Skillful advertising and colorful containers tempt consumers to purchase cleaning supplies that are filled with toxic chemicals and hazardous materials. Research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) into more than 2,000 cleaning products reveals the complete lack of oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) exposing you to hazardous chemicals.
In 2000, cleaning products were at the root of nearly 10 percent of toxic exposures reported to the U.S. American Association of Poison Control Centers. Cleaning products are not required to publish a list of ingredients on the bottle, even if they trigger skin rashes, asthma or are linked to cancer. Even on company websites, the information about a product line may be vague and incomplete. However, while many ingredients are not disclosed, it is difficult to mask the scent of chlorine bleach, now linked through scientific evidence to an increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and breast cancer.
If the supplies you have at home are thick or fragrant, toss them. These are the signs of petrochemicals or synthetic substances and they are dangerous endocrine disruptors.
Swiffer products glue down the dirt and dust, leaving behind an oily, toxic film. The base of the Swiffer products are petrochemicals.
Petrochemicals are endocrine disruptors. The endocrine system controls hormones in your body. Hormones control most functions in your body and too much or too little of specific hormones can cause massive problems from learning disabilities to cancer. Petrochemicals are responsible for a product called xenoestrogens which mimic the effect of estrogens in the body. Estrogens are primarily female hormones, although they are found in men too, which work in the brain, bones, liver, heart, uterus, breasts and other tissues. When xenoestrogens are introduced to the human body they begin to cause these tissues to “receive” more than they need and serious side effects are seen.
The first petrochemicals were developed in the mid-19th century in response to the war effort. Petrochemicals were substituted for natural products. After the war, there were storehouses of these chemicals and developers got to work inventing ways to use them
– Ethylene became the base for credit cards, iv blood bags.
– Butadiene became tires, bumpers, latex paint, and children’s toys.
– Toluene is used in bedding, upholstery, and sports wear.
– Propylene is used in housewares, paints, adhesives, bottle tops.
– Benzene is in our phones, test tubes, packing material, rope.
Petrochemicals are everywhere. We cannot avoid them but we can limit them in our homes.
If you clean your home with commercial sprays, wipes, scrubs and polishes, you’re putting toxins into your home environment instead of removing them. The same goes for most laundry detergents, dryer sheets and air fresheners. Even those strong-smelling lemon and pine scents — the ones many people believe are the epitome of a clean home — are created by toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Avoid bleach and ammonia! They emit dangerous fumes and destroy surfaces. Mixing bleach with an ammonia-based product produces a toxic chloramine gas, exposure to which may trigger chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath and pneumonia. Ammonia is commonly found in glass and window cleaners or interior and exterior paints, making bleach a poor choice for cleanup after painting!
It’s simple to clean your home with nontoxic cleaners. You can even recreate the same “clean” scents you love using essential oils, and your home will smell much better for it while offering you therapeutic benefits at the same time. As an added bonus, by creating your own nontoxic cleaners, you’ll probably save money too, compared to buying commercial cleaning products.
Commercially Available Toxic-Free Brands:
OxoBrite– Chlorine-free multi-purpose stain remover
Basic Cleaning Aids
- Use as a safe non-scratch scrub for metals and porcelain
- Deodorize rugs and furniture with baking soda. Add 20-50 drops of essential oil to 3 cups of baking soda. Sprinkle on rug and wait 20 minutes. Vacuum up! Use baking soda as a scrub to clean soap scum from the tub.
- To clean your oven, sprinkle a cup or more of baking soda over the bottom of the oven, then cover the baking soda with enough water to make a thick paste. Let the mixture set overnight. The next morning, the grease will be easy to wipe up because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge and wash the remaining residue from the oven.
- To unclog a drain, pour one-half cup to 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, then slowly pour one-half cup to 1 cup of vinegar in after it. Cover the drain and let it set for 15 minutes. If it bubbles like a volcano, it means it’s working as planned. Flush with a gallon of boiling water.
- A freshly prepared solution of at least 50 percent distilled white vinegar has been found to be useful for disinfection against Escherichia coli (E. coli) For disinfecting, one study found that spraying vinegar, then spraying hydrogen peroxide, was effective for killing a variety of bacteria, including E. coli, listeria and salmonella.
