When you go to the cleaning aisle of your grocery story, you are likely bombarded with dozens of choices. “Cleans and disinfects!” “Whitest whites!” and “Lemon fresh!” are common mottos for these so-called wonder cleaners. Of course, you want your home to look and smell clean, so you buy into it. But what are you really putting in you home?
It is believed that the air in most homes is about 11 times more toxic than outdoor air. I’m sure this is no surprise to you, but, most household cleaners are toxic. A quick look at the active ingredients will tell you that. Ammonia-based window cleaners can irritate airways and aggravate asthma and other respiratory problems. Not to mention, these spray cleaners can linger in the air for up to four hours! Chlorine bleach can irritate skin, mucous membranes, damage the liver and affect the central nervous system. Phenols, found in disinfectants and toilet bowl cleaners can cause kidney, heart and respiratory problems. Some phenols can even disrupt hormonal balances.
These are just a few brief examples of the potential dangers of household cleaners. There are good reasons for the warning labels they have on these products. Misuse and overuse of these products can be costly.
However, there is good news – you likely have everything you need to clean your home naturally already in your kitchen. A few common items in your kitchen are all you really need to keep your home clean . . . and safe.
Also known as Sodium Bicarbonate is found in mineral deposits all around the world. It is cost-effective at a little over $2 for a 4-pound box. Baking soda is best known as a deodorizer. It’s a safe bet that you have a box in your fridge right now. It also makes a great deodorizer for cat pans, garbage cans, shoes, carpet – you name it.
Baking soda also makes a great abrasive cleanser. Sprinkle a little on a damp sponge, and it will take up tough spots without scratching. Great for counters, stove tops, and bathrooms. Make a paste of baking soda and water to clean and polish stainless steel fixtures.
Vinegar is a powerhouse when it comes to cleaning. It is produced by the fermentation of alcohol into acetic acid. It is a natural disinfectant, deodorizer, and all-purpose cleaner. Many people are put off by the smell of vinegar. When properly diluted, the scent disappears when it dries.
Vinegar works magic in the bathroom and kitchen. Mix one part vinegar and one part water in a new spray bottle, and use it to remove soap scum and hard water stains. It can also be used on windows, mirrors, countertops (non-marble), and floors. Spray on full strength as a mold and mildew remover. Be sure to rinse thoroughly.
Try submerging your showerhead in the vinegar/water solution to remove hard water deposits. Leave it for at least one hour and rinse well. Your showerhead will run like new.
It is important to note that vinegar is acidic. Always test on an inconspicuous area first before cleaning a whole room with it. Also, it should not be used on marble, as it will etch the surface. You should also take care on grout. While it can safely be used to remove mold and mildew, be sure that you rinse thoroughly. If you don’t, the acid can eat away at the grout.
Lemons and Lemon Juice
Lemon is also acidic and a natural disinfectant. Using lemon also has the added bonus of leaving a fresh scent. It is great for disinfecting and deodorizing cutting boards and chopping blocks. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle with salt. Rub thoroughly over the cutting board, and let the juices sit for 10 minutes before rinsing. When you are done cleaning with that lemon, chop it in half and put it in the garbage disposal as a freshener.
Just like vinegar, lemons are acidic and work great on soap scum. Mix 2 parts olive oil and 1 part lemon juice and use an abrasive sponge. Scour in a circular motion, and rinse well with warm water. This recipe also doubles as a hardwood furniture polish. Spread it on lightly with a soft cloth, and polish the excess off with a second cloth.
Lemon juice can act as a stain remover for the laundry. It can act as a bleach alternative, and may discolor some fabrics. Test in an inconspicuous area first. It is great for removing grease and perspiration stains.
Borax, or sodium borate, is another overlooked and underestimated cleaner. It is usually found in the laundry aisle (I find mine right next to the giant boxes of baking soda). *Though it is a natural mineral and is safe to use as a cleaner, it can be toxic if swallowed by children and pets. Just like any other cleaning product, please take measures to keep them out of their reach.
To replace your dishwasher detergent, mix equal parts baking soda and borax. If you have hard water, you may need to increase the soda. Use two tablespoons of the mix and start your dishwasher.
In laundry, it deodorizes and enhances the effectiveness of your laundry soap. This means you can use less of your regular detergent.
These are just a few of the many natural cleaners out there. They don’t have the fancy commercials or the flashy packaging – no dancing bubbles here. But, they will keep the air in your home – and you – much healthier than with commercial cleaners.