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6 Reasons Why You Should Use Natural Cleaners In Your Home
By Denise - April 09, 2014
With all the chemicals on the market today and TV commercials verifying how easy, safe and effective they are, we have forgotten that Mother Nature has already given us so many natural resources. It has become so mainstream to use chemicals that there is no shock value left when we see them loaded on the isles in the grocery stores and warehouses and unfortunately in our homes. There are so many reasons why it's healthier to use natural cleaners as opposed to chemical ridden synthetic cleaners in our homes and on our bodies. Below I will explain several reasons why we should reach for the safer option and discuss the advantages to using natural home remedies.

1. The Air We Breathe: Inhaling Our Cleaners

When we breathe we are not only inhaling air but also whatever is in the air. Many cleaners contain volatile all--natural compounds (VOC’s). Don’t be duped by the word “all--natural”. These can be man-made or naturally occurring but many of them are harmful to our health and the environment. They can harm our lungs, cause throat irritations and headaches. Many products that contain VOC’s include:
  • Aerosol spray products, including health, beauty and cleaning products
  • Air fresheners
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Detergent and dishwashing liquid
  • Dry cleaning chemicals
  • Rug and upholstery cleaners
  • Furniture and floor polish
  • Oven cleaners
Chlorine bleach and ammonia are other culprits that can cause serious harm to our lungs. Here is a great article by Dr. Mercola on the harmful effects of mixing these two chemicals together. Now I will admit, when I have a stain on my counter my first reaction is to reach for bleach to get it out. But don’t discount the power of natural cleaners. I have on many occasions gotten stains out by simply using baking soda, apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar) and a little elbow grease. Here is a link to a recipe for another alternative bleach cleaner using just peroxide, lemon juice and water. There are a lot of hidden concerns as well. My husband sees me scrubbing my oven all the time. I use baking soda and vinegar since I prefer to stay away from the chemical oven-cleaners. He suggested I get the oven manual out and do the self-clean. Sounded good to me! I read the manual on how to run the self-clean mode. It warned me that I should have the room well-ventilated. The ceramic heats up at such a high temperature that it emits fumes. It suggested I remove all animals from the home while cleaning the oven. What? If cleaning my oven is that harmful, I think I’ll opt for a more natural alternative for the oils and drips and use my good ol’ elbow grease to remove the stubborn stains. There are chemicals in almost everything! When deciding which cleaner to use, please keep your lungs and sinuses in mind. If you can smell it, it’s going into your body. These toxins stay in our systems and cause a gamut of problems and issues. Be very weary of aerosols and sprays that can easily be inhaled and also be aware of strong fumes from liquid cleaners that can cause serious health problems. Air Fresheners Another major culprit for toxins is air fresheners. Read the ingredients of these and you’ll find out that they are loaded with toxins, specifically designed to be breathed! Yikes! There are countless other ways of freshening the air without the use of heavy chemicals. One, open the windows! If that’s not possible there are several recipes using herbs that will smell lovely and can actually be beneficial to you instead of harming you. One of my favorites is lavender and rose petals. Use a simmer pot for herbs and gently heat them releasing the wonderful aroma of flowers in your bathroom. There are incense burners (be sure to look for natural ones) and candles. Candles are made with a variety of waxes. I would avoid soy or synthetic waxes and look for natural beeswax candles that do not use chemical fragrances. These are a great alternative to chemical ridden sprays and warmers.

2. Ingesting Chemicals

We don’t realize how many chemicals we ingest unknowingly. We already know that our food is loaded with chemicals like preservatives, flavoring, coloring and much more, but what about the ones in our household cleaners that we are putting into our bodies. Bathroom Mirrors One of my biggest concerns years ago was when I would spray my bathroom mirror and watch all the tiny mist droplets gently float down to the counter, onto my sink and near my Waterpik® and toothbrush holder. I would painstakingly remove everything from the counter before squirting (all the while holding my breath as to not breathe any of it in) until I discovered the power of vinegar. White vinegar is my all time favorite go-to window/glass/mirror cleaner. When I first started using it I found that I was getting a lot of streaks. I went online to see what I was doing wrong. I found out that the former cleaners I was using often use a type of wax for extra shine that stays on the glass. When I would use the vinegar it wasn’t strong enough to remove the waxy build-up, just smear it around a bit. For the next several washes I added a small amount of castile soap, tea tree oil and caprylic acid (This is the caprylic I use).  It’s a gel cap so I just poke a pinhole in it and squirt right into my spray bottle. It took several heavy scrubbing washes to remove the build up, but eventually it became streak free and I was able to use just vinegar on my mirrors. I no longer remove everything from the counter since I really don’t mind white vinegar on my toothbrushes or sink, so it’s less work for me now, too. Produce Cleaners We already eat enough chemicals in our food (from manufacturers and also agricultural farming). Our produce is sprayed with chemicals that most farmers won’t even come in direct contact with while treating the crops because of the toxicity. I have always scrubbed all my fruits and veggies thoroughly before we eat them. A few years ago I started noticing spray cleaners in the produce section to clean produce. I read the ingredients and wondered why on earth we would use chemicals to remove chemicals from the food we eat. I opted for a safer alternative. I make a simple mix of white vinegar, tea tree oil and caprylic acid. White vinegar is one of the best ways of removing pesticides. Tea tree kills bacteria and fungus, and caprylic is also an anti-fungal. I like this combo because I can use it for both my produce and counter tops. It leaves a clean shine with no film and kills germs. If you don’t like the smell of tea tree oil there are countless other herbs that are effective for killing fungus, bacteria and viruses. One of my very favorite herbs for cleaning is citrus peels. Grapefruit is my scent of choice but orange and lemon are excellent cleaners as well and smell wonderful! Have you ever noticed how many commercial cleaners advertise “orange or lemon” scented. Not only do the smell great but they are effective cleaners as well. Why not use the lemon and orange and ditch all of the chemical added to it. Keep in mind that when we spray cleaners we are contaminating everything around the area. Ingesting these chemical cleaners is a concern of mine. Minimizing the amount of cleaners we are ingesting is so important. When you reach for natural cleaners you reduce the amount of toxins that enter your body and keep your surfaces safer and cleaner from residual chemicals that you may end up eating.

3. Absorbing Chemicals through Our Skin

It is estimated that more than 13 million workers in the United States are potentially exposed to chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin. (Source CDC) Here is a link from the CDC also mentioning the dangers of skin absorption. A few listed are:
  • Irritant contact dermatitis
  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Skin cancers
  • Skin infections
  • Skin injuries
  • Other miscellaneous skin diseases
So needless to say, you want to absorb as little as possible through your skin. If you’ve ever gotten bleach on you then you know how hard it is to get off. The chemical bond to your skin is so strong that even heavy scrubbing doesn’t remove it. When chemicals are absorbed into your skin it enters the bloodstream. What’s worse is that when you ingest the chemicals it goes through a series of filters (stomach, liver, intestines, etc.) but when it’s absorbed through skin it goes directly to the bloodstream. Of course using gloves is an alternative, but honestly for me, I can’t be bothered taking them on and off. I am a mother of two little one, I home school, run a small business from my home, and cook everything we eat. I am constantly cleaning up something sticky, dirty, dusty and greasy. To put gloves on and off all day just isn’t convenient. Instead, I just opt for natural choices. That way I can clean on-the-go without stopping to put on gloves. Atrophy of Skin Cells from Chemicals Our skin is the largest organ on our bodies. It’s a filter. When we clog the filter, bad things happen. Chemicals cause atrophy of the skin. Atrophy is defined as "a wasting away" of a part of the body, in this case, the skin. Chemicals can clog and break down our skin cells. A few major offenders are Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Propylene Glycol and Parabens (the list of offenders is much longer that this, but just naming a few). At one point in my life several years ago I started getting blisters from everything. Blisters in my eye lids, my mouth, my nose, and my hands. I dove into research on what could be causing it. That was where I discovered the scary truth about the chemicals in everything we use from toothpaste, to shampoo, cleaners, sprays, perfumes, cosmetics and more. My filter was overloaded and beginning to show signs of atrophy. It was painful and ugly. I began my mission of converting all my chemical products to natural herbal products and have never looked back. I feel and look better since I ditched the chemicals and feel confident about taking better care of my skin.

