If you’re like most, you spend as much as 80% of your time indoors, and more than half inside your own home. This practice may be bad for your health. From the paint on our walls, to the odorless fumes coming from our gas stove, to the cleanser we use to clean our bathtub, and the dry-cleaned clothes hanging in our closet, constant emission of insidious chemicals and synthetic materials permeate our air. You can change this by making every effort to use natural products.
Here are some natural cleaning products.
Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate): Use to deodorize the refrigerator, carpets, upholstery, and vinyl. It will clean and polish aluminum, chrome, jewelry, plastic, porcelain, silver, stainless steel, and tin without scratching. It also softens fabrics and removes certain stains. For an all-purpose cleaner, dissolve 4 tablespoons of baking soda in 1 quart water.
Borax: A water soluble naturally occurring mineral, it can deodorize, inhibit the growth of mildew and mold, boost the cleaning power of soap or detergent, remove stains, and be used with attractants such as sugar to kill cockroaches. To kill fleas, disperse on your carpet and leave it there for several hours and then vacuum it up.
Cornstarch: Used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs, and starch clothes.
Isopropyl alcohol: An excellent disinfectant for objects and for human external use.
Lemon juice: Containing citric acid, it is a deodorant and can be used to clean glass and remove stains from aluminum, clothes, and porcelain. It is a mild lightener or bleach if used with sunlight.
Vinegar: A mainstay of the old folks recipes for cleaning, vinegar kills 99 percent of bacteria, 80 percent of mold and 80 percent of germs (viruses). It can dissolve mineral deposits and grease, remove traces of soap, remove mildew or wax buildup, polish some metals, clean glass, and deodorize. Though normally mixed with water, vinegar can be used straight for tough cleaning jobs, like the toilet rim. Keep a clean spray bottle filled with straight vinegar in your kitchen near your cutting table, and in your bathroom.
Here are some other easy ways to replace toxic chemical cleaning agents.
- Instead of scented laundry products, add a few drops of essential oil, like lemon and eucalyptus, to the rinsing water during a wash to add a refreshing smell to the fabrics.
- Control odors by cleaning or ventilation, rather than masking them with toxic chemicals sold as air fresheners.
- Never use aerosol sprays, which emit chlorinated fluorocarbons and break down the ozone layer around the earth. Substitute a liquid or dry form of a product for an aerosol form and buy products with natural pump action sprays.
- Dishwashers and clothes dryers emit chlorinated fluorocarbons. Leave a window open when drying clothes and avoid opening your dishwasher until several hours after the dishwashing cycle has completed.
- Avoid lye-based oven cleansers, drain openers and commercial toilet-bowl cleaners altogether.
- Try to buy washable clothing materials. Dry cleaning is full of toxic chemicals, the most common being perchloroethylene, or tetrachloroethylene, that stay on your clothes after cleaning and especially if they are kept in a plastic bag, which doesn’t permit these chemicals to off-gas very well. Clothing manufacturers tend to err on the side of caution when recommending that you dry-clean your clothing; often a gentle hand-wash will do.
Sharon Heller, PhD, is a psychologist and consultant in sensory processing disorder. She’s the author of Healing Homes: How to create a unique, relaxing, natural, and healthy sensory haven, Loud,Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight, What to do if you are sensory defensive in anoverstimulating world and Uptight & Off Center, How sensoryprocessing disorder throws adults off balance & how to create stability. Her website is www.sharonheller.net and email firstname.lastname@example.org.