By Savitha V
Say you are on your monthly outing to the supermarket to get essentials for the home; walking down the household cleaning products aisle and picking up boxes and bottles. Detergent – check. Floor cleaner – check. Toilet cleaner – check. Glass cleaner, kitchen cleaner, dishwashing soap – check, check, check.
What you have just piled into your shopping cart are a whole lot of toxic chemicals. Sure, the commercially available cleaning products are convenient. And of course the clothes, pans and floors will smell of lavender and jasmine at the end of the cleaning cycle, but how safe are they?
Ingredients That Harm
Many ingredients in these chemical cleaners are known to cause health hazards, both mild and severe. They range from skin irritations, watering eyes and burns to chronic lung problems and even, cancer. Not to mention their contribution to pollution–once chemicals like nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia have mixed with water, they cannot be removed by wastewater treatment methods.
While the more immediate effects are seen when the chemical comes in direct contact with the skin, or is ingested, the residues that they leave behind on surfaces like floors and furniture contribute to long-term, and possibly larger, health issues. Children are more prone to these problems than adults, given how much more sensitive their bodies are. Moreover, young children are quite prone to picking foodstuff off the floor or chewing on anything they can lay their hands on.
Cleaning Without Toxins
So what is the alternative? We still need clean floors, sparkling countertops and stain-free clothes. How do you clean and disinfect your house while ensuring that you don’t put your family at risk and without leaving a huge carbon footprint? There are now several eco-friendly – or green – alternatives available in the market, which use plant-based ingredients.
Read the labels well and look out for words like poison, warning, caution, or danger. You’d best stay away from products sporting those words. If the labels seem free of phosphates and ammonia, if they do list plant-based and biodegradable ingredients, you should be fine.
If you can’t find these in your neighbourhood, you could even make your own cleaning products. In fact, if you have baking soda, vinegar and some essential oils, your cleaning needs are more or less sorted!
Make Your Own Natural Cleaners
Baking soda: Cleans and deodorises
Vinegar: Removes grease and mineral deposits; disinfects; deodorises
Essential oils: Antibacterial
Borax: Cleans, disinfects
Combine baking soda, vinegar, water and essential oils like lavender and rosemary, and you have yourself a cleaning liquid for kitchen surfaces. To clean windows and other glass surfaces like tabletops, mix water with vinegar. This mixture is also good for floors.
For mould or tough stains in bathrooms, mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water and apply to the stains for an hour before scrubbing. A mix of baking soda and vinegar is a good disinfectant and cleaner for toilet bowls. A few drops of essential oils in all these mixes would be a welcome addition, both for the pleasant scent and the antibacterial properties. Some of them – for instance, the glass cleaner and kitchen cleaners – can be stored in spray bottles for easy use.
A green home is not just healthier for its inhabitants, but also lighter on the pockets.
Do you clean green? What are the biggest challenges you face in moving towards an eco-friendly cleaning alternative? Share your stories and green cleaning tips.