Super Natural Home
The title of this article is also the title of a book I have yet to read but have on my ‘must read’ list for the rainy days of summer. It’s a book about cleaning up your home and ridding it of the toxic cleaning supplies most of us hide in our cleaning cupboard.
We have been eating as organically as we can afford for some years. We are careful about the source of our foods. A new adventure for us is the cleaning products we use. I was originally surprised to learn the laundry detergent I normally purchase is on the ‘dirty’ list for carcinogens. I’m almost at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. I plan to do a little research before the next purchase to be sure I’m not contaminating my family with a host of toxicity.
I love fragrance as much as the next person but we have a number of family members whose airways shut down in the presence of fragrance. For some, this means avoiding the perfumed laundry supply aisle in any super market. For others, it means no scented candles or plug ins. And, for some it is as drastic as fresh flowers in a closed room.
Rather than lead you on the trail of my exploration (at least today), I want to share with you some ingredients that are considered unsafe. Sometimes, it is not just this one item, but its combination with any of the others on the list. I challenge you to join me in evaluating the ingredients on your cleaning supplies and cleaning up your own product list and home.
Here's the list:
Found in: Many fragranced household products, such as air fresheners, dish soap, even toilet paper. Because of proprietary laws, companies don’t have to disclose what’s in their scents, so you won’t find phthalates on a label. If you see the word “fragrance” on a label, there’s a good chance phthalates are present.
Phthalates are absorbed through the skin. They become endocrine disruptors in some cases. Options to avoid phthalates would be fragrance free products or all natural products. Essential oils can be used with considerable caution, as they affect some folks, too. Less is more in this category.
Found in: Dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers, and carpet and upholstery cleaners. Percs are neurotoxins and best avoided by all of us. Products requiring dry cleaning only can be cleaned with a process called ‘wet cleaning’. Ask at your local cleaner if they offer this service.
We find triclosan in hand and dish soaps that are labeled antibacterial, as well as hand sanitizer. Some believe the use of these products has opened the door for super bugs that are resistant to antibiotics. Use simple soaps without a long list of ingredients and avoid triclosan. Currently, the EPA is studying whether triclosan can alter hormones. It is a known carcinogen.
Found in: Fabric softener liquids and sheets, most household cleaners labeled “antibacterial.” These are similar to triclosan. There is some link to respiratory issues and some who have had long term exposure develop asthma. It can also be a skin irritant. Using white vinegar as a fabric softener is less costly and equally as effective. A combination of tea tree oil and vinegar is an effective cleaner and antibacterial agent for cleaning counters.
Found in: Window, kitchen and multipurpose cleaners.
This ingredient is not required by law to be listed on the label. It gives the characteristic ‘sweet’ smell to cleaning products. It’s in the family of glycol ethers. There are a host of health issues, pulmonary edema, narcosis, liver and kidney failure related to too much use of this product. Vinegar diluted with a drop of dish soap can clean windows without the use of glycol ethers.
Found in: Polishing agents for bathroom fixtures, sinks and jewelry; also in glass cleaner.
Respiratory issues can develop, especially for the elderly with ammonia based products. It’s a common ingredient and a powerful one. A better product is to use a little vodka in the cleaning solution. It evaporates quickly. Use it for cleaning not imbibing.
Found in: Scouring powders, toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners, household tap water.
Americans have a ‘thing’ about disinfecting and we have been sold chlorine as the best germ fighting product on the market. You can find it in wipes, and most of the products listed above. It can be a serious thyroid disruptor. It’s in the water we drink to kill bacteria and can be a skin irritant. It’s every where but we can avoid it by installing filters on our water faucets and using non-chlorinated cleaning products. Baking soda combined with vinegar scours well. Borax is a good laundry product for whitening.
Found in: Oven cleaners and drain openers.
Lye can burn the skin when it is touched. This is a very powerful and potent item. Baking soda and vinegar can clean a grimy oven, blended with time and elbow grease.
Beware of Greenwashing
If a cleaning product at your supermarket proclaims itself “green,” “natural” or “biodegradable,” that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s nontoxic. In 2010 the environmental consulting firm TerraChoice Group produced a report called “The Sins of Greenwashing.” In it the group found more than 95 percent of so-called green consumer products had committed at least one “greenwashing sin,” like making an environmental claim that may be truthful but unimportant. “CFC-free,” for example, is a common one, since CFCs are banned by law. Donna Kasuska of ChemConscious offers this advice: “When gauging ecological claims, look for specifics. ‘Biodegradable in three to five days’ holds more meaning than ‘biodegradable,’ as most substances will eventually break down with enough time.”
Even if you believe you have safe and wholesome cleaning products in your home, I challenge you to go back and read the labels with the above list of ‘dirty’ ingredients. Cleaning out the not recommended ingredients will probably give you more room on the cleaning shelf and a cleaner fresher home. And, if you cannot bring yourself to throw away items with questionable ingredients, at least promise you will find a more environmentally friendly option when you have emptied the bottle.
For a natural, clean, healthy home, get rid of the dirt and have a super natural home.