- You can also combine vinegar and water for an excellent window cleaner, or spray it onto a dusting of baking soda to clean your sinks, tubs and tile floors.
- Use white vinegar in a 50/50 solution with water to clean windows, wood and tile floors, counters, and bathroom fixtures. Add a drop of dish detergent for extra dirty jobs. Mildly acidic white vinegar dissolves dirt, soap scum, and hard water deposits from smooth surfaces, yet is gentle enough to use in solution to clean hardwood floors.
- White vinegar is a natural deodorizer, absorbing odors instead of covering them up. Any vinegar aroma disappears when dry. With no coloring agents, white vinegar won’t stain grout on tiled surfaces. Because it cuts detergent residue, white vinegar makes a great fabric softener substitute for people with sensitive skin.
- Use the white vinegar straight in the humidifier to clean mineral deposits.
- Clean shower heads that have been clogged with mineral deposits with undiluted white vinegar. Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar in a plastic storage bag, and secure the bag to the shower head with a rubber band. Let stand for 2 hours or overnight, then rinse.
- For heavier duty cleaning, like mildew on your bathroom grout, spray vinegar straight onto the area, let set for 30 minutes, then scrub with a sponge and warm water.
Lemons – both the juice and the peel
- Garbage Disposal – Freeze lemon slices and vinegar in ice cube trays. Place a few frozen cubes down the disposal for cleaning and freshening.
- Add lemon juice to the humidifier and let it run.
- Add dried citrus peels to the fireplace to add a wonderful smell and act as a flame starter. Simply let the peel sit out for a few days before using.
- Cutting boards – Sprinkle coarse salt on your cutting board and then rub with a cut lemon to freshen and remove grease.
- Coffee Maker – Run a cycle with plain water, then add a mixture of lemon juice and water to the water tank. Let it sit a bit and then run it through.
- Refrigerator – Soak a sponge in lemon juice and let it sit tin the fridge for a few hours. It works better than baking soda to remove odors!
- Breath – Drinking lemon juice in water helps freshen your breath. Rinse your mouth with water afterward since the lemon juice might erode your teeth if it sits too long in contact.
- Hands – Add lemon juice while washing your hands with soap to help remove stubborn odors like garlic.
- Furniture Polish – Combine lemon oil, lemon juice, and olive or jojoba oil to make a homemade furniture polish. Buff with a cloth.
- Hardwood floors – combine lemon and vinegar to make a nontoxic floor cleaner.
Castile soap is natural, biodegradable and chemical-free, plus incredibly versatile (as are most natural cleaning supplies). You can use it for personal care, laundry and cleaning around your home.
- Mix baking soda with a small amount of liquid castile soap for an excellent paste for cleaning your tub and shower.
- For a homemade antibacterial solution, mix 2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of castile soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil. Spray onto the surface (such as toilet seat and sink), then wipe off.
- Make a homemade dishwasher detergent by mixing equal parts of liquid castile soap and water.
Antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal compounds in coconut oil have been shown to inactivate microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and fungi.
- Coconut oil is particularly useful for cleaning, sanitizing and conditioning wood items, such as cutting boards and furniture.
- Use coconut oil for lubricating squeaky hinges and sticky mechanisms instead of WD-40.
- Coconut oil works well for moisturizing and softening leather goods in lieu of leather conditioners.
- Coconut oil removes chewing gum from virtually any area, including carpet and hair.
Some of the most popular essential oils for cleaning include lemon, peppermint and tea tree, with the latter showing antiviral activity against viruses like influenza A.
Tea Tree Oil – Buy organic to avoid synthetic (made by chemicals) Use as a deodorizer, antiseptic, polishes, removes sticky substances.
Sweet orange is another option, which has been shown to work against E. coli and salmonella. In addition to adding them to your cleaning supplies, essential oils can be diffused around your home for a natural, therapeutic air freshener. Ditch the toxic sprays, candles and plug-ins for an essential oil diffuser instead. They not only smell wonderful but can have beneficial effects on your mood and stress levels.
