Green Cleaning 101

New to the green-cleaning world? Know someone who’s still living in the old, toxic world of commercial cleaners? This guide will help in gaining a deep understanding of why we need to totally alter the conventional way of cleaning our home in order to best suit our health and environment.

With the help of this guide, you will learn about the negative effects of toxins found throughout our home and receive simple solutions to help minimize exposure without foregoing convenience.

Make a long-term impact on your health and that of your loved ones.
Please help spread the word by sharing this link. Sharing this information with only a few people can go a long way in creating a huge positive impact for them and our planet.


Before the 1900s, most of the dirt that made its way into homes was good old-fashioned mud, leaves, manure, and other organic material tracked in from the barnyard or street. A broom, a mop, and bucket of soapy water would pretty much do the trick for a thorough cleaning. Today, however, much of our “dirt” is made up of toxic residues that come from our synthetic “cleaning” solutions.

The germs in our homes are our germs. Our bodies generally have no problem dealing with the familiar.

We’ve become obsessed with living in a germ-free environment as a result of the scare tactics employed by marketers. We have a bona fide germ phobia when we could be focusing our energy on something positive, like boosting our immune systems.

Let’s put things into perspective. Your body, when healthy, is beautifully designed to handle germs. The germs In our homes are our germs. Our bodies generally have no problem dealing with the familiar. We don’t need to live in a scrubbed-down sterilized bubble.

It’s inconvenient to catch a cold, but we need to consider what having a common cold means in comparison to developing chronic degenerative diseases, which can result from the overuse of antibacterial cleaner. When you compare the discomfort of a sore throat to the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, or stroke, don’t you think it’s time for a new paradigm shift?

We use sterilizing agents in the hope of avoiding a cold or flu, but those agents don’t go away in just a few days. Solvents that break down organic matter will also break down the same sorts of molecules you find on our skin and in your lungs. They need to be toxic in order to kill the germs.

And yet you put yourself in contact with that stuff, touching and breathing it in the name of health.

We should never have to suck down toxic fumes just to be convinced that the cleaners we’re using are effective. When you are using chemicals that you know produce dangerous substances, you should always take special precautions. Just because you are in the “safety” of your own home doesn’t mean that these hazards can be taken lightly.

In 2008, 214,230 human exposures to household cleaning products were reported to poison control centers in the United States, with another 100,000-plus exposures to pets.

You are not likely to find much information on the health hazards from indoor air in the home because the studies haven’t been done, even though millions and millions have been spent investigating “sick building syndrome” when it’s an office setting or industrial site. Once again, the most vulnerable and most precious—are left behind.

Marketing is powerful. Advertisers once convinced us that smoking cigarettes had calming benefits and that chewing tobacco was a great smokeless alternative. With the right amount of money and enough loveable cartoon characters or celebrities to act as spokespeople, anything will sell. We all know it, yet we’re still gullible. We want to believe because, quite frankly, cleaning is a pain—it feels as if we’re being punished, and it takes away from our time to play.

We’re always hopeful that a new product is going to make housekeeping chores less time consuming and less annoying.

Why would we think the windows won’t be streak-free unless the spray has blue dye in it? Yet, if we really stop to think about it, wouldn’t a clear liquid make a much better glass cleaner that the one with the blue dye? Clear white vinegar is a perfectly effective window cleaner, one that’s been used since the time glass was invented.

For centuries, humans around the globe have kept their homes sanitary without the beloved blue solution or powerful purple product. But today we think that stronger is always better. If your nose burns, the room must be really clean, right?

Wrong.

Use your keenest sense of danger—your nose. Your body is yelling “Step away! Now!” We’ve learned to ignore these natural warning signals because we want a bathroom that smells clean or, in other words, smells like chemicals.

Your best tools for healthy cleaning: Nose, Gloves, Brain.

This brings us back to the question of what it is that we are hoping to accomplish. At its most basic level, the goal of scrubbing is to maintain a healthy environment with a one-two-punch approach:

1. Remove Toxins

2. Eliminate an environment favorable to molds, fungi, and bacteria.

Chemical solutions happen to be the antithesis of both by adding toxins and encouraging the rampant spread of resistant superbugs.

