The ultimate guide for home cleaning without toxins

by | Jul 7, 2019 | Green life | 0 comments

 

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life” William Morris

IT’S NOT  a secret that exposure to chemical agents in pregnancy can be harmful. You probably already know this but you may not be fully aware of the effect and range of action they have in your life.

Even if you like it or not, we are surrounded by toxins every day. From the pans we cook in, the containers we use to store food or water (I wrote the article here about “10 ways to reduce exposure to toxins that come into contact with food”), these are just a few ways through which chemical agents can come into contact with your body. But focusing only on the toxins you ingest is not enough.

You should be aware that a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy, breastfeeding and generally at all stages of life is not reduced to a simple diet and exercise. We can fill ourselves to the brim with clean water, organic products, non-GMO foods and high-quality super-foods, but if we are filling our homes with toxins and washing our clothes with products full of chemicals, we are losing a piece of the puzzle.

A healthy home environment is more crucial because our homes – from the air we breathe to the products we use to clean – can actually be more toxic to us than our diet. That’s why a non-toxic home cleaning approach is vital.

I want to be onest with you. I haven’t always been a saint. I used to buy products from the supermarkets driven (consciously or unconsciously) by marketing slogans, the word “natural”, “green” or the by the belief that they are cheaper (nothing more wrong).

But since I started informing myself, to study the role of epigenetics that explains the connection between the mothering lifestyle ( what she eats, to what she is exposed to during pregnancy)  and the predisposition to certain diseases, metabolism, intelligence and the temperament of the child she grows inside her womb, I absolutely wanted to share it and make all new and soon to be mamas aware of that every single decision they make for their lifestyle in pregnancy matters, and a lot!

Let’s proceed by steps. What are VOCs and why are they dangerous?

The main problem with household cleaning products are VOCs volatile organic compounds. They are the gases emitted by solids or liquids products. They are found in many household products, from paints to cleaning products, glues, solvents and disinfectants. Some of the risks associated with VOCs are: 

  • Irritation to eyes, nose and throat
  • Headache, loss of coordination and nausea
  • Damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system
  • Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals, and some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans

Exposure to the VOCs doesn’t occur only while you are using the products: they can be continuously emitted during weeks or months.  Furthermore, VOCs levels can be 2 to 5 times higher indoors than outdoors.

Some of the common carcinogens found in household cleaning products are:

Methyl alcohol (ex: detergents for windows)

Limonene (eg detergents, fragrances)

Formaldehyde (ex: disinfectants)

Benzene (es.laundry products)

Methylene chloride (ex: degreasers)

We are obsessed with cleaning every surface of our homes and bodies, but our perception of what is clean or not has been contaminated by the message we need to be surrounded by the smell of “Breeze of Lemon” or “Pine”. The cleaning industry invests billions of dollars a year in marketing strategies so what really matters is their profits, not your health.

Of course, I’m not saying that you should stop cleaning your house, especially your kitchen which is the place for many bacteria to proliferate. But there are so many natural and EFFECTIVE options for household cleaners that you can easily do at home, gaining health and saving money.

If you are not ready to take the DO-IT-YOURSELF step from today, I will first show you to what ingredients pay attention when purchasing house cleaning products and how to recognize the real ECOLOGICAL (and also eco-sustainable) products. Then I’ll show you how you can prepare your home cleaning products

How to recognise that a detergent is Ecological?

Don’t be fooled by the word Eco-friendly, Natural, Green. These are all marketing slogans that use large companies to convince you that the product you are buying is truly ecological. I am concerned that these detergents are marketed for mothers and families as “safe” when they could be harmful to their health.

The first step to understand if you handle organic and eco-sustainable product is to know that:

  • All ingredients must be at least 95% of vegetable origin
  • The products must not be tested on animals and have a certification that certifies it
  • That they have certification
  • That all the ingredients are present in the INCI, ie the list of ingredients.

Testing these points is the safest way to understand if we are talking about ecological quality with reduced environmental impact

CERTIFICATION

It is very important that the products contain at least one of the certifications, like for example:  

  • Ecolabel the EU label of environmental excellence that is awarded to products and services meeting high environmental standards throughout their life-cycle: from raw material extraction to production, distribution and disposal

LIST OF INGREDIENTS

Reading the list of ingredients (INCI) at the beginning can be time-consuming and “incomprehensible”. But remember that time is never lost, it is an investment you make for your health, that of your child and in the future of your family. Once you have identified the right products, you are on the safe side without being misled every time by confusing names, inviting packaging or TV advertising

Below you can find a list of TOXIC INGREDIENTS found NON-Ecological House CLEANING PRODUCTS THAT MUST BE AVOIDED

Triclosan BHA-E320 • BHT-E321 – linked to skin sensitivity, liver damage and hormone destruction

Parabens – they disturb the endocrine system (hormones) and can increase the risk of breast cancer

Phthalates alter the endocrine system and affect reproduction (including sperm count)

Ammonia – causes irritation of the skin, eyes and respiratory tract, worsens asthma

Chlorine – aggravates asthma, destroys intestinal bacteria and is linked to colon / bladder cancer

