Common household cleaners that are sold to consumers today are largely harmful to your health, and can be potentially deadly to children and pets if ingested . The runoff from these cleaners pollutes and degrades the environment. Yet with all of the focus on “green” initiatives in San Francisco, little attention is being paid to going non-toxic while cleaning your home. Making your own non-toxic cleaners at home out of basic ingredients found in most supermarkets is simple, inexpensive and will make your home significantly healthier for you and your family.
Perhaps the most disturbing fact about standard cleaning products is that most of them can be harmful during use, even when the application directions are followed exactly. Labels only tell you if the ingredients are poisonous, flammable, caustic or irritating. Danger from long-term inhalation and skin exposure, the most common methods of exposure for consumers, are very rarely mentioned.
Chances are you know how bleach smells. Yet it is important to remember that any time you inhale toxic fumes the toxicants go directly into the bloodstream and travel to organs such as the brain, heart, liver and kidneys. Immediate effects can include headaches, muscle aches and lightheadedness. The consequences of many repeated exposures ti small amounts of chemicals over a long period of time, cancer, birth defects and genetic changes, may not show up for years.
The mixing of cleaners is particularly dangerous. When mixing ammonia (a common ingredient found in products such as all-purpose cleaners) with bleach, toxic chloramines gas is released. This gas is similar to the poisonous gas used in World War I. Many individuals use all-purpose cleaners for their shower walls and bleach for their tubs, inadvertently creating a gaseous enclosure while cleaning their bathrooms.
Many of the “green” cleaners on the market are socially responsible, but are priced much higher than their non-green alternatives. “Making your own” is much more financially efficient and quire simple to carry out.
The following are a few simple recipes for making household cleaners:
All Purpose Cleaner:
Add 1 tablespoon of liquid soap (castile soap is preferable), ½ cup of vinegar, 2 teaspoons of borax, 15-20 drops of essential oil and hot water into a sprayer and mix until ingredients are dissolved.
Fill a spray bottle with club soda and add 15-20 drops of essential oil for a fresh smell.
Tub and Tile Cleaner:
Rub baking soda using a damp sponge and rinse. For tougher jobs wipe surfaces with vinegar first. (Note – vinegar can break down tile grout).
Fill a mist sprayer with vinegar and add 20 drops of essential oil. Will absorb odors as well as leave a pleasant smell.
Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 15-20 drops of essential oil, ¼ cup of white distilled vinegar and hot water to a spray bottle.
Not only will switching to a non-toxic cleaning lineup create a healthier living space for you and your family, it will also significantly reduce the toxins entering our outside environment. Encourage friends and families to make the switch and together we can continue San Francisco’s tradition of being at the forefront of sustainability.
About the author: Jorge Lee is the Founder of Marin House Cleaning LLC, a non-toxic house cleaning company service to the residents of San Francisco and Marin counties.