Now that we’ve covered how chemical and environmental toxicity is all around us, and especially in our homes, let’s take a look at some simple ways we can can reduce the amount of toxins we’re exposed to at home.
To detoxify your home, properly dispose of all cleaners that you suspect are toxic, or if the label says “Warning,” “Danger,” or “Poison.”
Do not dispose of them down the drain or in the garbage; your local Department of Public Works can tell you where to take these hazardous household wastes.
Purchasing Non-Toxic Cleaners
When you buy new cleaning products, look for manufacturers who list their natural ingredients on the label and purchase cleaners containing non-petroleum-based surfactants, that are chlorine and phosphate free, that claim to be “non-toxic,” and that are biodegradeable.
Awareness of this issue is growing, and product lines of environmentally sound cleaning products (such as My Cleaning Products) are available in natural food stores, many commercial supermarkets and online.
A note of caution: Some cleaners may advertise that they are “environmentally safe” but will fail to provide a full list of ingredients. Remember, the manufacturer that gives you the most information about its product is usually the one you can trust.
You can also make your own non-toxic mixtures from common household ingredients to help accomplish tasks around the house.
Cautions When Mixing Your Own Cleaning Agents
Although the following suggested mixtures have few hazardous ingredients than many commercial cleaners and pesticides, they should be used and stored with similar caution. DO NOT mix anything with a commercial cleaning agent.
If you do store a homemade mixture, make sure it is properly labeled and do not store it in a container that could be mistaken for food or beverage. When preparing alternatives, mix only what is needed for the job at hand and mix them in clean, reusable containers.
Homemade Cleaner Ideas to Get You Started
If you use sponges to clean any part of your home, make sure they are pure cellulose sponges that are not treated with a synthetic disinfectant. Most sponges sold in U.S. supermarkets these days are saturated with triclosan or other synthetic disinfectants and are easy to distinguish because of their packaging which claims the sponge “kills odors” or “resists odors”.
In reality, a disinfectant-laden sponge is ineffective at sterilizing countertops or other surfaces. The disinfectant simply gives you a “germ-free” sponge. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Sponges by nature are perfect breeding grounds for germs since they are a moist, warm habitat and come into close and frequent contact with bacteria when wiping up spills, meat juices, etc.
However, the disinfectants used in these sponges may help contribute to the evolution of drug-resistant “super germs”.
It is easy to keep pure, cellulose sponges germ-free by boiling them in a pot of water for 3-5 minutes or tossing them in the top rack of the dishwasher with your next load of dishes. Pure cellulose sponges can be found in natural food stores and hardware stores.
Cleaning Your Oven
Baking soda and water are excellent for cleaning the 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 be 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.
Products for unclogging drains are some of the most dangerous ones found in the typical home. You’re better off with an ounce of prevention: Use a drain catch or screen to keep hair and food from clogging pipes, and periodically pour boiling water down the drain.
If you do get a clog, pour 1/2 to 1 cup of baking soda down the drain and then slowly pour 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar in after it. Cover the drain and let it sit for 15 minutes. It might bubble up like a volcano, but that just means it’s working. Finish by flushing the drain with a gallon of boiling water. For tougher clogs, use a plumber’s snake.
Mix 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in 1 pint of mineral or vegetable oil. Apply a small amount to a clean cotton cloth and wipe wooden parts of furniture.
Deodorize dry carpets by sprinkling liberally with baking soda. Wait at least 15 minutes and vacuum. Repeat if necessary.
Boil 2-3 inches of water in a shallow pan with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of baking soda and a sheet of aluminum foil. Totally submerge the silver and boil for 2-3 minutes more. Remove silver from the pan and wipe away tarnish with a clean cotton cloth.
Repeat if necessary. (Do not use this method with antique silver knives. The blade may separate from the handle.) Another alternative is to use non-abrasive toothpaste.
In a bowl, mix one cup borax, one cup sugar, and three cups water. Place a loose wad of toilet paper into four different screw-top jars that are about the size of shallow chip dip or marinated artichoke jars. Pour the mixture into the jars until it is about one inch from the top.
Screw the lids on the jars, and with a hammer and nail, make four to eight holes in the lid. Place the jars in areas where you have ants, and watch them line up in rows and march in. Keep away from children.
To rid your plants of many common pests, gently wipe leave with a solution of mild soap and water. Or mix the solution in a spray bottle and spray leaves and stems.
Use cedar chips or a sachet with any or all of the following; lavender flowers, rosemary, mint, and white peppercorns.
Fleas and Ticks
Put brewer’s yeast or garlic in your pet’s food; sprinkle fennel, rue, rosemary, eucalyptus seeds or leaves around your animal’s sleeping areas.
There are many more natural cleaners that you can make to help you keep your home sparkling and toxin free. We have a pretty comprehensive list here: Clean and Green, and we highly recommend Annie Berthold-Bond’s book: The Green Kitchen Handbook – Practical advice, References, and sources for Transforming the Center of Your Home into a Healthful, Livable Place.
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