I think most of us know by now that we should avoid using antibacterial hand sanitizers and soaps, since they can be toxic to you and kill not only external germs, but your body’s own “good” germs and natural defense system. Use of these products has also been shown to cause drunken-like behavior among children, due to their high alcohol content that is easily absorbed into the skin; although this has been rare, it has been confirmed as possible.
But what about at home? Many people I know still use harsh cleansers when they clean there, like products containing ammonia, bleach, and so on — think mold/mildew removers, all-purpose cleaning solutions, disinfectants, etc.
I won’t name products here, but look at the ingredients list of many household cleansers and you’ll see these listed, as well as other unnatural additives like dyes and scents.
None of which is good for you.
If you’re the type who needs proof, just take a look online at sites like this one, or this one. These are just starting points; if you do own your search you’ll find many, many more.
“Yeah, but I like how clean my house looks and smells after,” you may be thinking.
Don’t do it, I say.
“But I take precautions, like wearing gloves, ventilating the area, or wearing a face mask,” you may protest.
But it’s not good enough!
Really, the kind of disposable masks you might wear for heavy-duty cleaning will not adequately protect you from toxic fumes while cleaning.
Plus anyone else nearby can still be affected, particularly any pets you have, who I’d assume do not have gloves and masks on as they walk in or near the areas being cleaned with these products. If they do, then kudos to you for finding these items and for having a pet who lets you use them on him or her. 🙂
But in all seriousness, products like these can harm your lungs, your skin, and so much more. And it may not be right away, but happen over time with repeated use. Trust me, you do not want to breathe in any vapors from products like these — but short of using a respirator as you spray it around, you will inhale some of it.
Think of it this way: if you’re careful to avoid wearing clothes that can be stained by them when you’re cleaning, what about your lungs? Or any other part of you exposed to them, like your skin, which we should remember is the largest organ of our bodies?
Look, I’ve seen towels hanging nearby get discolored when a product like this was sprayed in the bathroom, yet nowhere near them — so imagine the exposure to us, the ones doing the spraying?
I don’t know about you, but I won’t do that anymore.
OK, so what to use instead? After doing some reading on this subject and testing different alternatives out myself, I swear you can clean as effectively — and in many cases even more so — with the following natural cleansers:
- Tea tree oil – this is an essential oil that has a multitude of uses, including being an anti-fungal, anti-microbial agent. It’s sold in health stores but is also widely available online — I got my most recent bottle of it from Amazon. If you can find it in a spray bottle, that’s ideal, but if not, you can purchase a spray bottle yourself and put 10 drops of it in it for every cup of water, then spray it onto whatever area you want to clean. My only word of caution is, it can smell a bit like bug spray, so you may want to avoid it if you or anyone at home is sensitive to odors like that. However, I find the smell does fade quickly enough.
- Grapefruit seed extract – This is another natural item with anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties that can be used to clean your home, plus it has the added benefit of having no pungent odor, unlike tea tree oil. It too can be found in health shops and online. Use the same ratio of 10 drops per cup of water.
- Hydrogen peroxide – This does a great job at cleaning more than just cuts on your skin, yet many people don’t realize they can use it for everything from wiping down surfaces to mopping floors. And let’s not forget the fun it is to see it bubble up first — I feel like we’re actually witnessing germs being killed! Plus now many stores sell it in convenient spray bottles, which helps a lot, especially since hydrogen peroxide is a fairly delicate substance and has to be kept well-protected from light. (That’s why it’s always sold in thick, dark/opaque bottles.) So you can’t easily transfer it into a spray bottle yourself, since most empty spray bottles I see for sale are usually see-through or light-colored. But buy hydrogen peroxide in a ready-to-spray bottle like this one or this one, both of which I’ve personally bought, and you’re all set! (You can also buy hydrogen peroxide wipes, although I’ve found these will break with vigorous scrubbing and are better suited for simple cleanups.) Cleaning with hydrogen peroxide is also extremely affordable.
- Baking soda – I never knew how well basic baking soda could clean mold and mildew in the shower until I read about it and tried it — it worked great! All you do is mix it with water in a 50/50 ratio and then apply it as a paste to the area you need to clean. I also read you can spray it onto the area, but I didn’t get to try that since you have to use less baking soda with this method (about a tablespoon per 2 cups of water); I wanted more baking soda in the mix to clean the mildew quickly and I think that would have clogged my spray bottle dispenser. But who knows, it may be worth a try, especially for preventative, maintenance cleaning. This is easy to find in any supermarket.
- Vinegar – I also read about using white, distilled vinegar (undiluted) in a spray bottle, and it also worked on mildew stains. The area does smell a bit odd, like someone just ate a salad there, but the smell dissipates quickly enough. This is another very affordable option that can be found in any grocery store.
And why do I say some of these options may be more effective than the harsh commercial cleansers most of us are used to? Well, according to sites like this one for example, products containing bleach may only appear to be better at getting rid of mold and mildew by lightening its appearance, but not killing it — leaving you still exposed to the harmful effects of mold and mildew, plus with the added dangers of being exposed to bleach fumes as you cleaned. All of these effects are even worse among the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, health conditions like asthma, and so on. On top of that, you have to keep repeating the vicious cycle since the mold is never fully killed in the first place.
My recommendation to kill mold/mildew and get rid of its appearance? What I found worked is a combination of the items above followed by using baking soda last, since it whitened the dark areas up. Now I knew the mildew/mold was killed and the area looked clean — win-win.
Ultimately, my goal with these tips is to spare you from exposing yourself and your loved ones to harsh chemicals that are not good for you and may not even be cleaning as well as you think. I encourage you to do your own research on this subject and then see what works for you — I am no expert and just sharing my own experience, but if even just one of these tips helps you out, I’ll be happy!
My wife only buys “green” household products as cleaning agents. I don’t really know if they are actually safer or just make people who buy them feel better.
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Good — and I think it’s both!
I like to use a mixture of water and vinegar, and then add a few drops of an antibacterial essential oil. Did you know that lavender is also antibacterial? And it smells nice :-). Actually there are quite a few EO’s that are antibacterial. There are so many non-toxic options that there really is no excuse for using chemicals!
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Oh, I’ve heard lavender’s good to use too, but haven’t tried it — have to remember that! Thanks for the reminder, and I definitely need to look into all the various essential oils out there. So great to have them versus the toxic stuff!
OH, they’re also great in really filthy laundry! I often add a few drops of tea tree oil to the detergent and then do an extra rinse to make sure I get it all out, for my Littles with sensitive skin :-).
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I never thought of that! I have to do that, especially for things like throw rugs and whatnot. Thanks so much for that tip!
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This post was so informative and good to know. I have to admit that I am dependent on chemical cleaners that are probably very bad for humans. I have to break out of the marketing brainwashing that makes me believe only recognizable brands with strong, harsh smells and lather can effectively clean.
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Yup. It;s easy to be convinced to go for the seemingly more powerful and convenient chemicals, but natural is usually just as good, and often better. Not worth poisoning ourselves…