• Anita Hollerer-Squire

How to clean your house with non-toxic products

Updated: Jul 28



If you are like most people, the chances are you have quite a variety of toxic cleaning products in your house. From oven cleaners to all-purpose cleaners, floor and window cleaners - you name it.


Once you take the time to examine the ingredients list of those products, you will be alarmed to learn what toxic chemicals you are actually using around the house.


I started researching the ingredients and what they can do to my health as well as to the environment. Now that I know - there is no way I will use them again.


So, my quest into healthier options started - first I found some products that "looked" like a much better option, because they are marketed as "eco" or "green".


However, after checking out the ingredients list, I found that not all of those "greener" products are what they say they are.


Earthwise cleaning spray contains sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, which is a formaldehyde releaser. This is a known human toxicant and allergen. Formaldehyde is linked to cancer.


Ecostore dish liquid contains benzyl alcohol, which is associated with skin allergies and irritation.


So be aware - just because a product claims to be better for the environment and your health or because it is sold in organic stores - does not guarantee it is. Always check the labels!


The Environment Working Group has a fantastic database, which tells you exactly what each ingredient is and the effect it has.


According to EWG, some 53 % of cleaning products contain ingredients known to harm the lungs. About 22 % contain chemicals reported to cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy individuals.


Cleaning product ingredients to avoid:

  • Borax and boric acid - used in laundry or dishwashing detergents. Associated with reproductive or developmental problems. Sodium borate, also known as borax, and boric acid are added to many products as cleaning agents, enzyme stabilizers or for other functions. They can disrupt the hormone system.

  • Diethylene glycol monomethyl ether - also known as DEGME or methoxydiglycol. It is found in a few heavy-duty cleaners and degreasers. Associated with reproductive or developmental problems.

  • Formaldehyde - a known human carcinogen. Click here to see products containing it.

  • 1,4-Dioxane - classified as a probable human carcinogen by the EPA.

  • Chlorine bleach has been linked to respiratory damage and wheezing as well as nose and eye irritation. Chloroform, a suspected human carcinogen, sometimes escapes in fumes released by products containing chlorine bleach.

  • Ammonia fumes from ammonium-based cleaning products are a potent irritant.

  • Glycol ether fumes have been linked to increased risk of asthma, eczema, rhinitis (irritation and inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose) and other allergic symptoms in pre-school age children.

  • Linalool, commonly found in fragrances and essential oils, can cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and lungs.

  • Fragrances are collectively considered among the top five allergens in the world. Studies have linked air fresheners to headaches, depression, earaches and heart problems. Because manufacturers routinely refuse to list individual ingredients in fragrances, independent researchers have difficulty conducting targeted studies to identify which fragrance chemicals raise the greatest concern.


According to EWG, the following ingredients can cause asthma or respiratory problems:


  • *2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol

  • Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride

  • Alkyl Dimethyl Ethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride

  • Didecyldimethylammonium Chloride

  • Diethanolamine

  • Dioctyl Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride

  • Distearyldimonium Chloride

  • *DMDM Hydantoin

  • Ethanolamine

  • Formaldehyde

  • Glutaral

  • Monoethanolamine Citrate

  • Quaternium-15

  • Quaternium-24

  • Sodium Hypochlorite (Bleach)

  • Sulfuric Acid

  • Triethanolamine

EWG recommends avoiding some products altogether because they’re unnecessary or there are no safer alternatives. Among them:

  • Air fresheners contain secret fragrance mixtures that can trigger allergies and asthma. Open windows or use fans.

  • Antibacterial products can spur development of drug-resistant superbugs.

  • Fabric softener and dryer sheet ingredients can cause allergies or asthma and can irritate the lungs. Try a little vinegar in the rinse cycle.

  • Caustic drain cleaners and oven cleaners can burn eyes and skin. Use a drain snake or plunger in drains. Try a do-it-yourself paste of baking soda and water in the oven

Cleaning with non-toxic material

I don't want any of those toxic chemicals used in my house. After learning everything I could and researching alternatives - here are my tips for cleaning the house without any toxic chemicals.

For most cleaning, all you need is:

- vinegar

- baking soda

- lemon

- microfiber cloth

- spray bottle

- brush





How to make your own dishwashing liquid:

What you need:

Sal Suds, Vinegar, Distilled water, soap dispenser

  • Pour 1/2 cup of distilled water, 1/2 cup sal suds and 1 tablespoon vinegar into a soap dispenser and gently shake to mix.

  • You can add a couple of drops of essential oil to make it smell nice (optional).

Note: to make your own distilled water, click here for instructions.

How to clean the oven:

What you need:

Baking soda, water, vinegar, spray bottle, brush, cloth

  • Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with a couple tablespoons of water (about 3) and mix to form a paste.

  • Remove all the oven racks and use a brush to spread the baking soda paste all over the interior of the oven (except for the heating elements).

  • Let it sit overnight or for at least 12 hours.

  • After that, use a damp cloth to wipe the paste off.

  • Put a bit of vinegar in a spray bottle and spray on the areas that still have some paste on it. The vinegar will make the baking soda paste bubble up.

  • Wipe the oven again with a damp cloth.

  • Spray more vinegar if needed and wipe clean with your cloth.

How to clean counter tops, sinks and stove tops:

What you need:

Lemon, vinegar, spray bottle, cloth, baking soda, water, cloth

  • Mix the juice of 1 lemon with a cup of vinegar together in a spray bottle.

  • Spray on the counter tops to kill germs and cut through grease.

  • Wipe down with a damp cloth.

  • For tough stains, use a baking soda paste (see oven cleaner), let sit for an hour, then wipe off.

How to clean showers and baths:

What you need:

Baking soda, water, brush, microfiber cloth

  • Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with a couple tablespoons of water (about 3) and mix to form a paste.

  • Use a brush to scrub the paste.

  • Rinse and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.

How to clean the toilet:

What you need:

Baking soda, toilet brush, lemon, vinegar, spray bottle, cloth

  • Sprinkle 1/2 cup of baking soda into the toilet.

  • Let it sit for at least 1/2 hour.

  • Scrub with the toilet brush.

  • Mix the juice of 1 lemon with a cup of vinegar together in a spray bottle.

  • Spray it on the toilet seat.

  • Wipe off with a damp cloth.

How to do your laundry:

What you need:

Sal Suds, baking soda, white vinegar

  • Add 2 tablespoons of sal suds and 1/4 cup of baking soda at the beginning of your wash cycle.

  • Add 1/4 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle.

References:

US Department of Health & Human Services - Household Products Database:

https://hpd.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/household/list?tbl=TblChemicals&alpha=A

EWG: https://www.ewg.org/

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