Have you ever wondered what is in your cleaning products? I started out wanting to de-plastic my cleaning supplies, and it turned out that there are problems WAY bigger than just the plastic bottles my cleaning chemicals came in.
I was curious about what, if any, research there was on the safety of the ingredients in my commercial cleaners. What I found was quite shocking! From carcinogens to harming an unborn child, the ingredients had one problem after another. This is a really long post, but I just couldn’t justify leaving any of it out.
I used the Environmental Working Group database on household products to look up the products on my shelves. They use a database that has all research ever published on the safety of chemicals to give common household products a safety grade. The grade also takes into consideration how transparent a company is in what chemicals are used in the product. Their safety grades are from A-F. You can read more about how they grade their products here, but basically, A and B are pretty good, C usually means that there is some transparency in what chemicals are used, but those chemicals need more research, D and F mean you should not be using them. They have chemicals with enough evidence of harm that the risks aren’t worth it.
Here is what was in my cupboard:
Recognize any from your cupboards? Here is the research on each of them, you can click on the link to see the full EWG report, but I also summarized the info on each one:
Mostly for aquatic toxicity. Also had poor disclosure of ingredients (one chemical is particularly vague and includes substances concerning for nervous system effects)
Contains “Preservatives,” a nonspecific substance that has moderate concern for causing cancer. Also moderate concern for causing asthma/respiratory effects.
Kleen guard furniture polish:
No info on my particular off-brand name, but most mainstream furniture polish commercial products were C-F.
No info on my off-brand version, but the Resolve and CVS brands that seemed most equivalent were all F’s.
Some concerns for cancer, endocrine toxicity, and aquatic toxicity. Includes “fragrance” as an ingredient, which can mean almost anything.
Not in the database, but at this point I didn’t have any faith that it might be fully tested and considered safe. It did list Phosphoric acid as its active ingredient, which I looked up and found that it is a known pollutant in bodies of water.
NOTHING in my supply had an A or B!
I was a little overwhelmed at this point! How am I supposed to clean my home?!?!?
Fortunately, I found some really simple solutions and I will gladly share them with you. But first, let’s talk about a few other things that should affect what chemicals you use to clean:
First of all, killing 99.9% of germs might not be the best for your health. In medicine, we are learning more and more about the importance of good bacteria in your gut. You need a solid living community of healthy bacteria to keep the bad bacteria away. That’s why we avoid taking antibiotics as much as possible. I wonder what impact it has on our health to kill all bacteria on the surfaces in our house, good and bad alike.
Next, there is the financial part. The price of all of my cleaners together if I had to buy them again is about $76, going on current Walmart and Dollar Store prices. The price of my low-waste cleaning products is about $12. People often tell me that being healthy is too expensive. This just isn’t true!
AND (just to let me rant a little…) there is the part about listening to companies tell us we need a different product for every job just so they will make more money. Do we really need a different product for our bathroom counter, kitchen counter, tub, sink, floor, toilet, windows, and then an “all-purpose” one on top of that? Stop letting commercials tell you what to do and be your own person. (thanks for letting me rant).
At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself the why question. Why do you clean? What is your goal?
Is your goal to be healthy?
Then you probably don’t want to use chemicals that cause cancer, respiratory problems, neurological effects, reproductive problems, and genetic defects in babies–and top it off with being toxic to aquatic life. (Not to mention that they all come in plastic bottles–remember, plastic is never truly recycled).
Is your goal to get rid of dirt, stains, bad smells and feel good about your home?
Then never fear, there are great non-toxic options that you can also get in plastic-free containers.
I sprinkle baking soda on countertops, sinks, the tub or shower, and inside the toilet bowl. Wipe well with a soft cloth (or the toilet brush inside the toilet bowl), then rinse off with water. It is a great deodorizer too. Pairing it with an old toothbrush goes a long way in getting grime off.
For disinfecting, I use this lemon-infused vinegar that I make myself. It doesn’t have a bad vinegar smell, I promise! I use it on the toilet and anywhere else I think needs disinfecting. I use it to clean up after vomit or poop. It can even kill influenza virus. I occasionally use it to wash the outsides of my kitchen cabinets. It’s great at getting off spaghetti sauce fingerprints 🙂
The washing soda is a good laundry soak to get stains out–and it has a safety grade of A. I also use it as a dishwasher soap along with a few drops of liquid castile soap (you can buy this in your own container at EarthFare).
For a rinse aid in the dishwasher, plain vinegar works great. It is a great laundry softener too.
To wash mirrors and windows, sprinkle with plain water and then wipe off with a newspaper. Or, wipe off with a dry towel (at first you will think you are only smearing fuzzies from the towel around, but keep going and turn to dry spots on the towel. It magically all comes off after about 30 seconds of wiping).
Alright, I challenge you to take a peek at your cleaning cupboard.
Take everything out and look at it in one big pile. Anything there worth keeping?