Clean Contact

In addition to the terrible fumes, you also have to worry about coming into physical contact with the cleaner. When you clean with bleach or ammonia, you think it’s gone as soon as your nose becomes desensitized with the fumes.

Yet we—and our children especially—constantly come into contact with surfaces all around the house.

There are many, many chemicals in ordinary household cleaners that are seriously dangerous, but no one knows exactly how dangerous because there are 80,000 chemicals registered with the EPA—far too many to be tested for safety. And we didn’t want to slow innovation with cumbersome safety testing. Once again, the government chooses economy over ecology.

The same concept we discussed for beauty products applies to cleaning products—the effects are cumulative. Toxins build up in our bodies over time until we need a new term like “body burden”. We simply don’t have time to wait for science to produce data altering us to the effects of this chronic, low-dose, lifetime exposure. We need to take action now.

Take a quick inventory of the cleaners in your home.

It’s a little surprising to see just how many people commonly use:


All purpose cleaners, Automatic dishwashing detergents, Carpet cleaners, Granite cleaners, Stovetop scrubs, Stainless steel spray / wipes, Chlorine Bleach, Degreasers, Furniture polishes, Dishwashing liquids, Disinfecting wipes, Drain clog removers, Window cleaners, Mold and Mildew Removers ,Oven cleaners, Scouring cleansers, etc.

We recommend you cut these by at least half. Warning labels rarely show skulls and crossbones these days, but they will still quietly say, “Harmful if swallowed”.

If you are cleaning with products that you wouldn’t eat, wear gloves!

However, even if you don’t taste the tile scrub or guzzle the blue stuff, particles of cleaning solutions are still entering your bloodstream as they are absorbed through the skin on your hands as you scrub, on your feet as you walk across the floor, and on the rest of your body while you soak in the tub. If you are having second thoughts about clean versus healthy, keep in mind that most chemicals in use today have been created in the last seventy-five years.
You should clean with ingredients that have been used for hundreds of years and have shown no known toxic effects.

The Real Smell of Clean
Not only do we think things are getting cleaner if we smell harsh bleach and ammonia fumes, we also tend to believe that if we can’t smell anything, there’s nothing really there. And just as we use sticky dryer sheets to make our clothes smell fresh and clean, we also use carpet deodorizers and air fresheners to mask foul odors.

Yet the bad odors are still there. We’ve just covered them with chemicals that are more powerful and smell more appealing. Both the odors and the chemicals are being sucked into our lungs, though, from which they get distributed throughout the body.

Green Cleaners
In this blog, the products we encourage you to clean with are nontoxic and biodegradable, which generally means they are plant or mineral based.

It’s hard to go au naturale in our homes because we’re so obsessed with all those germs. How can plain soap and vinegar rival the germ-killing powers of a harsh disinfectant? Traditional cleaners work well because they embody many of the fundamental aspects of the world itself—especially the nature of dirt.

The following cleaning solutions may not have the millions of dollars of marketing behind them, and they don’t come in bright colors, but they do have generations of proof behind them.


WATER

The universal solvent, water will get rid of most stains with a little effort and determination, but with no leftover residue.

NATURAL SOAPS
Castile soaps (like Dr. Bronner’s) made from plant oils are mild but versatile cleaners, providing natural degreasing power.

NATURAL ACIDIC SOLUTIONS
Lemon juice is an example of a natural acidic cleaner. If you have an alkaline residue such as rust, soap scum, or water spots, the first approach to cleaning would be with an acidic solution, such as vinegar. (Do not use acidic cleaners on stone.)

• White distilled vinegar is a mild acid that readily dissolves soap scum, cleans glass, disinfects surfaces, and is a perfect natural fabric softener. Use white vinegar because apple cider or wine vinegar can stain.

•Lemon juice is a mild acid that also has mild bleaching properties. It is a great stain remover and whitener. Fresh squeezed lemon juice is best, but bottled lemon juice can also be used.

NATURAL ALAKALINE SOLUTIONS
Baking soda, cornstarch, club soda, and salt are alkaline solutions that work well to clean acidic problems like body oil, food stains, and general dirt and grime.

• Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is nature’s most versatile cleaning product, a natural substance that has been used around the world for nearly 150 years to remove odors, soften water, dissolve dirt and grime, scrub soap scum, and even unclog drains.

• Borax (sodium borate) is a mineral similar in properties to baking soda, but it has a higher pH and is, therefore, stronger. It can remove odors, soften water, and dissolve dirt. In addition, it has antifungal and antibacterial properties and can stop the growth of mold and mildew. Although natural, borax can be used as an incesticide to eliminate cockroaches, fleas, and ants. Knowing this, we can surmise that it is toxic if ingested and must be kept out of the reach of children. You can find borax in grocery stores within the laundry product isles.

• Club Soda (with sodium citrate) is handy for loosening dirt and softening water so that it dries without water spots. This inexpensive fizzy water is great for cleaning glass and appliances and removing stains from fabrics.

ESSENTIAL OILS
These concentrated oils contain the aroma of the plants from which they are made. Some common essential oils include eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, lemon, orange, and peppermint. When added with lemon oil and distilled water, eucalyptus oil is an effective antibacterial spray. Lavender and tea tree oils are not only pleasantly calming, they too have been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Lemon and orange oil are nature’s deodorizers. Essential oils come in small bottles, but you just use a few drops a time so the supplies last a long time. However, be careful to avoid having them directly touch the skin.

ELBOW GREASE
Otherwise known as good old-fashioned physical effort, it will work wonders. Don’t fall for the television ads that proclaim cleaning instantly with no effort. Without the powerful—and toxic—ingredients in many commercial cleaners, you can expect to work a little harder. But your health (and the health of your family) will be worth it.

SUNSHINE—the oldest cleaning agent of all
Take a shirt that you’ve worn for a few hours—making sure that it isn’t soiled or stained—and hang it in the sun in a well ventilated spot. The next morning you’ll likely decide that it really does fit the description of “clean”. And it’s been deodorized and disinfected as well.

Some of the most basic items in your cleaning kit are either acid or alkaline, and you use the respective solution on stains or compounds that are the opposite: acid cleaning for alkaline residue, and vice versa. What you are doing essentially is neutralizing the thing you want to remove, bringing it close to nonacid or non alkaline.

And what is the natural cleaning solution? Water, at pH 7.0. When you have neutralized a compound with an acid or alkaline, you can rinse it out or away with water.

After getting the lowdown on dirt and what ingredients you need to get rid of, it’s not a surprise to find many healthy cleaners that work as well as your name-brand toxins.

Why buy a blue window cleaner that contains vinegar as an extra cleaning ingredient when vinegar alone will do the job?

Don’t buy commercial cleaners for the fragrance, either. Toxic residue has far too high of a price for a moment of flowery blast. Instead, create an effective and nontoxic window cleaning solution by simply mixing water, lemon juice, and vinegar.

Most natural cleaners actually cost less than commercial products—after all, somebody’s got to pay for all that advertising—and when you combine the cost to the environment with your out-of-pocket expense, you’ll find that you’re coming out far ahead when you use “green” cleaners instead of blue ones.

SIMPLE HOMEMADE SOLUTIONS
With just a few inexpensive ingredients you can find in almost any grocery store, you can clean your whole house. These are healthy versions of all those colorful cleaners you waste money on at the store. It’s time to clean, not contaminate.

All-purpose cleaner
 •One quart of warm water
• 4 tablespoons baking soda
• 1 teaspoon vinegar

Carpet stain remover
Baking soda
• Club Soda

Window Cleaner
3 cups water
• ¼ cup of white vinegar
• ½ tablespoon of lemon juice.

Wood Polish
• Two parts vegetable or olive oil
• 1 part lemon juice. Must be refrigerated

Drain Cleaner
Combine ½ cup baking soda and ½ cup white vinegar.
• Pour the mixture down the drain. Next pour a pot of boiling water down the drain to dissolve blockages caused by food particles, soap and grease.

Stainless steel polisher
Use baking soda and a soft-sided sponge. Toothpaste works too. Hey, maybe you’ve found a new use for your fluoridated toothpaste!

Heavy duty cleaning (for large jobs): Add 1 teaspoon baking soda and 2 teaspoons of liquid soap to 1 gallon of hot water. If it is particularly stubborn, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of borax.

