Every day we expose ourselves to chemicals that can be extremely dangerous. Dishwashing liquid, anti-bacterial cleaners, even air fresheners: all contain highly toxic ingredients. Not only do we come in contact with these products, but we expose our children and pets to them.
According to the CBC program The Nature of Things, “On atypical cleaning day in a typical Canadian home, levels of chemicals in the indoor air can be hundreds, even thousands, of times higher than the outdoor air in the most polluted of cities.”
In Canada, companies are obliged to label products that are dangerous. They are not obliged, however, to list all the ingredients, including the chemicals, that they contain that might have long term effects on your health.
Many chemicals created for cleaners since 1960 were tested only once, and very few were tested in conjunction with other chemicals. In real life, the chemicals in a cleaner will inevitably mix with other products or with chemicals like chlorine found in your water.
Most cleaners are not only bad for the environment; they are bad for our health. And since we absorb most cleaners through our skin or by breathing them, children are especially susceptible.
Many chemicals found in cleaners have volatile compounds that will stay in the air of the room they’ve been sprayed in for more than a year. Others stay on surfaces, or go straight down the drain.
They do not disappear. In our lakes, the blue-green algae phenomenon is caused, in part, by phosphates found in some cleaners emptied down our drains. They also end up in our rivers and oceans, affecting and often killing entire species of coral, plants, and fish.
Most products contain fragrances. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has found that 100 per cent of perfumes contain a chemical called toluene. Exposure to toluene can cause headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting and allergic skin irritation. In clinical trials, it has been shown to affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope and other behavioural changes.
Other chemicals in cleaning products, like formaldehyde, can cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness and sleep loss. Formaldehyde can be found in a variety of cleaning products.
We take medications to alleviate these symptoms. But eliminating cleaners or using them in moderate quantities can really help.
There are simple solutions. You can purchase safer ingredients to make your own cleaners, and at a fraction of the price. These are biodegradable, and you can control how much fragrance you put in them if you or anyone in your family has asthma or allergies. You can feel safe that they will not make you sick.
Pure soap, which is completely biodegradable, is non-toxic. It can be found in your grocery store, health food store or pharmacy. Unscented Ivory is a good example.
Vinegar is a mild disinfectant. It cuts grease, deodorizes and cleans glass. Heinz brand has a softer scent. You can mix 20 to 30 drops of organic essential oil straight into the bottle to make the scent more pleasant. The scent is up to you. Orange works especially well.
Eucalyptus oil and cinnamon oil are great disinfectants. You can mix them with baking soda to scrub the tub, or with vinegar to clean the toilet. You can find them in natural food stores or on natural food store websites on the internet. Use organic varieties because regular essential oils contain pesticides.
Baking soda is a great abrasive. It also deodorizes, removes stains and polishes.
Lemon juice will disinfect, polish and make the room smell fresh.
Note: distilled water is always best for any recipe. If you cannot find it, filtered water is also good. The point is to get as many of the chemicals and minerals out of the water so the recipe will be more effective.
Here are a few recipes:
All purpose cleaner
125 ml of pure soap or soap flakes (found in natural food stores)60 ml of lemon juice 4 litres of hot water (distilled or filtered water is always best).
50-100 ml of eucalyptus or cinnamon organic essential oil I litre of water
Put in a spray bottle and shake well before each use.
Soap scum remover I small box of baking soda 30 drops of organic essential oil of your choice
Mix well and put some on a sponge or wet cloth and scrub.
A few facts that might convince you to make the change to natural cleaners:• The active ingredient in Lysol is a registered pesticide. Their commercials tell you to spray it everywhere, even on your children’s’ toys and kitchen counter, to disinfect.
• Swiffer Wet Jet is highly toxic to small children and large animals if ingested. German Shepherds have died from licking recently washed floors.
• Commercial air fresheners coat your nasal passages with oils that diminish your sense of smell by deadening the nerves.
Whether you make natural cleaners for yourself, for those you love, or for the environment, you will make a difference. The fewer chemicals we expose ourselves to, the healthier we will be. The same goes for our planet.