Detoxing your cleaning routine probably sounds a bit like an oxymoron. After all aren’t cleaning products by virtue of existing, already clean? Turns out its super complicated and comes down to specific ingredients, how those ingredients react in an environment and how you interact with where those ingredients go.
Detoxing Your Cleaning Routine – Chemicals to Avoid
Over the course of the industrial revolution and decades that proceeded it human habitations for the most part have become increasingly cleaner. This is in part due to better understanding of hygiene but also better understanding of what it is that makes human sick, both of which are ever evolving as we learn more and more about ourselves as a species and the world around us.
House cleaning agents in general do an amazing job of killing off the germs and viruses that they are indented to eliminate. The problem is at what cost? Most products that go to market are tested to certain degree and then warning labels are adhered to bottles and then we all assume that these things are safe for human use.
- Perchloroethylene (PERC) : Used in dry cleaning and carpet cleaners. Is a carcinogen and neurotoxin.
- 2-Butoxyethanol: Used in window and all purpose cleaners. Linked to pulmonary edema, liver and kidney damage.
- Chlorine: toilet cleaner, mildew removers, laundry whitening, and even your water! Exposure can effect thyroid and skin irritant like eczema and psoriasis.
- Formaldehyde: Is most often found in furniture and carpets (off-gassing from production) but things like 1,4-dioxane which is a common ingredient in laundry detergent has trace amounts of formaldehyde in it, which doesn’t wash out and builds in your clothes causing long term exposure. And is linked to ALS.
- Sodium Hydroxide: Is used in oven cleaners and drain cleaners. This causes massive irritation and resulting in persistent burning eyes, skin, throat and nasal passages.
- Ammonia: Used mostly for streak free cleaning products. And is known to slowly degrade the mucous membranes in your body, cardiovascular and digestive systems.
- Phthalates: Not a cleaning agent but exists in the fragrance of general household products including cleaning products. These are known endocrine disrupters and have shown in many cases to result in lowered sperm counts among other issues in human populations.
- Triclosan and Quarternary Ammonium Compounds: Is in ‘antibacterial’ products. These products create antibacterial resistant strains of bacteria (nature always finds a way), which in turn make these products less effective over time but also make bugs which are resistant to pharmaceutical grade antibiotics. These products also do not breakdown over time, and are being flushed down drains into lakes, rivers and streams upsetting natural balances in bacterial colonies.
Detoxing Your Cleaning Routine – Why Avoid Them
To be clear you aren’t going to keel over from using Windex once. The issue I will continue to bring up as I go forward with this series is the compounding effect of continued exposure to these types of chemicals as well as all the others that we are going to talk about throughout this series. In a nutshell, it ads up. And in a world where our bodies are already dealing with so much stress, exposure to pollution and environmental toxins which are out of our control wouldn’t it be a good idea to reduce exposure where we can control it?
There is also an environmental impact to be considered. Not only from the standpoint that these are used and then the bottles are thrown away to then be lying in a landfill eventually seeping out into the soil and ground water. But they are also being rinsed, flushed and washed down drains and eventually make their way into ground water, streams, rivers, oceans, clouds, rained back down on us, seeping into our soils and being consumed back up by animals and ourselves. There is also the environmental impact of manufacturing these products and the health and welfare of the individuals who are on the manufacturing floor of these production plants.
Detoxing Your Cleaning Routine – Safer Alternatives
The EWG is my favorite resource for research regarding safer alternatives, they post scientific articles and studies, ingredient lists, consumer guides and even provide the ability to look up products to see how safe they are. Their cleaning product guide is here. My favorite thing about their site is their transparency, they don’t just say yes or no, they include why they have rated a product a certain way so you can continue to do research to make the best choices for you and your family.
Additionally over the course of the last few years I can managed to clean up my cleaning routine quite a bit and love and trust the products listed below. I am in no way affiliated or make any money on any of these links. They are just things that I love and trust.
- Baking Soda
- Essential Oils
- Branch Basics
That’s it! Boiling water and vinegar can unclog a drain. I sprinkle baking soda around showers, sinks, countertops and baths then spritz with vinegar, scrub and rinse with boiling water. Windows are cleaned with vinegar, floors are moped with vinegar and hot water. For things like windows and floors I do add essential oils just so my entire house doesn’t smell like an Easter egg coloring party. And for really tough stuff I use Branch Basics, they created a non toxic plant based cleaning concentrate that can be turned into pretty much anything you need. It works similar to Dr. Bronner’s but is rated slightly better because it is unscented.
As with everything I write on this subject, I hope you find this information helpful not hurtful. The intent is never to shame, but rather educate. Everyone tries to do their level best to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Unfortunately often this information isn’t brought to the forefront of our attention until its too late. I for one want to operate in a world of prevention, to prolong my health and life as long as possible. Every little change helps reduce that overall toxic burden that our bodies deal with everyday. Baby steps to detoxing your cleaning routine, and more in time with regard to other aspects of our life.