This is my cleaning arsenal. It consists of baking soda, homemade laundry soap, organic castile soap, tea tree oil, and apple cider vinegar.
In the age of resistant bacteria, its easy to reach for bleach or ammonia, but few realize that not only is it dangerous and toxic, but it’s actually damaging to your immune system and hurts our planet.
I always chuckle when people ask me if I bleach my cloth diapers or my personal care items. It’s not the 50’s anymore- we don’t need to have EVERYTHING sterile and disposable.
And it’s just that- no one understands what clean actually is, because we’re being told by marketing that we have to throw toxic chemicals at everything.
Well here I am, to dispel the myths.
First and foremost, very few situations in a household call for hospital grade cleaners containing bleach or ammonia.
It’s easier to list the reasons for using them, and they are:
- An outbreak of a disease such as MRSA, pneumonia, CDif, TB, or other deadly or antibiotic resistant diseases. In the event of diseases such as influenza, norovirus, common cold, or minor bacterial infections, a solution of tea tree oil in water will suffice for disinfecting. There IS some controversy surrounding tea tree oil’s ability to kill norovirus, but supporting studies are executed well. Since norovirus calls for very thorough cleaning, bleach or ammonia is difficult and toxic. Children’s toys can be sprayed with tea tree oil but should be washed off after to avoid residue.
- You throw a party, and people you’re not related to are in your home. It can be debated that you don’t necessarily have to disinfect your bathroom, but you may feel inclined to, and no one would judge you.
- Something has been exposed to deadly or harmful bacteria- this can be true of animal products such as meat or eggs, water bacteria, feces, etc. Again, this can be debated- heat/hot water and soap kills a LOT of bacteria strains such as E. Coli, but studies done on even simple places like a washing machine after washing underpants indicate that E.Coli survives household water temperatures and soap- even in the dryer. The evidence is certainly contradictory- after all, millions of Americans cook and handle all sorts of bacteria laced meat and simply wash their hands and counters, and by all means, even commercial dishsoap doesn’t contain bleach or ammonia. However, if your dog rolls in a dead animal and then comes into the home, you may want to bleach your floor and tub.
And by now you’re probably wondering, what’s so bad about bleach and ammonia anyway? What is wrong with disinfecting everything? Here is a list of reasons-
- Contain known carcinogens.
- Cause asthma when genetic causation is ruled out
- Weaken the immune system (think- our immune system is a careful balance of good and bad bacteria, but household cleaners kill EVERYTHING)
- Off-gas- that is, they become airborne and we breathe them in
- Pollute water
- Pollute the air
- Cause skin and eye burning
- Are toxic when consumed.
- Cause pollution from production and plastic usage
- Often contain false labeling such as “natural”, which is not regulated by the government for safety
- Are linked to SIDS
- Cause allergies and eczema
- Can kill your pets and significantly reduce their lifespan
- Some never come off- dryer sheets, for example, contain chemicals that literally cannot be scrubbed off your skin.
So what should you clean with? Here are just a few ideas:
- Clean your bathroom using a tea tree oil and water solution, or baking soda and vinegar. I actually prefer baking soda and vinegar because it unclogs drains (pour baking soda in the drain and then vinegar), and it makes it easier to scrub off discoloration and calcification.
- Clean your floors with the homemade laundry soap recipe here on the site or with diluted liquid castile soap.
- Wash your clothes and sheets with the homemade laundry soap, and hang them on the line. If they smell musty, you can add some vinegar and baking soda to your wash, and it will also soften them. Tea tree oil can also be added to laundry for “disinfectant”. If your clothes need to be whitened, add some Borax.
- Deodorize by finding the source of the odor. If something smells, WASH IT, with soap if you have to. Borrow a Green Machine or a carpet cleaner, rent a steamer, whichever. But don’t throw perfumy chemicals on it. If a house smells musty, you may have to sprinkle the carpet with baking soda and wash the walls, or get a dehumidifier.
- Improve your indoor air quality by getting an air purifier, buying products second hand that have already off-gassed, skipping out on things that have press-wood or flame retardant, and having a lot of plants, especially rubber plants.
- Scrub your oven by putting a pan full of vinegar in it overnight. The vinegar loosens the stuff on the sides.
- Ditch your wet Swiffer sheets by replacing them with old rags and washing them when you’re done.
- If you can tolerate it, get some chemical free incense or paraffin free candles to make the house smell inviting. I also enjoy flowers in the home.
- Invest in a cedar chest of drawers or chest for clothing storage, which deters moths, and also makes the clothing smell nice. Lavender or balsam sachets also make a nice touch in closets and drawers.
- Don’t use plastic in the kitchen- it’s porous and hangs onto bacteria, which can mean that it may need bleaching.
- Avoid meat, and if you can’t, use a glass cutting board.
- Use vinegar on mirrors, and lemon on wood.
- Don’t wear your shoes in the house.
There are many more solutions, and a simple “Google” search of green cleaning methods will yield all sorts of fancy solutions.