There are many cleaning products on the market now which are safe, effective and appealing. But they sure can be expensive. In this post, we will go over the general concerns with conventional cleaning methods, the basic principles of healthy cleaning, and finally the “ ingredients” you will need to make your own cleaning supplies for a fraction of the cost.
Scary can come about in several ways: if you use toxic cleaning products, if you mix cleaning products, if you use standard cleaning products incorrectly, or, if you let something become so soiled over time that only the most powerful solvents will get it clean.
Medline Plus, a resource of the National Institute for Health (NIH), has produced a page on household cleaning products which is worth bookmarking:
(click to view)
They start by explaining that many common household substances are potentially toxic enough to cause illness, birth defects, or even death.
You might think safe natural cleaning is all about what you clean with; but there is much more to it.
Principles of Safe Cleaning
- Keep up on your cleaning so things do not get really difficult to clean.
- Read the label of any cleaner, natural or otherwise. Make sure you know what it is made of. They all should be powerful chemicals; that’s why they can get things clean.
- Keep cleaning materials in their original container, with their labels on, so they can be identified. This holds true for homemade cleaning solutions, whose labels should include all their ingredients.
- Store all cleaning materials, natural or otherwise, away from children and pets.
- Never mix cleaning solutions. Bleach and ammonia for example, may react, ignite or explode.
- Volatile hydrocarbons, even from naturals like mineral oil, can be combustible so they may not be used near open flame.
- Before cleaning, prepare.
- Assemble your supplies and materials.
- Assemble your outfit ! Yes, in many cases, you need to wear protective clothes, put your hair up, wear some gloves, and have some eye protection. It won’t hurt either to have some music, TED talks, or audiobooks set up for easy listening.
- Do one area at a time.
- Turn the lights on, and clear away as many items and furniture as are practical. Open the windows or otherwise secure good ventilation.
Then and only then, you can clean easily and safely.
There are many “ recipes” on the internet for home made natural or less toxic cleaning solutions, all complete with tableaux style photos which invariably include bundles of lavender and the obligatory lemon wedge. The very best resource I found was a link from the National Institute of Health to this page :
( Lemon and Lavender not included.)
Click on the title link to view precise recipes AND instructions to get the most out of these solutions. They have all been tested for both performance and safety at the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Very rigorous !
These are all available at standard grocery stores ( even Murphys’ oil) , as are jars and spray bottles. Labels can be obtained at an office supply store. I recommend writing down the recipes somewhere, i.e. in a note taking app, or even into your family cookbook. The labels do get drizzled on in the course of cleaning, and may run even with sharpie pen labelling. You will not want to lose the recipes.
Cleaning is a chore, but it should not be unsafe or miserable. I recommend being well prepared, and using products that you like, whether homemade or purchased. If you make your own, you may also consider adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your solutions, to make your task smell as good as possible. I also am a big fan of taking the time to set up a pleasant listening experience. Happy cleaning.
Next week we will explore safe gardening, as the gardening season approaches.