4. Environmental Impact

Not only are these chemicals harmful to our bodies but they are also having a major impact on our environment. The nitrogen in window cleaner forms harmful nitrates that pollute ground water and the VOC’s I mentioned earlier are huge contributors to environmental pollution. It contaminates the water through rivers, streams and lakes. And it is not filtered out by the water treatment plants. These chemicals affect wildlife, plants, trees and us! There are thousands of chemicals that are in cleaning products which have never been tested for safety. These chemicals cause disease, birth defects in humans and animals and have greatly harmed our soil, vegetation and water supply. When we flush these chemicals down the drain, toilets or right into our own lawns as we wash our cars or patios we are causing major environmental pollution. I use baking soda and peroxide in my toilets. Not only is it effective at cleaning, it’s actually helping the pipes in my home. Speaking of toilets... Septic Tanks Now before I moved to Florida from NJ back in the late 90’s I never knew what a septic tank was. I found out quick! I assumed everything we flushed and drained down the sink got piped out of the house and eventually ended up at the local water treatment facility. I was wrong. Many areas use septic tanks which are a tank, typically underground, in which sewage is collected and allowed to decompose through bacterial activity before draining by means of a leaching field. It’s important to take good care of your tank for reasons that I think are quite obvious. A backed up septic is no fun at all. They are vulnerable to holes and deterioration. It’s not wise to add any chemicals to your septic tank that are not intended to be in there. Furthermore, the tank is not a container which holds all the waste in it. It is made from a porous material in which the solids are held in but the liquid are allowed to seep out and escape into the ground in which it’s buried. This brings me back to the environmental issue; if it’s in your tank, it’s polluting the ground. There are safe cleaning alternatives for septics. Here is an article on safely cleaning your sinks and toilets with your septic tank in mind.

5. Cost

The cost of cleaners is expensive. You may say that it’s cheaper considering the bottle of your cleaner is much bigger than say a small bottle of peroxide. What you’re not considering is that the cleaner you are holding is mostly water treated with chemicals. You are paying a very high price (up to $5 per oz) for mostly water! White vinegar is about the cheapest cleaner on the market. I also use peroxide which I buy in bulk at my local warehouse store. The same warehouse sells a 5 lb bag of baking soda which lasts me for months. Baking soda, peroxide and vinegar are by far less expensive than commercial cleaners. And the herbs you can use go a long way. For example, a half pound of eucalyptus can be used for a dozen or more batches and each batch of tincture you make can yield several spray bottles of cleaner. Essential oils are often used in natural cleaners and air fresheners. Although the little bottles may cost more than you wanted to spend, so little is needed for every use that ounce for ounce they are actually cheaper than the big bottle of cleaner you can purchase. Many times you can find a great sale and add a coupon and get a commercial cleaner for pretty cheap. But remember what your cost is… and I’m not talking about monetary cost. The cost of using chemicals in your home goes far beyond the wallet. It could cost you your health, which by the way is expensive. Doctors visits, co-pays, over the counter meds, prescription meds, follow-ups, and days missed from work all cost us money. The cost of restoration is much more expensive that the cost of preservation.

