Spring Cleaning: How to Make Safe Household Cleaning Products

Welcome Canadian bloggers Natural Living Folks to EcoDiva's blog! Natural Living Folks is a trio of sisters who share their natural, plant-based recipes and lifestyle musings on the blog naturallivingfolks.com. They love to discuss their thoughts and ideas about healthy food, recipes, lifestyle and products, and they bring various perspectives and talents.

We're so happy to have them contributing to our community with some great tips on how to make safe household cleaning products. Read on for their info about how to do spring cleaning the green way!

Pollution is such a dirty word. It calls to mind smog, big cities, and decreased outdoor air quality.

You may think, “No big deal. I live in a small Canadian city without much pollution. I’m good.” But there’s something else to think about.

Canadians spend 90 percent of their time indoors, according to Health Canada. No surprise there, particularly when you think about sleeping time, the fact that many people work indoors, and that in most of the country, it’s just frickin’ cold all winter.

So hearing about indoor pollution is a little freaky.

There are many causes, including poor air circulation, but one of the big ones is conventional cleaning products. Yep, the very products that are supposed to clean your home are the same ones that can make you sick. What?!

Most cleaning products aren’t regulated, so you have to be the one watching out. Many of those common cleaning products can cause headaches, dizziness and fatigue, and long-term, exposure can lead to respiratory disease, heart disease and cancer. 

There are six different types of hazards that are commonly found in cleaning products. I could list their scientific names and all of the harm they cause to the human body, but I’ll let a scientist do that and link you to David Suzuki’s explanation here.

Without a requirement in Canada for manufacturers to warn consumers about health and environmental hazards, we use these products again and again, breathing them in through the air, absorbing them through our skin and ingesting them through household dust and chemical residues left on dishes and cutlery. We also flush a lot of product as we clean sinks, tubs, and toilets, so we also impact our environment. It just gets better and better...

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are a family of chemicals that contain carbon and hydrogen. Some are more toxic and harmful than others, and people can react to them differently. Many of them are found in standard cleaning products and evaporate at room temperature. Elevated levels have been linked to long-term health effects, especially in children.

Environmental Defence is a Canadian environmental action organization who successfully advocated for the ban of BPA in baby bottles and phthalates in toys. It recently did a study in eastern Canada. It had 14 volunteers clean their home for 30 minutes. Nine homes used conventional popular cleaning products. Three used certified green products, and two used unverifiable green cleans.

(Before a go further I’ll insert a rant here. Because products are unregulated, many labels read “green” but that doesn’t mean much more than colour of the bottle. Make sure a green product is certified by Green Seal or EcoLogo.)

Back to the study. The air was tested for VOC levels the day before the house was cleaned and then during the cleaning. In 12 households, the air exceeded the German standard for indoor VOC levels (there is no Canadian standard). Where conventional cleaners were used, total VOCs increased by an average of 120 percent; in the green product homes, by an average of 35 percent, and in the unverifiable green product homes, by 100 percent (see the point to my rant?!).

Now that you’re like, “Thanks very much for making me feel like cleaning my home is making it dirtier,” let’s talk about what you can do.

While there are many actual green products that actually work, homes have been cleaned with common household items for years. As much as it sounds like work to make your own products, it’s really not that difficult. It doesn’t cost a lot, and most of the ingredients you probably already have at home.

Two At-Home Cleaning Recipes

All-Purpose Cleaner

Ingredients

  • a cup of white vinegar
  • two cups of water
  • a tablespoon of castile soap or an eco-friendly dish soap
  • 20-30 drops of an essential oil for toxic-free scent.

Directions:

Combine all ingredients into a spray bottle. Shake vigoriously to mix. Use as you would an all-purpose cleaner. Store in a dark, cool location and remix as necessary.

Baking Soda Scrub

Ingredients

  • cup of baking soda
  • half a cup of castile soap
  • half a cup of water

Directions

Combine all ingredients until a thick, foaming paste is formed. Use with a sponge to cut through grease and grime in your bathroom and kitchen.

Buying Green Cleaning Products

Any products you do buy, make sure they’re fragrance-free. Some of the worst hazards are air fresheners or anything with a lot of scent, so skip it. I love essential oils to add scent, and there are also many oils that can actually add to the purification quality of products, so check out recipes using those as well, making sure you’re using a pure essential oil from a reputable company. We talk a lot about this on naturallivingfolks.com.

Want more info? Check out the following resources when you're interested in what else might be in your cleaning products:

And we’d love to hear your thoughts! Let us know how you use safe, green cleaning products in your home. 

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