“This place has never been cleaner!” I exclaimed as I watched traditionally less-than-conscientious co-workers spray and wipe down each surface of our work space. The second you enter my office building or grocery store, the scent of cleaning supplies smack you in the face. On one hand, it’s comforting to know that safety precautions are being taken and people are being mindful of germ-sharing. On the other hand, my sensitive eyes watering from the extreme use of cleaning products reminds me that they have a lot of harsh chemicals that aren’t so great for me.
When it comes to my home, I’ve been focusing my efforts on deep cleaning using natural and non-toxic products.
Why does natural and non-toxic matter?
Many cleaning supplies release dangerous chemicals that can irritate the eyes or throat, cause headaches, and can contribute to other health problems. Some of these chemicals add to chronic respiratory problems and allergic reactions. Also, studies have linked exposure to chemicals from cleaning supplies to occupational asthma and other respiratory illnesses. (See a Resource list to various studies on chemical cleaners below.) In general, it doesn’t always serve for the healthiest you to use these products in your home. Certainly when we are spraying and cleaning to the levels we are right now.
But Does Not-Toxic Cleaner Even Disinfect, Bruh?
Not all of them. However, some do! Below are common active ingredients found in the CDC and EPA recommended disinfectant cleaning products that can kill many viruses and bacteria:
- Ethanol alcohol (60%-90%)*
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Isopropyl alcohol (60%-90%)
What To Use
I have compiled a list of natural and/or non-toxic alternatives, many of which you may already have in your home. Some of these natural alternatives require a little more time and a bit more elbow grease, but can be safer for you and your family.
Disclaimer: Please use the following suggestions with caution. While chemicals like isopropyl alcohol, borax and hydrogen peroxide are found in some of the following suggestions, they can be dangerous to both health and property if used incorrectly. Use of any of these suggestions are at your own risk. We assume no responsibility for the outcome or for any accidents, injuries or harm that might befall any person or property.
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoon borax
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
- 2 cups hot water
- lemon rind
- rosemary sprigs
Combine the baking soda, borax, and soap in a spray bottle. Pour in the hot water (it will dissolve the minerals), screw on the lid, and shake to completely blend and dissolve. Spritz and wipe. For stains, leave the cleanser on for a few minutes before wiping it off. Shake the bottle before each use.
- enough liquid soap or detergent to make a paste with a frosting-like consistency
- a few drops tea tree oil
Place the borax in a bowl then slowly pour in liquid soap, stirring while you do. Stir until it becomes thick. Add the oil and stir to combine. Scoop the cleaner onto a rag or sponge then scrub the surface and rinse. This also removes mildew!
OR Try This Scrub
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup borax
Dip the lemon into the borax and scrub the surface, then rinse. (This is not safe for marble or granite.) Works on rust as well!
DIY Glass Cleaner
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol (70%)
- 1 to 2 drops of orange essential oil for smell (optional)
The next time you need to wash your windows and mirrors, combine these ingredients and pour them in a spray bottle.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
Pour the ingredients into the toilet. Let sizzle, then scrub and flush. Think third grade science class volcanoes!
Stainless Steel Cleaner
- olive oil
- Very soft or microfiber cloth
Spray the surface liberally with vinegar. Using a soft cloth, rub in the direction of the grain to clean. Polish by dipping the cloth in olive oil and rubbing again in the direction of the grain.
7 Things To Clean That You May Have Been Forgetting
- Remote controls
- Game controllers
- Keyboards and computer mice
- Cell phones
- Light switches and switch plates
- Door knobs and doors
- Staircase railings
Final Tip: Use Glass Containers
Do not use a plastic bottle or storage container for your homemade cleaning supplies. Certain ingredients can break down the plastic and potentially release some of those toxins you are trying to avoid. Stick to glass. I would highly recommend amber colored bottles, especially if you are using any essential oils. I would also recommend storing these solutions in a cool dark place. I keep mine under our kitchen sink.
You can find amber glass containers online, or you can re-purpose old bottles. For example: In the picture below, I have window cleaner in glass amber bottle that used to house hand soap. After we used all the soap, I washed the bottle out and replaced the soap pump with a spray nozzle. Super easy!
- Institute of Medicine, Division of Health Promotion, Indoor Air and Disease Prevention. Clearing the Air: Asthma and Indoor Air Exposures. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2000. Kanchongkittiphon W, et al. Indoor Environmental Exposures of Asthma: An Update to the 2000 Review by the Institute of Medicine. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2015; 123: 6-20.
- Nazaroff WW, Weschler CJ. Cleaning Products and Air Fresheners: Exposure to Primary and Secondary Air Pollutants. Atmospheric Environment. 38, 2004: 2841-65.
- California Air Resources Board (CARB). Report to the California Legislature: Indoor Air Pollution in California. Sacramento, CA: California Environmental Protection Agency. 2005.
- Steinmann, AC. Fragranced Consumer Products and Undisclosed Ingredients. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29,2009: 32-8.