There was a time I cleaned with a variety of products that were advertised to kill germs and bacteria. After preparing raw meals for my animals I would pull out a Lysol or Clorox Wipe and eliminate every possible germ. But then one day I read the back of the label and saw the precautionary statement “HAZARDS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS” with instructions to thoroughly rinse the area after application and wash with soap and water after skin contact. Somehow it never occurred to me that a product that was advertised to simplify my life with a pre-moistened cloth would require a second step of rinsing the area and should immediately be washed off my skin. It also never occurred to me that I could be leaving behind a toxic residue that my animals and I would later ingest.
This prompted me to pull out my entire cleaning arsenal and read the labels. What I found was disturbing:
Windex Glass and Surface Cleaner, “HAZARDS TO HUMANS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS. Causes moderate eye irritation. Avoid contact with eyes and clothing.”
Lysol Floor Cleaning Concentrate, “Warning – avoid contact with eyes, skin or clothing. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling.”
Disinfectant spray advertised for use in hospitals as both an air deodorant and surface disinfectant, “In case of contact immediately flush eyes or skin with plenty of water for at lease 15 minutes. Remove and wash all contaminated clothing before reuse. If swallowed drink milk, egg whites, gelatin solution or large quantities of water. Probable mucosal damage. Measures against circulatory shock, respiratory depression and convulsion may be needed.” This on an aerosol container that also reads, “Spray surface until thoroughly moistened, allow to dry. Repeat application in 14 days.”
My dogs and cats walked on my clean and sanitized floors and later licked their feet. I was feeding them toxic chemicals. I prepared their food, and mine, on a nicely sanitized counter-top. I was feeding both of us toxic chemicals. From the carpet shampoo to the deodorizing spray to the no-rinse floor cleaners, I was exposing us all to toxic chemicals. And for my pets who spend so much time on the carpets and floors, the exposure was almost constant.
In her book “The Naturally Clean Home” Karyn Siegel-Maier states:
• Ninety percent of all accidental poisonings occur in the home. According to the Columbia college of Physicians and Surgeons, more than seven million cases of poisoning are reported each year. That equates to 14,000 each day. Young children are the primary victims, with the elderly being the next most affected.
• According to a five-year EPA study, the air in an average American home has chemical contamination levels 70 times greater than outdoor air. The EPA maintains that half of all illnesses occurring in the United States can be attributed to chemical contamination of indoor air.
• A study by the Toronto Indoor Air Commission concluded that due to increased exposure to household carcinogens, women who work at home have a 55 percent greater chance of developing cancer than women who spend the majority of their time outside the home.
• The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 15 percent of all Americans are multi-chemically sensitive due to chronic exposure to household and cosmetic products.
• The Consumer Product Safety Commission has determined that more than 150 chemicals found in ordinary household products are directly responsible for producing cancer, allergies, birth defect, and numerous psychological disorders.
• For children under ten years of age living where home and garden pesticides are frequently used, the risk of leukemia increases by four to seven times. Childhood brain cancer is also associated with the use of flea collars, herbicides, pesticides that target termites, and pesticides bombs used indoors.
All of these statistics are frightening. But we can make a difference by taking control of the products used in and around our homes. It is possible to have a clean house without dangerous chemicals. Here are some of my favorite homemade cleaners:
Window Cleaner – This cleaner discourages flies and bugs around windows. Mix the juice from one lemon, 2 cups of club soda, ½ teaspoon peppermint essential oil and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a spray bottle. Shake well.
Laundry Pre-Wash Stain Remover – Mix ½ cup white vinegar, ½ cup baking soda, 2 tablespoons ammonia, and 3 cups water in a spray bottle. Spray stains just before washing.
Bleach Substitute – Mix 1 cup hydrogen peroxide, 1 ½ cups lemon or grapefruit juice, 12 cups water. Use 2 cups per load of laundry.
Lavender Fabric Softener – Add 20 drops of lavender essential oil to 1 gallon of white vinegar. Shake well before each use. Use ½ to 1 cup during the rinse cycle. If you prefer a different scent try cedar for a clean woodsy aroma; chamomile for soothing; eucalyptus for uplifting; or peppermint for cool and refreshing.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner – Mix ½ cup baking soda, ¼ cup white vinegar and 10 drops tea tree essential oil. Pour into toilet bowl and clean with a brush.
Soap Scum Remover – Mix 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 drops peppermint essential oil and enough white vinegar to make a paste. Apply to a damp cloth and scrub the area.
Some recommended reading from my bookshelf: