Green Your Clean Most Americans spend 90% of their time indoors and, thanks to tightly sealed homes and workplaces, the concentration of pollutants indoors may be even higher than outdoors. Why? Because many of the cleaning products we use contain chemicals that release volatile organic compounds.

The typical American home contains 3-10 GALLONS of toxic materials, and uses and stores more than 60 hazardous household products; everything from glass and bathroom cleaners to garden pesticides and fertilizers.

Why Should You Care?

Chemicals in common household cleaning products pollute the air inside your home and have serious health effects, including:


  • Respiratory problems
  • Eye irritation
  • Skin irritation
  • Cancer
  • Birth defects
  • Disruption of the endocrine system

Another scary fact is that between 5-10 million household poisonings are reported each year and many of these are fatal and involve children.

The most vulnerable period of a child’s development is while they are in the womb, and it is essential to minimize exposure to any possible toxins. If you are pregnant, it is especially important for you to understand the risks of these household toxins to your children and to find natural, eco-friendly, and safe alternatives for cleaning.

In addition to these health concerns, there are environmental concerns regarding toxic household cleaning products as well:

  • Creation of hazardous waste.
  • Contamination of soil and water, including aquifers, lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans,
  • Ecosystem imbalances, including loss of biodiversity and reductions in natural animal habitats
  • Phosphates promote excessive growth of algae, which robs the water of oxygen, which negatively affects fish and other aquatic wildlife
  • Some chemicals “bio-accumulate” up the food chain.

Dangerous Chemicals

Some of the dangerous ingredients to look for include:

  • Phosphates: cause algae proliferation in bodies of water, killing marine life
  • Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE’s): cause reproductive defects, liver and kidney damage
  • Phthalates: cause sperm damage and reproductive defects in boys
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) (including 1,4-dichlorobenzene): cause nose and throat irritation, dizziness, asthma
  • Petroleum distillates such as benzene, or 1,4 dioxane, both of which can cause cancer.
  • Sodium laurel sulfate and alcohol ethoxylate: both release 1-4, dioxane.
  • Ethoxylates
  • Sulfates
  • Parabens
  • Glycol ethers
  • Ammonia
  • Chlorine
  • Ethanolamines
  • Dyes
  • Fragrances

Natural chemicals that can cause allergic reactions, and should also be avoided, include:

  • Limonene (a citrus-based oil)
  • Pine oil
  • Coconut diethanolamide

What Are Your Options For Eco-Friendly Safe Cleaning?

You can reduce your chemical exposure by eliminating chemicals in your home and using only natural cleaning products that are plant based.

1. Buy Natural Household Cleaners

As more people become aware of the dangers of common household cleaners,  more “green”, environmentally friendly options have have appeared with a growing number of companies offering their own versions of eco-friendly cleaners.

Unfortunately, the terms “green” and “natural” are nothing more than marketing terms; they’re not absolute terms of science, and they do not automatically equal safety. Therefore, you need to be aware of the dangerous chemicals to avoid, read all ingredients labels, and look for third-party verification of a product’s green claims.

Some safer cleaning products are BiokleenEcover, Mrs. Meyer’s, Seventh Generation,Sun & Earth, and Earth Friendly Products Orange Plus. They are more expensive but more concentrated, and a bit safer.

What to look for in natural household cleaning products:

  • Biodegrade rapidly in the environment
  • Made with plant-based ingredients
  • Contain few additives and little, if any, fragrance
  • Cruelty-free

2. Make Your Own Natural Cleaning Products

Some natural cleaners still contain petroleum distillates as well as other less-than-perfect ingredients. Also, cleaning product manufacturers (green or otherwise) are not required by law to disclose all of their ingredients on their labels. That makes it difficult to tell exactly what you are getting.

After researching this topic years ago, we initially purchased some natural cleaning products but now we have switched to making our own cleaning solutions. I’m pretty picky about ingredients and am not thrilled with pretty much any of the commercial green cleaning products, including those listed above. Thankfully it’s SO easy to clean your house with the natural ingredients listed below – you can’t get much more simple and pure than that! Not only is it easy, it’s inexpensive, too!

What You Need to Clean Naturally

The things you will need you most likely already have around the house. To clean your house naturally, all you need is:


Benefits of Homemade Cleaners

  • Less packaging waste because you are not buying new bottles again and again.
  • Less expensive, especially if you can buy ingredients in bulk.
  • Less harmful (often not harmful at all) to humans, animals, and the earth.

What Next?

Over the next few days, weeks, and throughout this Healthy Living series, I will share specific cleaning recipes and ideas for safely cleaning each area of your house.

Until then, look at your current cleaning products and consider switching to something better for you and the environment. If you don’t already have the basic cleaning ingredients listed above, go out and get them.

But before you just toss out your current supply of cleaning products, read about how to safely dispose of toxic cleaners. There is a proper and safe way to do this.

Wendy –

Healthy Living SeriesRead all the posts in the Healthy Living series by clicking on the icon on the left.

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