Many people wonder whether household cleaning products are harmful for health. For the sake of removing dirt quickly and thoroughly, most of us use products containing strong chemicals which we end up inhaling and touching around the whole house. This can arguably be toxic for the whole family, but potentially even worse for babies and young kids that are more sensitive and likely to get in contact with surfaces. We know what you are thinking: it’s time to go healthy with your cleaning products.
The effects can range from skin or respiratory irritation, watery eyes, dry skin, chemical burns, or even chronic effects in the long term. According to the Environmental Working Group, more than 50% of cleaning products reviewed contained lung-harming ingredients. Not to mention the risk of ingestion when curious kids are unattended. For the reasons above, many families are opting for alternative products to clean their houses, and you will find many testimonials from people like Maria Lally who wrote to The Telegraph.
To be fair, it’s important to recognize that probably all elements can be toxic if consumed in a high enough dose. It’s also important to acknowledge that chemicals are constituting parts of everything – remember the periodic table of chemical elements? Long story short, saying that something has chemicals doesn’t mean that it is dangerous. Most products in the market are considered safe if used correctly and assuming minimal exposure. One should always use rubber gloves to apply bleaches and detergents for example, however it can be difficult to limit exposure in a home environment.
Some ingredients offer higher risks, such as solvents including butoxyethanol (which can irritate throat and lungs), phosphates (associated with negative ecosystem impacts), chlorine and ammonia (which can cause respiratory and skin irritation), phthalates (an endocrine disruptor found in fragrances), perchloroethylene or PERC (a neurotoxin), triclosan and quarternary ammonium (aggressive antibacterial that can result in resistant bacteria), and sodium hydroxide (highly corrosive).
For this reason, it’s recommendable to read the ingredients of cleaning products and avoid certain substances. Although it’s not always clear, you can also check for words like “danger”, “warning” or “caution”. Also, be sceptical of vague references as “ecologically-friendly”, “natural” or “organic” without a proper explanation.
The good news is that there is a number of products considered less aggressive that can replace the mainstream products, including soap, water, baking soda, distilled white vinegar, lemon juice and borax. You can find ideas in articles like this one wrote by Madeleine Somerville for The Guardian. Below we listed the main tips from professionals in the area:
Surfaces: a lot of household surface cleaning can be done with warm water, soap, vinegar, and a sponge. Baking soda works well to remove grease from cooker and dishes. You can also make a paste by mixing with hydrogen peroxide to remove heavy stains and clean white marble.
Furniture polishing: use a mix of vinegar and a small bit of olive oil for dusting and polishing with a piece of soft cloth (use microfiber for best results)
Metal polishing: to polish silver just use toothpaste. To polish copper use a solution of salt and vinegar or lemon juice. For unlacquered brass use a paste of salt, vinegar and flour.
Mattress and upholstery: sprinkle a mixture of baking soda and a few drops of essential oil, let it sit for an hour, and then vacuum clean the piece.
Windows: spray a solution of vinegar (equal proportions) or lemon juice (a tablespoon) diluted in water.
Tile floors: Use vinegar and a few drops of essential oil diluted in warm water. You will feel a vinegar smell initially, but it should soon disappear as it dries.
Carpet: prepare a solution of water, liquid soap and a few drops of essential oil. Scrub using a sponge, let dry and then vacuum clean.
Drains: sprinkle baking soda into the drain and add warm vinegar to remove smell.
Sink: Sprinkle a mix of baking soda and a few drops of essential oil, and pour vinegar on the top. After it settles, scrub with a sponge, and rinse with hot water.
Oven: Heat the oven with an glass water container inside, so that the steam will soften cooked-on grease. Let it cool down and apply a paste prepared with salt, baking soda and vinegar in equal parts. Scrub and let it shine.
You can also soak surfaces overnight in a solution of water, baking soda and soap, before scrubbing in the next day. Washing soda also works (just remember to wear rubber wear gloves).
Microwave: turn on the microwave at strong power with a glass vinegar container inside for a few minutes until the liquid boils and covers the inside walls. Let it sit for a few minutes and wipe with a piece of cloth.
Kettle: Boil vinegar to remove scale deposits, and then rinse a few times.
Toilet: Splay vinegar scrub with a toilet brush as you would normally do. If you want more, pour a cup of borax and vinegar or lemon juice into the bowl, letting sit for a few hours before brushing and flushing.
Bathroom tiles, shower and bathtub: Scrub with a paste made of baking soda and water to remove mildew, grime and stains. You can create your own disinfectant and also remove mildew using tea tree oil diluted in water (add essential oil for a nice scent). To remove grease, use a mixture of washing soda, vinegar, liquid soap and hot water (remember to wear rubber wear gloves when using washing soda). You may find useful to soak vinegar using toilet paper on areas covered by limescale and letting it sit for a few hours.
Finally, we want to share a few interesting blogs dedicated to the topic:
And if you are looking for quality cleaning, request your service at My Service Menu – vetted and insured professionals that will help make your life easier.