2-butoxyethanol: irritates the skin and eyes

Fragrances and perfumes (this is a generic term for thousands of chemicals that are not tested and potentially dangerous) – they trigger allergies and asthma, are linked to the hormone disruptors

Sodium Lauryl sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth sulfate (SLES) – linked to severe skin irritation and may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen

Quaternary ammonium compounds – related to allergies and asthma

Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – can damage liver and kidneys, disrupt hormones and promote tumor growth

Formaldehyde – aggravates allergies, irritates the skin and burns eyes, nose and throat, related to cancer

DEA (diethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine) and MEA (monoethanolamine) may cause allergic reactions related to liver and kidney cancer

You can use this app THINK DIRTY to check the raw materials that make up the cosmetics and detergent products

Another aspect, but not less important, in the choice of Ecological detergents, is their packaging, what classify them as eco-sustainable and some of them also biodegradable.

You can find cleaners in 100% recycled and recyclable plastic, in cardboard packaging but also made with bioplastic. Green plastic is composed of polyethylene, a material derived from the raw plant material (sugar cane, corn starch, hemp fiber, bamboo) instead of the  petroleum used for the production of common plastic. This is the fundamental difference between normal plastic and bioplastic. The bioplastic packages differ in the symbol on the label

If you want to recognize bioplastic acronyms, read here for more details

Homemade cleaning products and detergents

You could have a collection of cleaning products that are designed for every single part of your home – the shower, the bathroom, the sink, the kitchen counters, the windows, the shutters, the mirrors, the floors, and the list goes on. The truth is that you don’t need a billion of products to thoroughly clean your home.

When you decide to switch to for green cleaning, you can be sure that you won’t harm neither yourself, your child, your family, animals or even the environment. Reducing the amount of toxins at home improves general well-being and many people notice that it reduces headaches, allergies and skin problems.

Another advantage is that DIY products are also good for your wallet. With a few products, you can clean all your home, without being dependent to a specific product for each corner. This also dramatically reduces the amount of plastic used.

To prepare multi-purpose household cleaning detergents you need 3 ingredients: baking soda, organic distilled white vinegar and natural Castile soap

For homemade detergent and softener you need 3 products: Natural Castile soap or other vegetable soap in flakes, sodium carbonate, sodium percarbonate (for bleach) and citric acid

I also occasionally add drops of essential oils to my “do-it-yourself household cleaning products’s recipes” but keep in mind that some may be toxic to animals

Castile Soap: original from Spain, made of coconut, avocado or olive oil and is free of any kind of toxins like parabens, phthalates, sulphates and petrolatums. It is completely biodegradable and can be used both for home cleaning and personal care. It can be found in solid or liquid form. Since the liquid is very concentrated, you only need to use a little for each cleaning job (So a bottle last for a long time making it great value for money. If you use the Castile soap with hard water, it can leave residues on surfaces that aren’t harmful, it only means that you will have to rinse them several times. To avoid this inconvenience, use distilled water

Bicarbonates of sodium: it does not present any toxicity to humans for the environment. It has numerous uses such as cleaning, anti-acid, deodorising, anti-limescale, slightly abrasive. It cannot be used on aluminium surfaces, nor with silk or wool

Organic distilled white vinegar: it is not toxic neither for the man nor for the environment BUT ONLY IF NOT USED IN THE WASHING MACHINE as a softener or cleaning product in order to make washings with only vinegar. This is because white vinegar pollutes waters, discharging to the sea not only acetic but also heavy metals which are released thanks to its action on clothes and surfaces.

Vinegar is still a good product for ecological cleaning to be used in all situations where it does not end up directly in the drain, for example cleaning the fridge or glass, washing floors, removing unpleasant smells. It has a degreasing, deodorising, anti-fungal and  disinfectants action.

ATTENTION: it should not be used on granite or marble because can damage natural stones. It is also not a good option for a wooden floor.

Sodium carbonate: has multiple uses. It comes in powder to be used dissolved in water to clean, deodorize, degrease and soften the water hardness.

Sodium percarbonate: it’s an eco-compatible and non-polluting natural whitener. At the same time, it performs both a cleaning and a bleaching action. It is the ideal ecological substitute for bleach which is highly polluting. Its whitening efficacy is greater than that of sodium bicarbonate.

It is ideal for preserving the natural white of clothes, even after numerous washes as it has the lightening power on greying and yellowing items. It is effective already at 30ºC. It can be used with both white and coloured clothes. It is particularly suitable for sanitizing washable diapers and delicate clothes for babies and children both in the washing machine and when you wash by hand.

100% natural homemade cleaning products:

WINDOW CLEANER:

  • bottle with spray dispenser 1Lt
  • distilled water 300ml
  • distilled white vinegar 300ml

 Add water and vinegar to the bottle. Mix.

Spray directly on the windows or mirror. Use a damp cloth to clean. There is no need to rinse. This cleaner will leave your mirrors and windows bright and streak-free. You can also add a few drops of lemon, lavender or tea tree essential oil to the bottle to partially cover the strong vinegar aroma

TOILET CLEANER

  • bottle with spray dispenser 1Lt
  • distilled white vinegar 250ml
  • essential tea tree or eucalyptus oil
  • baking soda -1 small handful

In the spray bottle, add the distilled white vinegar with a few drops of essential oil of your choice and spray the toilet seat, lid and bowl. Leave for 5 minutes. Add baking soda to the bowl and scrub with the toilet brush. Use dry cloth to remove the excess of vinegar.

DISHWASHING LIQUID

  • Castile soap
  • Water

The proportion between Castile Soap and water is 1:10. Castile soap doesn’t bubble like normal dishwashing liquid but it removes stains and grease form pans and dishes. Simply pour a little bit of soap on the sponge and scrub dishes

 MULTIPURPOSE CLEANER

  • bottle with spray dispenser 1Lt
  • distilled water 900ml
  • Concentrated Castile soap 50 ml (3 tablespoons)
  • Tea tree essential oil (optional)

In the spray bottle pour the distilled water and Castile soap. Optionally you can add the essential tea tree oil which has antibacterial properties.  Spray the surface and clean with a cloth. Excellent on kitchen worktops, in the sink and any other surfaces.

FLOOR CLEANER

  • Concentrated Castile soap 50 ml (3 tablespoons)

Add Castile soap in the bucket with warm water. Clean the floor using either a cotton mop, floor cloth or a scrubbing brush. No need to rise. Don’t use on freshly waxed floors because the soap can remove the wax.

Natural Laundry detergent and softener for adults, children and babies

Homemade laundry detergent is very easy to prepare, you only need two ingredients, you don’t have to worry about poisoning yourself, your family and surrounding environment and it also save you money.

But there are some rules to follow:

  1. Check the water hardness. If water is very hard, it is better to use distilled water otherwise the soap will struggle to melt and wash as it should
  2. BE AWARE: NEVER mix together BASIC ELEMENTS and ACID ELEMENTS (vinegar, citric acid are acidic elements while bicarbonate and carbonate are basic elements) due to the risk of generating excessive heat and too much effervescence
  3. When the clothes present stubborn stains, soak them with sodium percarbonate
  4. FOR HAND WASHING OF DELICATE AND BABY’S ITEMS: you can leave wool, silk or babies’ clothes to soak in water with soap flakes (the water must be warm to the point that the soap can melt).

HOMEMADE LAUNDRY LIQUID DETERGENT 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Lt distilled water
  • 40g Castile Soap in flakes You can also use Castile soap in a bar and reduce it into flakes.
  • 20 g (or 1 tablespoon) of sodium carbonate
  • 10 drops of lavender or orange essential oil
  • Sodium percarbonate (optional) directly in the detergent compartment or inside the washing machine

– with white clothes, 1 or 2 tablespoons depending on stains directly inside the washing machine

– with coloured clothes: 2 or 3 tablespoons in the detergent compartment

PREPARATION

Pour the distilled water and Castile soap flakes in the large pot. Boil and stir until the soap dissolves completely (do not use more soap than indicated to prevent it to accumulate between clothes and leave stains). Leave until the mixture has cooled. Add the sodium carbonate (20gr) and mix well. Add the drops of essential oil.

Pour into a plastic bottle or glass jar. The soap tends to harden, so shake it well before each wash

Use between 125 and 150ml of this liquid detergent by pouring it directly onto the clothes in the drum of washing machine

 

HOMEMADE LAUNDRY LIQUID DETERGENT

HOMEMADE SOFTENER

 INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Lt distilled water
  • 100g of citric acid
  • 10 drops of essential oil (optional)

 PREPARATION:

In a bottle, dissolve the citric acid in warm distilled water.

Add drops of essential oil and shake everything.

Before use, always shake well

HOMEMADE SOFTENER

Some practical tips:

  1. Make the washing machine only when it is full. So you save on energy and detergent. If you need to wash fewer clothes, choose the shortest cycle or use the half load function if your washing machine has it
  2. Washing at a temperature of 30ºC is sufficient and also efficient in terms of energy saving. Some washing machines have a 20ºC option which will save money, energy as well as cleaning your clothes
  3. Choose shorter programs and reduced centrifuges. Hang your washing outside in the sunshine or on the clothes rack to dry. You will save money, energy and it’s gentle for delicate items.
  4. When you wash clothing made with microfibres, its thin fibres end up in the water drain and eventually in the rivers, lakes and seas damaging the marine flora. You can avoid it by using a special ball that picks up these fibres or washes your clothes in the special mesh bags.
  5. Avoid prewashing function. For very dirty clothes with stains, soak them in hot water with sodium percarbonate. Wait at least 1 hour or all night. Then perform the normal wash

You cannot avoid exposure to all the toxins that surround you but definitely, some are under your control. You can start gradually by removing industrial cleaning products one at a time. If you notice, on the labels of these products there is very often the exclamation point that underlines possible risks on your health and environmental damage. Many of them interfere with hormones, the reproductive system, they are carcinogenic. When you decide to become green in cleaning, you can be proud of yourself that thanks to your conscious decision you will safeguard your health, that of your family, animals and the environment.