lemon juice is excellent at cutting odours and can remove stubborn stains on stubborn places. Lemon juice makes cleaning with vinegar tolerable – if the smell of vinegar gets to you, adding a bit of lemon juice to your vinegar-based all-purpose cleaner helps mask that aroma. A 1:1 mixture of lemon juice and water makes a good all-purpose cleaner, too. Just make sure to do a spot check before spraying on walls or wood. Lemon juice is also a pretty good glass cleaner on its own.
White distilled vinegar is a popular household cleanser, effective for killing most mould, bacteria and germs, due to its level of acidity. Cleaning with white distilled vinegar is a smart way to avoid using harsh chemicals. The word vinegar comes from a French translation for ‘sour wine’. Besides being effective, vinegar is cheap, highly versatile and easily available. It is non-toxic and lasts for a very long time without losing strength. It does not pollute land, air or water or combust. It’s much safer to have under your sink than bleach, ammonia or other toxic cleaning products. It can be used neat or in diluted forms and can be used in the kitchen for all white goods items, on counter tops, glassware or windows, cleaning of metals, carpets and flooring, pest control, freshening of bedding, bathrooms and can even clean baby bottles and fruit and vegetables. However, it is worth mentioning here that you should never use white distilled vinegar on marble. The acid can damage the surface.
To shine chrome sink fixtures that have a lime build-up, use a paste made of two tablespoons salt and one teaspoon white distilled vinegar.
Make your own scouring cleanser by combining ¼ cup baking soda with 1 tablespoon liquid detergent. Add just enough white distilled vinegar to give it a thick but creamy texture.
Clean counter tops and make them smell sweet again with a cloth soaked in undiluted white distilled vinegar. Rinse away soapy film on countertops with a solution of white distilled vinegar and water.
Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline but often appears as a fine power. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda or sodium carbonate. This natural mineral is found dissolved in many mineral springs. Since it has long been known and is widely used, the salt has many related names such as baking soda, bread soda, cooking soda and bicarbonate of soda. In colloquial usage, its name is shortened to sodium bicarb, bicarb soda, or simply bicarb. Many laboratories keep a bottle of sodium bicarbonate powder within easy reach, because it is amphoteric, reacting with acids by neutralising things. Furthermore, as it is relatively innocuous in most situations, there is no harm in using excess sodium bicarbonate. Also, sodium bicarbonate powder may be used to smother a small fire, as heating of sodium bicarbonate releases carbon dioxide.
Bicarb is clearly very useful in many ways, such as for making efficient scrubs, due to its great degreasing properties, aiding in cleaning dishes or the oven and is even good as a deodoriser.
1. Make a surface soft scrub: For safe, effective cleaning of bathroom tubs, tile and sinks – even fibreglass and glossy tiles – sprinkle baking soda lightly on a clean damp sponge and scrub as usual. Rinse thoroughly and wipe dry. For extra cleaning power, make a paste with baking soda, course salt and liquid dish soap – let it sit then scour off.
2. Clean the oven: Sprinkle baking soda onto the bottom of the oven. Spray with water to dampen the baking soda. Let sit overnight. In the morning, scrub, scoop the baking soda and grime out with a sponge, or vacuum and rinse.
With all this said and done, let’s remember that in choosing to be conscious in your cleaning methods, you are not only taking care of your family members, including the pets, but also the environment.