Last updated on October 6th, 2017 by Garrick Dee
First let me state a fact, most household cleaning product contain toxic substances.
According to the Environmental Working Group (or EWG), only 7 percent of cleaning products fully disclose the ingredient list.
53 percent of cleaning products contain ingredients that could damage the lungs.
In a perfect world these products should make our life easier because of its potency and cleaning efficiency but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world.
A lot of these products contain toxic ingredients that are harmful, toxic and unsafe to both people and the environment.
So much so that the US National Center for Health Statistics says that 1 in 3 people suffer from allergies, asthma, sinusitis or bronchitis due to exposure to these chemicals.
The danger is real here and if we as consumers aren’t careful, we could pay a heavy price dearly down the road.
One of the ways to counteract the negative effects of these chemical based cleaners is to use products that do not contain any toxic ingredients.
Better yet make your own cleaning solution which is the topic of the infographic I have below.
Are Green Alternatives Really Non-Toxic?
The best alternative to conventional cleaners would be so-called “green” cleaners that don’t contain any chemicals but only natural ingredients that aren’t toxic but Dr. Mercola says otherwise.
He says that even “green” products contain harmful ingredients. The crazy thing is manufacturers don’t even disclose all of the ingredients on the label. It’s something that they’ve spent a lot of money to lobby on.
And yes, government has allowed manufacturers not to list all ingredients in the label, instead it liste as a “secret formula”.
In this cloud of secrecy how are we sure that the ingredients put in there are actually safe?
The sad truth is we are at risk and have to be proactive.
Do you read labels? Now may be a good idea to start. Take time and read the ingredients list carefully and make sure non of the toxic chemicals are listed there.
If it’s something you can’t pronounce chances are it is hazardous.
When you see the word “secret formula” or something similar in a supposedly non-toxic cleaner, I suggest avoiding that product because secret formula may contain something lethal.
A majority of these have the potential to be carcinogenic that disrupts the endocrine and reproductive system.
If you have young children at home, this should be a big concern.
Exposure to these stuff through smell or skin contact bypass the kidneys and liver (both are natural filters that protect our body from the bad stuff) and go directly to the bloodstream.
Listed below are the most hazardous chemicals. If you see any of this listed, do yourself a favor and avoid that product.
A lot of degreasing products like Simple Green contain glycol ethers with one simple reason – it’s highly potent grease cutting properties.
Exposure to this chemical can lead to anemia and intoxication similar to alcohol.
Even low-level exposure on animal subjects can cause birth defects and damage the male sperm.
Found in a lot of dishwashing and laundry detergents phosphates bind dirt and keep it suspended, allowing cleaning agents to do their work but at the cost to the environment.
Washington state has banned phosphate detergents since 2006 because of the environmental risks .
Housekeeping employees in institutions such as the North Central Bronx Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center reported fewer occurrences of rashes, burns, dizziness and scratchy throats since switching to new phosphate-free cleaning products .
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
According to EPA.gov Volatile Organic Compounds are emitted gases. These gases may come from solid or liquid sources like household cleaners.
Concentration maybe higher when exposed indoors as compared to outdoors.
Exposure to these fumes can cause irritation to eyes, throat and ears, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, damage the liver, kidney and central nervous system.
It can also cause cancer .
Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs)
This ingredient is found in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners. Studies have linked exposure to negative reproductive and development effects in rodents. It can also disrupt the endocrine system [8, 9, 10].
Research about the negative effects of fragrances has limited because of the industry’s long standing policy of keeping ingredients a trade secret.
But there is good news.
The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) has released a list of 3,100 chemicals used by the fragrance industry.
This list includes known carcinogens such as p-dichlorobenzene and styrene oxide and endocrine disruptors such as galaxolide and tonalide.
The effects of these chemicals vary; most common are asthma, breathing issues and headaches .
This chemical is a fixture inside funeral homes used as embalming agent, it also is found in a number household products.
Found in a lot of hard surface cleaning products such as all-purpose cleaners and window cleaners can negatively affect the reproductive system in men and women.
It also irritates skin and eyes, cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Another risk factor would be kidney and liver damage .
Products like bleach, chlorinated disinfectant cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners and mildew cleaners have chlorine inside it.
Negative effects upon exposure (e.g. eye or skin contact) include skin and eye irritation, difficulty breathing, wheezing, airway irritation and chest tightness.
Exposure may affect the nervous system; irritate the eyes, skin and lungs .
Sodium lauryl sulfate
It is very effective in removing oil and dirt residue from clothes and solid surfaces.
Negative effects include irritation to the skin because it strips away oils from the skin’s surface .
