Most store bought household cleaners emit toxic fumes and contain harmful chemicals. The average home is filled with up to 1,000 different types of chemicals. But it’s easier than you think to switch to a homemade cleaner for tubs, sinks, tabletops and floors. Safe, natural cleaners can be made using basic ingredients.
1. Homemade Household Cleaner
Mix ½ cup white vinegar and ¼ cup baking soda into two liters water for an all-around cleaner. For surfaces that require scrubbing, mix lemon and baking soda into a paste or try moistened salt.
Homemade Window Cleaner
Mix two tablespoons of vinegar with one liter of warm water and keep in a spray bottle.
2. Chemical-based air fresheners typically contain formaldehyde and phenol, a skin irritant. Severe reactions to phenol include convulsions, coma and circulatory collapse.
Natural Air Fresheners
Mix ¼ cup of baking soda with water and shake well. Add a few drops of lemon or orange essential oil and keep in a spray bottle. Another spray solution is undiluted white vinegar, which evaporates quickly and takes bad odors with it. To absorb odors around the house, keep a bowl of ground coffee beans or put some baking soda in the trash and leave overnight.
3. While most soaps are created from synthetic substances or animal fat, castile soap is made from 100 percent olive oil and is great for people with sensitive skin. Buy castile soap from Organic Earth (see Feature p62).
Castile Dishwashing Liquid
Stir ½ cup liquid castile soap, ½ cup water, one teaspoon fresh lemon juice, three drops of tea tree oil and ½ cup white vinegar together until blended. Store in a bottle.Use two tablespoons per sink of dishes and shake well before use.
4. Many laundry detergents and fabric softeners cause skin irritations and contain carcinogens. Common ingredients include phosphates, ammonia, naphthalene, phenol and artificial fragrances, which can lead to rashes, itches, allergies and sinus problems. They also have long-term harmful effects on the environment. Ditch these chemicals and try soap nuts, a fragrance-free, non-toxic way to launder clothes.
Soap Nut Laundry Soap
Add eight pumps of liquid soap nut detergent for a full load, or put a few of the nut shells in a cotton bag with your wash – one small bag of soap nuts lasts three to four washes. Warm water is best for maximum effectiveness. For cold water washes, simply soak the nuts in a bowl of hot water for ten minutes, then throw the bag and the hot water into the washing machine and start the cycle as usual.
5. Bleach, which is often used to disinfect surfaces and whiten clothes, is a strong corrosive and can burn the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. Ingestion can cause pulmonary edema, vomiting, and coma. Consider more natural alternatives.
Natural Stain Remover
To whiten or remove stains, use lemon juice. For ink stains, soak the item in milk overnight then launder as usual. Alternatively, try soaking stained clothing in vinegar or a paste of cream of tartar.
6. Mold and mildew live in bathrooms. Store-bought products designed to make your tiles sparkle contain bleach, sodium hypochlorite (which burns the skin and eyes) and the well-known carcinogen, formaldehyde. Opt for a more natural solution to remove mold and mildew from your bathroom tiles.
Natural Mold and Mildew Removal Solution
Add two teaspoons of tea tree oil to two cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray on mold or mildew – do not rinse; the strong smell fades in a few days. This mixture also removes musty smells from clothing. Simply soak the clothes for a few hours then wash as normal. For flat surfaces, try using vinegar.
7. Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, Medipren), dissipate a headache quickly but come with various side-effects including constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, gas, heartburn, nausea and stomach pain. An overdose of either ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can cause toxic hepatitis and liver damage. Avoid the risks and try some natural ways to relieve a headache.
Natural Headache Relief
There are a variety of natural ways to relieve a headache. Massaging pressure points, such as your temples or the space between your thumb and forefinger, helps relieve headache tension. The organic alternative feverfew, a flower related to chrysanthemums, provides soothing relief but needs to be taken as a daily supplement for effective results. Exercising regularly and limiting caffeine is also helpful.
8. Active ingredients in toothpaste include fluoride, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and silica, all of which are considered to be poisonous. Ingestion of too much fluoride leads to dental fluorosis (white streaking of the tooth enamel) in children. Avoid these toxic ingredients by making your own toothpaste.
Baking Soda Toothpaste
Mix three tablespoons of baking soda, ten drops of tea tree oil and ten drops of peppermint essential oil. The paste lasts about two weeks. Adding four teaspoons of vegetable-base glycerin liquid lends a nice consistency and sweetness, but is completely optional.
9. Shampoos contain formaldehyde and other suspected carcinogens including diethanolamine (DEA) and propylene glycol. The most common ingredient is SLS, a commonly found foaming agent. Side-effects of these chemicals include hair loss, mouth ulcers, eye tissue damage, and skin irritation. Steer clear of these artificial additives and make your own shampoo and conditioner.
Ingredients: a handful of chamomile flowers (fresh or dried), 1½ cup boiling water, three tablespoons of natural soap flakes (or use leftover pieces of soap), one tablespoon of glycerin. Put the flowers in a bowl and add boiling water. Let stand for 15 minutes before straining. Combine the strained water with the soap flakes until they soften. Beat in the glycerin. Store in a cool place and away from direct sunlight.
Mash one peeled avocado, then combine it with one cup of natural unsweetened coconut milk. Mix until it forms a smooth, thick paste. Rub it into your hair and let sit for ten minutes before washing out.
10. As with many shampoos, liquid body soap contains SLS. Side-effects of SLS are well-documented and range from skin rashes to hair loss and ovarian cancer.
Mix one cup of liquid castile soap, three tablespoons of coconut or almond oil and three to four drops of essential oil – try rose and lavender or sandalwood and vanilla. Store in a plastic container and shake well before each use. Add cocoa butter, shea butter, avocado oil, almond oil or jojoba oil to increase its moisturizing properties.
Natural Body Scrub
Mix one cup of sea salt with ½ cup of natural baby oil and store in a jar. Let the mixture sit for 24 hours and stir each time before using.
Find the ingredients mentioned in this article at any foreign supermarket or see Feature here for more information.