6. Babies, Children, and Pets

Childhood diseases are at an all time high. Asthma, skin conditions, illnesses and allergies are increasing every year. Can chemicals be contributing to this? Absolutely. There are countless ways our children are ingesting, inhaling and absorbing chemicals everyday. Take rugs for example. Carpet cleaners are notorious for containing harmful toxic ingredients. I don’t know about you, but my toddlers run-way need to be as healthy as I can make it. I am not a fan a rugs, I had them ripped out of my house years ago. They hold dirt, germs and yes, chemicals. There are chemicals in the rug before you ever even get it into your home. The synthetic fibers and padding are all treated with chemicals during manufacturing. They when they are installed we go ahead and spray or shake some more chemicals on the very thing that our babies are laying on, crawling on and sitting on. The best rug freshener in my opinion is baking soda. Rugs aren’t the only culprits. Fumes and residues from tile, grout and wood cleaners are equally as damaging. Be careful what you are cleaning your floors with. I also see moms wiping down high chairs, strollers, toys and even their child with chemical wipes. These children are taking in a ridiculous amount of chemicals from birth. From an article on CBSnews: "The culprit is a preservative called methylisothiazolinone (MI), which is found in personal care and household products. This is the first time MI in wet wipes has been reported to cause the allergic skin rash, called allergic contact dermatitis, in the United States, according to the report’s authors." MI is extremely toxic and should never be used on our surfaces let alone the skin of a baby or child. Every time we wipe and spray around our children, on our children and on all the surfaces they touch (and every mama knows that they touch everything!) they are at risk of consuming an exorbitant amount of damaging toxins into their precious systems. And if you’re breastfeeding keep in mind your body too. You can very easily absorb these toxins yourself and pass them right into baby via breastmilk. Pets I mentioned before about cleaning my oven. The warning of cleaning my self-cleaning oven advised to remove all animals from the area before beginning. It also mentioned that the fumes are capable of killing certain birds that are kept as pets. Ever heard the expression "the canary in the coal mine?” Well, I don’t know about you, but if it’s strong enough to kill my bird, I’m convinced it’s harmful to me! Again, our pets, like our children, are on our floors. They are breathing the same contaminants that we are. According to the EPA, 50% of all illness can be traced to indoor pollution, which can be directly related to the use of household cleaners. The National Center for Health Sciences says “… perhaps the most serious exposure is to modern household cleaners, which may contain a number of proven and suspect causes of cancer.” Cleaning products with ingredients such as bleach, ammonia, chlorine, glycol ethers or formaldehyde can put pets at risk for cancer, anemia, liver and kidney damage. Even when the toxic cleaners are put away and closed, the vapors left behind can continue to harm both us and our pets. Ammonia, found in oven cleaners and window cleaning formulations, is an irritant to the mucous membranes. Chlorine is a toxic respiratory irritant that can damage pets’ skin, eyes or other membranes. It can be found in all-purpose cleaners, automatic dishwashing detergents, tile scrubs, disinfecting wipes, toilet-bowl cleaners, laundry detergents and mildew removers. Chlorine is heavier than air and lands in low-lying areas where pets live. Because your pets are smaller and breathe faster than adults, they are even more vulnerable than children to toxic exposure. Laundry Detergent residue left behind on clothes and pet blankets can be harmful to your pet, especially those that chew on their bedding. Toilet bowl cleaners may be ingested by pets who have the habit of drinking from the toilet bowl. Article by eartheasy.com about pet safety Please keep your precious pets in mind when cleaning your home. They are part of the family and deserve the same concern as the other members when it comes to the safety of their environment.

One Last Tip: Just Because It Says “All Natural” On The Bottle, Doesn't Mean It Is!

One of the biggest misconceptions in our society today is the words “All Natural” which really means “can contain harmful synthetic chemicals”. And let’s understand that even if it is natural, does that make it safe? Isn’t arsenic a natural occurring substance? Here is an excellent article by Dr. Mercola warning of the dangers of this “all natural” misconception. It’s not only important to read the ingredients, but know what they are! And keep in mind that manufacturers, by law, are not required to list all ingredients. The hidden ones are the ones which scare me most. It’s a mystery mix in those bottles, which is yet another great reason to reach for the natural cleaners which I know are natural.

In conclusion...

Stay educated, stay informed and perhaps above all – have fun! I can’t tell you how much fun we have making different concoctions in our kitchen. My kids love choosing new scents, making their own personal batches of herbal cleaners and products, choosing their own herbs, and sharing these ideas. We love having friends over who love joining us in our excitement and education. It becomes an herbal arts and crafts, science experiment, fun day for the kids and adults (I think sometimes the grown-ups are having even more fun than their children!) Host an herbal party making different creations and making your house smell awesome! I simmer lavender and rose petals before everyone gets here and the house smells glorious. Be healthy, be happy and be blessed by God’s wonderful miracle workers – HERBS!
What is your reason for using natural cleaners in your home?