Avoid Mixing Certain Ingredients
For the sake of making a super-concoction that can cut through any grease, some may experiment and mix certain cleaning products to increase potency but agencies like the Washington State Department of Health warns consumers NOT TO MIX bleaches with cleaners.
Mixing such have varying consequences, for instance mixing bleach and ammonia will produce toxic gases that can knock you out literally.
Dr. Mercola mentioned that people who’ve experimented with this combo have had to hang their heads out the window gasping for air.
When you mix bleach and acid will produce a cleaning solution that produces chlorine gas – something that can irritate the mucous membranes. Exposure to skin may burn the skin, eyes, throat, mouth and lungs.
Excessive exposure to very high levels chlorine gas can lead to death.
So this is serious stuff. Avoid experimenting with chemical based cleaners.
There a lot of relatively cheap alternative products that you can use in place of commercial products.
More than a fridge deodorizer, baking soda acts as a cleaner, water softener and scourer. It has a range of uses from produce cleaner to laundry detergent to bathroom scrub.
Soaps come in a variety of forms and will clean about anything inside your home, including your hair!
One such is castile soap and there are a number of uses for this versatile cleaning agent made from vegetable oil.
Lemons are natural a natural disinfectant and stain remover thanks to its natural acids that’s why you’ll see a lot of cleaners with citrus in them .
Borax is a naturally occurring mineral found in plants, soil and in our bodies. For over 100 years, people have been using this to clean their homes.
Despite the concerns this article from Crunchy Betty website states that Borax is wholly natural, does not cause cancer, accumulate in the body or absorbed through the skin.
And I do agree with it since we’re using this as a cleaning agent and not on our food, I don’t think you should be concerned.
Besides being a mainstay in salads, vinegar is a versatile non-toxic cleaning agent capable of cutting through grease, kill germs, deodorize and remove stains.
A close relative to baking soda, white soda or sodium carbonate is an excellent ingredient for removing tough stains and degreasing.
It’s uses are numerous that includes cleaning non-porous surfaces such as tile, sinks and tubs to cutting grease and softening hard water.
The main function of alcohol is disinfection and sterilization. It also can clean windows, remove ticks and deodorized when combined with the right ingredients.
Cornstarch is more than a sauce thickener. It’s another affordable ingredient you can add in your arsenal to polish furniture, clean windows, cut grease and clean stuff animals.
Citrus solvent is a byproduct citrus oil extract from orange fruit. Its primary function is paint thinning. Other uses include cleaning up oil, grease and stains.
A more environmentally safe alternative than paint thinner, mineral spirits, acetone glycol ethers, chlorinated organic solvents and methyl ethyl ketone.
It may however cause skin, lung or eye irritation to people who multiple chemical sensitivities.
Make Your Own Cleaning Solution
Now that you know green alternatives, the next step is to make your own cleaning solution.
The great thing about making your own cleaning recipes is that you know what’s in it plus the ingredients that come along are cheap and readily available.
Biggest downside of a chemical laden cleaner would be the toxic fumes it emits that can cause nausea. Worst case would be passing out.
Disclaimer: These mixtures and formulations are an alternative solution to store bought cleaners that contain toxic substances that can harm your family and the environment when disposed.
Remember that these mixtures aren’t as potent so it may not clean as well. But these are a better solution especially when cleaning stuff used to cook food like oven or chopping block.
All Purpose Cleaner
All purpose cleaners are great to have because it is so versatile. Like a Swiss army knife, you can just about use this to clean any part of your home.
One recipe that is worth a try is this:
- Half a cup of vinegar
- Quarter cup of baking soda (2 tablespoons of borax)
- Half a gallon of water
This mixture is great for removing water deposit stains on shower stalls, bathroom fixtures, windows and mirrors.
Frankly, I don’t like commercial air fresheners because they make me dizzy. These products use chemical fragrances that simply mask odor and coat our nasal passages that can diminish the sense of smell.
Here are some stuff you can try to freshen up your home…
- Combination of lemon juice plus vinegar or baking soda in a small dish can absorb bad odor
- Simmering vinegar on the stove can prevent cooking odor from lingering
- Use vinegar and soap water to remove odor / obscenity on cutting boards from fish, onion or meat
- Freshly ground coffee can also freshen air
- Simmering water and cinnamon (or other spices)
- Using dried herbs on bowls inside a room
These are one of the toughest things to remove when it sets but with the help of one part hydrogen peroxide (make sure to use 3%) and two parts water it is possible to clean this stuff off.
