Home Made Cleaning Solutions: Nontoxic Recipes for Effective Cleaners

A surprising number of the most harmful toxins ever created have found their way into our own homes. Many of us are constantly exposed to a variety of cleaning products, personal care products and household appliances. The air in our homes is filled with fumes from petrochemical solvents added to cleaners to dissolve dirt. The average household contains anywhere from three to twenty-five gallons of toxic materials, most of which are in cleaners.

Canadians spend billions of dollars per year on cleaning products that have serious environmental and heath effects over time. Unfortunately, when it comes to cleaners, the consumer has little to go on beyond the warning labels that manufacturers are required to put on their products. The labels DANGER, WARNING and POISON give only a very general idea about the seriousness of the unknown substances a product contains. In fact, a recent study found that 85% of product warning labels are inadequate.

Given that we spend about 80% of our time inside, it makes sense to reduce unnecessary exposures to those chemicals where possible. It’s up to you to make sure your home is not only clean, but also non-toxic. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to identify which products contain these hazardous ingredients. Therefore, the safest alternative is to make your own Safe Cleaning Kit using baking soda, pure soap, olive oil and white vinegar — a cheap, cost effective and healthy ingredients alternative.

Here is a list of safe, easy-to-make cleaning solutions that you can make at home:

1. All-Purpose Cleaner. Many commercial all-purpose cleaners contain chlorine, ammonia and other toxic ingredients. Ammonia fumes are extremely irritating to the eyes and lungs. Chlorine forms compounds that have been linked to cancer when released into the environment.

Homemade alternative:
Mix 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) and 2 litres of water. Store, label and keep for everyday use.

2. Laundry Detergent. Scented detergent and fabric softeners can contain hundred of chemicals. Many of these chemicals can cause health problems such as shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, and cold-like symptoms.

Homemade alternative:
Mix 1 cup soap flakes, 1/2 cup borax and 1/2 cup washing soda;   or
use 1/2 to one cup of white vinegar in rinse cycle to soften clothes and remove odours and residual detergent (instead of fabric softener).

3. Furniture Polish. Commercial furniture polish contains toxic ingredients that can be inhaled long after use.

Homemade alternative:
Use 1 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup lemon juice or vinegar. Mix in a sprayer bottle. Shake well and apply to flannel cleaning rag or cloth, spread evenly, then use dry side of the cloth to polish dry.

For varnished wood add a few drops of lemon oil into 1/2 cup warm water. Use a small amount on a cleaning cloth, wipe furniture to clean and to complete the polish, wipe with a soft, dry cotton cloth.

4. Glass/Window Cleaner. Commercial glass cleaners contain ammonia. Ammonia vapours are highly irritating to the lungs and eyes.

Homemade alternative:
Mix 2 teaspoons white vinegar with 1 litre warm water to clean glass.  Use a soft cloth or crumbled newspaper to clean. 

5. Toilet, Tub and Bowl Cleaners. Most bathroom cleaners contain strong acids that can burn skin and eye tissues, and their fumes are highly irritant to the respiratory tract, and are also known to cause vomiting and pulmonary edema if inhaled).

Homemade alternative:
Baking soda is a great alternative to commercial products, when you need to scour surfaces clean. Sprinkle baking soda to tackle hard to clean bath rings, tile grout or food deposits in the kitchen sink. Pure vinegar diluted in warm water is also effective for removing bath and kitchen stains. 

6. Rug Deodorizer. Ingredients from commercial rug deodorizers can be irritating if inhaled.

Homemade alternative:
Deodorize dry carpets by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and vacuum. Repeat if necessary.

7. Mothballs. Chemicals and vapours from mothballs can be irritating to the lungs and eyes.

Homemade alternative:
Use cedar chips or a sachet with any or all of the following: lavender flowers, rosemary, mint, white peppercorns.
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