How to green your cleaning routine
Your body is your temple, and most of us take great care of it. But there’s another temple that requires care to keep us healthy—our homes.
We spend a large part of our lives in these personal safe havens, investing time and effort every day into maintaining them. Whether we’re washing up after dinner, purging our closets, or cleaning the bathroom— one thing is certain: housekeeping is an ongoing process. Unfortunately, some less-than-healthy housecleaning practices are often overlooked in many homes.
Cleaners for almost every purpose are heavily marketed for their power foam, scrubbing, germ killing, whitening and brightening abilities—but what’s not mentioned are the potentially harmful effects some of their ingredients can have on our health and the environment.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but a few simple strategies can help get you started on keeping a clean and tidy house that also supports good health.
GET FAMILIAR WITH THE “BAD GUYS”
Countless cleaning products are formulated for everyday messes that inevitably happen around the home, with Canadians spending nearly $2.3 billion on household products each year.
So, do we really know what we’re getting when we buy some of these products? One look at the list of unpronounceable ingredients and cautionary disclaimers on product labels points to the fact that many products could be toxic and improper use or disposal is likely not good for us or our environment.
It’s important to remember that the products we choose leave residues on countertops, dishes and even in the air, exposing us to substances we didn’t intend to have much contact with.
There’s also the environment to consider. What goes down the drain doesn’t just disappear, and your seemingly benign dishwashing soap is a notable example of this. Many soaps contain prominent levels of phosphates, which damage aquatic ecosystems by promoting algal blooms that hurt aquatic life.
The best way to avoid these potentially harmful toxic ingredients is to read labels carefully and opt for greener alternatives.
MAKE OVER YOUR CLEANING CLOSET
Ammonia, phthalates and triclosan are just a few of the culprits found
in products ranging from laundry detergents to glass cleaners. These ingredients can become airborne, inhaled, and linger on just-cleaned surfaces where they can be absorbed by human tissues, exposing us and our families to their potential side effects. Fortunately, there are alternatives, with many companies offering more formulas that won’t compromise health and the environment—but you can start the shift to greener cleaners by taking a look in your cupboards!
Vinegar, baking soda, coarse salt
and olive oil all have exceptional antiseptic abilities and, when combined in the right amounts, make excellent natural cleaning products. These familiar household staples can be used for housecleaning jobs on their own or combined in simple DIY formulas that can easily be whipped up at home. Some simple green cleaning superstars include:
Salt. Yes—regular table salt can be used to deodorize, absorb stains and act as an abrasive. Coarse salt works wonderfully in cleaning cast iron cookware and scrubbing stubborn burnt pots.
Vinegar is not only super effective—it’s inexpensive! Distilled white vinegar can be used to make glass sparkle, act as a fabric softener and thoroughly clean surfaces—even in high traffic areas like the kitchen and bathroom!
Olive oil can be sparingly applied in shining up stainless steel or wood furniture.
Baking soda has gentle abrasive qualities that can lift stains out of surfaces from counter tops to toilet bowls. It is also a phenomenal deodorizer and a small bowl kept in the back of the fridge will absorb undesirable odours. Sprinkled on carpets and upholstered furniture, it can freshen textiles and be easily vacuumed off.
You can also purchase some foundational and versatile natural products to add to your green cleaning supply at your local CHFA Member health food store:
Castile Soap has many uses around the home, both for natural cleaning and personal care. This plant-based soap, made in a style that originated in the Castile region of Spain, has been used for centuries as an all-purpose natural soap of choice.
Essential oils are a terrific addition to your DIY toolkit. They are great alternatives to artificially scented products, and you can customize your own blends. Certain oils, like tea tree, have antibacterial benefits, and others, like lavender, can have a calming effect. But be sure to do your research or consult with an expert to ensure the oils you use don’t have any side effects to members of the household—including the furry ones!
Because of their safety, you can experiment and find the combinations that work for your home. Be mindful to check that these ingredients are compatible with what you’re cleaning, as certain surfaces like granite, marble or wood may need special treatment.
Another bonus of the DIY approach? Less packaging! Using mason jars to store your recipes or reusing old bottles reduces plastic consumption and disposal—something else to feel great about. Also look for opportunities to bulk shop for ingredients with your own containers, or for stores that offer bulk refillable cleaning supplies.
You can find these ingredients, and many more at your local CHFA member retailer, you can also visit healthierbynature.com for more great green cleaning tips and recipes. Once you try these natural alternatives to clean your home, you will be hooked on them.
A few simple steps can help to make your home a clean, tidy and healthy place. It may be a process that takes some time, but any step taken to reduce toxins in your “other” temple is a step towards better health for you, your family and the environment.
More Insights: Check out this article with other healthy home hacks for spring cleaning!
Author: Michelle W. Book is the in-house holistic nutritionist and spokesperson for Healthier by Nature an online community educating Canadians about the benefits of natural health and organic products. She is a regular contributor to Optimyz Magazine.