Disinfectant spray (also works on mildew): Combine 2 cups water, 15 drops tea tree oil, 15 drops lavender oil. Use as a spray and let dry.

Get Steamed
One of the best devices you can use is a steam cleaner—also known as a vapor cleaner—which does its job without the use of toxic chemicals. This is definitely a worthwhile investment for eliminating dust mites and mold, which will help those people who suffer from allergies or multiple-chemical sensitivity. Look for a vapor steam cleaner that produces “dry steam”—one that has a boiler temperature of at least 240 degrees Fahrenheit.

Vacuums
Is your vacuum cleaner healthy?
Household dust contains bacteria, mold spores, pollen grains, dust mites, and many other allergy triggers as well as many potentially toxic substances. Most vacuums release some of the dust they collect back into the air. Choose a brand that uses a true HEPA filter to trap microscopic particles and the majority of airborne allergies.

The best vacuums are ones that completely trap dust and dirt—including allergens and chemical residues—and prevent them from escaping back into your home.

Be aware that vacuums are a powerful source of EMFs. Thus, the less time you spend vacuuming and the greater distance you put between your body and the vacuum motor the better.

A similar danger comes when people wear a vacuum or leaf blower on their backs. They are placing themselves in a dangerously close proximity to unhealthy electrical fields. Once again, find a vacuum with a canister and hose that allows you to put a little more space between you and the motor so you can reduce your ongoing exposure to EMFs.

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Moyra Knight  |  April 23, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Love all your information. I am new to finding out all this information. Not really understanding how these big companies get away with allowing these toxic chemicals to be in their products. Isn’t there laws out there to protect people from getting sick from toxic and carcinogenic chemicals?

    Reply
    • 2. smartklean  |  April 23, 2015 at 7:11 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Moyra. The last update to US chemical laws was done all the way back in the 70s, and unfortunately it all comes down to money and interests. Cheaper ingredients (harsh chemicals) are used by major corporations to increase profits. There are many organizations that are working to bring awareness to this, such as the Environmental Protection Agency. You can now check for toxicity of cleaning products on their product data base. Hope this helps, and please share the message.

      Reply
  • 3. stjamesscarpetcleaners.org.uk  |  January 26, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Thanks so much for these natural options. I don’t like using chemicals and I am keen to try these more natural alternatives.

    Best regards!
    St James’s Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

    Reply
  • […] that you can clean anything and sometimes even efficiently with these ingredients. Check out Green Cleaning 101 for more […]

    Reply
  • 5. Char Hammond  |  October 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    What would a person use in the dishwasher for cleaning dishes and pots & pans .I now use vinegar in the rinse dispenser.Thank you for any advise you may have.

    Reply
    • 6. smartklean  |  October 14, 2013 at 7:34 pm

      Hi Char,

      Automatic dishwashers are designed to be used with commercial dishwasher detergents, and we really haven’t found a reliable alternative that’s effective under regular use. Instead, we purchase a phosphate-free dishwasher detergent, which is better for the earth’s waterways by not introducing phosphates into the water table.

      That said, the following formula works to clean an occasional load of dishes. However, it tends to leave a film on dishes especially glassware. When we run out of dishwasher detergent, and don’t want to make a special trip to the store, we fill the dishwasher’s soap dispenser with a mix of equal parts washing soda and borax (my machine take 1/4 cup each when filling both the pre-wash and wash dispensers). Then, at the beginning of the dishwasher’s rinse cycle, we open the door and toss in a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar to aid in rinsing off any film the borax and washing soda have left behind. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  • 7. Cleanaway  |  April 27, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    WOW! What an informative article AND reminder to simply go back to the ‘natural’ basics that have been used for eons!

    Reply
  • 8. Tashlash  |  March 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Thanks! I enjoyed reading this humorous and informative article very much. It seems to bring back the not-so-common common sense.

    Reply
    • 9. smartklean  |  March 5, 2013 at 9:44 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for the comment 🙂

      Reply
      • 10. Don  |  May 14, 2014 at 8:09 am

        Thanks for the excellent info. Its almost overwhelming how far we’ve gotten from good health and safe living practices. It’s a sin that this country intentionally markets products that are absolutely unsafe and hazardous to its citizens and future generation in the name of the almighty dollar. God have mercy on us!

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