Unlike synthetic fragrances, which pollute your air, essential oils may help to improve indoor air quality. In the case of fungi and mold, for instance, essential oils from heartwood, marjoram, cinnamon, lemon basil, caraway, bay tree, fir, peppermint, pine, cedar leaf and manuka are known to have antifungal potential.
Freshen your laundry without risking your family’s health simply by spritzing your wet laundry with a mix of water and a few drops of essential oil before placing it in the dryer. Alternatively, add a dozen or so drops to an old wool sock, and put it in the dryer with your laundry.
Spinach is a super food!
The various health benefits of spinach are due to the presence of minerals, vitamins, pigments, and phytonutrients, including potassium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and calcium. According to USDA National Nutrient Database, the green leafy vegetable is a source of vitamins like folate, niacin, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, and contains traces of the rest of the essential vitamins. Other important elements, including thiamine and riboflavin, which are used in various reactions in our body, are also found spinach.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 100-gram serving of spinach contains 28.1 micrograms of vitamin C, 34 percent of the daily recommendation.
How to Buy
Buy organic spinach!
Federal data shows that conventionally grown spinach has more pesticide residues by weight than all other produce tested, with three-fourths of samples tested contaminated with a neurotoxic bug killer that is banned from use on food crops in Europe.
Four pesticides – one insecticide and three fungicides – were responsible for the bulk of the residues detected on spinach.
Seventy-six percent of the samples contained residues of permethrin, a neurotoxic insecticide. At high doses, permethrin overwhelms the nervous system and causes tremors and seizures. Besides its use as a pesticide, permethrin is also used to kill head lice and is embedded in mosquito-repellent fabrics. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently assessing the health risks of permethrin and related pesticides on food. EWG wrote to the EPA urging it to consider potential risks to children’s brain development. Since 2000, Europe has not permitted any permethrin to be used on food crops.
How to Store
Wash spinach thoroughly. California tests of unwashed spinach found higher concentrations of pesticides. The USDA washed all of the spinach samples vigorously before testing. The USDA has also detected pesticides on frozen and canned spinach, suggesting that washing and cooking reduces pesticide levels but does not eliminate them.
How to Cook
Spinach can be eaten raw as a part of many salads, and it can also be cooked or sautéed down into a reduced form. This can be eaten as a side dish vegetable or added in a number of recipes for soups, stews, and casseroles. It is native to the Middle East and was cultivated in Persia thousands of years ago. From there, it was brought into China, approximately 1,500 years ago. It made its way into Europe a few hundred years later and quickly became a staple in a number of cultural cuisines.
Lentil Spinach Soup
The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison
Use water plus any juice reserved from the tomatoes used in the soup ingredients.
8 ounces of green or brown lentils, cleaned and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 celery stalk diced 1/4″ pieces
3 pints filter water
Pinch sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red inion finely diced
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled seeded and chopped (put juice in stock)
1 pound spinach
Red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar to taste
6″ piece of Kombu
Asiago or parmesan cheese
*Dried beans and fresh greens are always available, making this an easy to prepare soup that can be served any time of year. Consider substituting chard or sorrel in place of the spinach.
1. Put the lentils, bay leaf, Kombu, and celery in a soup pot with the water and reserved juice from the tomatoes with a pinch of sea salt.
2. Bring to a boil and scoop off any foam that forms on the surface; then lower the heat to a blow boil.
3. While the lentils cook, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion and pinch of sea salt; cook briskly for a few minutes, lower the heat, and stir in the garlic and parsley. Continue cooking until the onion is soft.
4. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes; then combine with cooking lentils.
5. Cut the spinach leaves into 1/2″ strips. When the lentils are soft, stir in the spinach by handfuls. (May need to add water if it has cooked down.)
6. Simmer the soup 5 minutes; then add vinegar to taste.
7. Serve with freshly ground pepper and asiago or parmesan cheese grated on top.
European Commission, Permethrin. Directorate General for Agriculture, 2000; 6522/VI/99-Final, DG VI-B.II-1 13. Available at ec.europa.eu/food/plant/pesticides/eu-pesticides-database/public/?event=activesubstance.ViewReview&id=55https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2018/01/06/keep-a-clean-house-with-nontoxic-cleaners.aspx