Mix these two in a spray bottle and spray the areas with molds. Wait at least an hour to let this mixture dislodge mold residue before rinsing.
If you have toddlers at home having carpet stains is inevitable and it’s best that you prepare yourself for such.
Always have a bottle of vinegar in handy for this task. For normal stains mix equal parts of water and carpet into a spray bottle. Make sure to wait a few minutes (maybe 2 mins or so) before agitating the stained area with a brush or sponged soaked in soapy water.
If you need something stronger to remove caked in stains. A popular combo would be mixing 1/4 cup of borax, salt and vinegar. This will yield a paste like mixture that you’ll spread over the carpet. Wait for a few hours for the mixture to work its magic before vacuuming.
For fresh grease spots, sprinkling a good amount of corn starch should help you remove the stain. You just have to wait for about 15 to 30 minutes before vacuuming the residue out.
Chopping Board Cleaner
The default tool most people use to clean cutting boards is dish washing detergent. Unfortunately these can weaken wood fibers (if you’re using a wooden board) over time.
One way of disinfecting wooden cutting boards is wiping them with full strength vinegar after each use. Vinegar contains acetic acid that’s a good disinfectant. It is effective against bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus.
You can also rub a piece of lemon over a cutting board to disinfect the surface. For heavy stains, soak the affected part with lemon juice for about 10 minutes.
Clogged Drain Cleaner
You can use these mixtures on light clogs. If none of these work you may want to invest in a pipe snake.
Only try these on metal pipes. If you’re drainage uses plastic pipes, there’s a risk of hot water melting it.
For lighter clogs, mix half a cup of salt into 4 liters of hot (not boiling water) then pour it down the drain.
If that’s not enough then try pouring in half a cup of baking soda then half cup vinegar. Pour in boiling water after 15 minutes to wash off residue.
Avoid using vinegar with a commercial drain cleaner because it’ll create dangerous fumes.
Coffee or Tea Stains
For those of you who drink coffee or tea every day there’s a big chance that the cups you use have stains.
One way of cleaning these types of stains would be soaking a sponge on vinegar and use it to wipe the stained part of the cup.
Your kettle and coffee maker also needs some TLC. To do that add 2 cups of distilled water and a quarter cup of vinegar then bring it to a boil. After it cools down wipe off residue and then rinse with distilled water.
You don’t need chemicals to deodorize certain parts of your home. For instance instead of using a air freshening spray inside your garage, a slice of onion will help absorb the nasty odor.
If your food containers begin to smell, just soak them in warm water and baking soda. In sink garbage disposal units that need some freshening up will benefit from a lemon or orange peel that goes through it.
Lastly, if the carpet has a moldy smell, sprinkle baking soda and leave it there for a few hours before vacuuming.
Some dishwashing soaps may contain chemicals that are carcinogenic, others may cause allergic reactions to the skin.
One solution would be adding 2 to 3 tablespoons of vinegar to warm soapy water. Another solution would be to be more resourceful when shopping for one.
When shopping for a dish soap, make sure to read the label and see if it contains any of the ingredients that’s listed here.
If you don’t have time, EWG has ranked the best and worst hand washing detergent brands here.
There are a few options when making your own disinfecting solution.
One would be mixing 2 tablespoons borax and 4 tablespoons vinegar with 3 cups of hot water.
If you need something with more punch, just add a quarter teaspoon of liquid castile soap to that mixture.
You can use this mixture inside the bathroom or kitchen or disinfect a sponge with it.
Floor Cleaner and Polisher
Traditional floor cleaning products contain chemicals that can be harmful to the lungs. Try out these mixtures and see if it works in your home.
Wood – mix equal parts of vegetable oil and vinegar then apply a thin coat on hardwood. Make sure to rub it in well.
Painted wood – add a teaspoon of washing soda into a gallon of hot water.
Vinyl and linoleum – add a cup of vinegar, some drops of baby oil into a gallon of warm water. If you need something stronger just add Borax.
Brick and Stone Tiles – add a cup of vinegar into a gallon of water then rinse with pure water.
If you have varnished wood mix in lemon oil into half a cup of warm water.
Pour this mixture into a spray bottle then spray on a slightly damp microfiber cloth.
Wipe off excess residue with a clean microfiber.
There are several mixtures you can try and here are some of them:
- 1 cup ivory soap + 1/2 cup washing soda + 1/2 cup borax
- 2 table spoons of sal suds + 1/4 cup baking soda or 2 tablespoons of washing soda [source]
- 1 ivory bar soap + super washing soda + borax + grater [source]
Lime deposits can build up inside your tea kettle because of the mineral content in water and this can be tough to remove.
To remove these deposits add half a cup of vinegar to 2 cups of water into that kettle and bring it to a boil for a few minutes. Make sure to rinse it with water while the kettle is still warm.
For lime build up on bathroom fixtures or surfaces, squeeze lemon over the affected parts. Let it sit for a few minutes then wipe off with a clean towel.
Marks on Painted Surfaces
In my work room at home, my toddler left a few doodle marks on the wall. At first I though I needed to repaint the wall but after a little research this was not the case.
All I needed is a damp sponge and some baking soda. Gently rub on the marks then wipe it down using a clean towel.
There are different types of metals and with it requires different types of mixtures. You’ll need a clean polishing clean made from microfiber or such to polish these metals…
- Aluminum – water + cream of tartar
- Brass or bronze – lemon + baking soda or vinegar + salt
- Chrome – vinegar + baby oil + aluminum foil
- Copper – rag soaked in boiling water + 1 tablespoon salt + vinegar or baking soda + lemon juice
- Gold – toothpaste or salt + vinegar + flour
- Silver – aluminum foil + 1 tablespoon of salt and salt + boiling water in a pan
- Stainless steel – 4 tablespoons baking soda + a quart of water or club soda
Mold and Mildew
Once your home reaches a certain age, black spots appear on surfaces inside your home. Mold and mildew loves areas that are damp and dark.
To counteract these eye sores, you don’t need a strong detergent and here are some mixtures that’ll help kill these naturally:
- white vinegar + lemon juice (full strength)
- vinegar + essential oils (optional if you can’t handle the vinegar scent)
- baking soda + peroxide
Oil or Grease Spots
If you have oil spills on concrete try sprinkling some baking soda, let is sit for a few minutes then scrub with a brush.
A dirty oven is one of the most toughest areas to clean inside your home. But you don’t need to use toxic chemicals to make your oven clean and these mixtures can help remove any greasy residue inside.
- 1/4 cup water + 3/4 cup baking soda + 1/4 cup salt
- 1/2 baking soda + 3 tablespoons water + vinegar [source]
Typically, paint thinner is what most painters use to clean excess paint off paint brushes but these are highly toxic and flammable.
A safer way to remove paint residue would be using citrus oil based solvents designed for such.
Another way would be soaking the paint brush in vinegar in a sauce pan then bring it to a boil. This should dislodge paint from the bristles but it can be a time consuming process.
Yes you can remove rust without resorting to petroleum based products. Some kitchen ingredients like vinegar and lemon can help remove surface rust.
If you have rusted bolts, try soaking it in a bottle of white vinegar. Shake it vigorously and leave it for a day or so.
For larger metal surfaces, sprinkle some salt and then squeeze lemon juice on the rusted parts. Don’t throw the rind away because you’ll use it to scrub off the residue.
Baking soda is a good substitute for a scourer if you need a non-toxic agent that can polish surfaces such as stove tops and the fridge.
A few drops of lemon juice can help restore the luster and shine of leather shoes. One recipe worth trying is a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice (2:1 ratio).
Use a clean lint free cloth to spread this mixture and let it soak for a few minutes. Buff with a clean cloth to a lustrous shine.
This will only work in clean and dry shoes. Don’t try this one something dirty.
Stickers on Walls
Stickers can be tough to remove but with the right tools it is possible. Soak a sponge in white vinegar and go over them several times. Wait for around 15 minutes to allow vinegar to soak through then use your nails or a scraper to peel of the stickers.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
I’ve tried Mr. Muscle and the odor was overwhelming. Well, most cleaners have that effect on me. If you have the same issues then try these concoctions:
- 1/4 cup baking soda + 1 cup vinegar
- 2 parts borax and 1 part lemon juice
Tile and Tube Cleaner
White vinegar on its own is a good alternative to strong chemical cleaners because it is a natural disinfectant. For general cleaning, you can soak a clean sponge in white vinegar and use it to rub the surfaces.
If you need some agitation, sprinkle some baking soda afterwards.
Wall Paper Remover
Mix equal amount of vinegar and hot water and use a sponge to spread this over old wallpaper to loosen adhesive. Add more of this mixture when peeling if there are patches of adhesive that’s still sticking.
Water Rings on Wood
These can be unsightly on wood but repairing the damage is still possible by using toothpaste or mayonnaise. Rub either of these on wood using a clean cloth and then buff afterwards.
You don’t need to use ammonia to clean windows.
A mixture that contains 2 teaspoons of vinegar and a quart of warm water.
Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and use a crumpled newspaper or clean microfiber to wipe off.