Even as we take a tonne load of precautions and safety measures, the cleaning products that we use in our household can be dangerous to little ones. Whether you’re looking to make an eco-friendly switch or for safer options for your little ones, there are some great natural options out there that clean efficiently but without the harmful chemicals getting in the way of daily living. We’ve curated a bunch of DIY cleaning products that you can take into account, and also tips on selecting cleaning products that are non-toxic and safe for the entire family, so you won’t have to worry about your little ones or your pets accidentally coming into contact with toxic substances.
Tips For When Buying Non-Toxic Cleaning Products
Avoid Products That Has Fragrance
‘Fragrance’ is a catch-all term that signifies that there could be anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands toxic, unregulated substances in the ingredients. Many of the ingredients hiding under this label have been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormonal imbalances, and allergies. Some of the worst culprits are phthalates, polyethene glycol (PEG) compounds, and formaldehyde. One of the most impactful steps you could make to clean up your household is to remove all cleaning, personal care, or home products with ‘fragrance’, ‘parfum’, ‘fragrance oil’, or ‘natural fragrance’ listed on the package.
Avoid These Ingredients
Though there are more toxins out there, this is a great place to start.
- Ammonia Toxic when inhaled, swallowed or touched. I remember my Mom using this stuff as a kid and man, it is seriously strong stuff, not to mention potentially deadly when mixed with the wrong stuff.
- Antibacterials & Disinfectants These include a whole list of ingredients ranging from Bleach to Triclosan. The overuse of these types of products are blamed for antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the truth is that extreme disinfectants are rarely needed. Your DIY Household cleaners (even dish detergent), or a bit of soap and water should be most of what you’ll ever need. There are natural options, just read the labels!
- Butyl Glycol, Ethylene Glycol, Monobutyl This is common in most general cleaners and is dangerous to the nervous system, liver & kidneys.
- Chlorine Bleach Bleach is very strong, corrosive and irritating to both the eyes and lungs. Avoid this stuff when at all possible – plus you’ll probably save some cash by not accidentally getting bleach spots on clothes and other household fabrics.
- Petroleum Solvents Many ingredients are derived from petroleum and are commonly found in many cleaning products as surfactants (watch for this term on ingredient lists). Other derivatives, including formaldehyde, can be found in a variety of household cleaners.
- Phosphates These are harmful to aquatic life and are often found in laundry & dish detergents.
- Phthalates Watch for fragrance on ingredient lists. These hormone disruptive are often components of complex synthetic fragrances. Avoid artificial scents at all costs. They are toxic and this goes for everything from cleaners to shampoo to candles. Choose options that say “Phthalate Free” or mention the use of essential oils for fragrance.
Honesty Is The Best Policy
Products tell you right on the packaging if they are dangerous. This is good news, though you may have to look at several products before finding one you are satisfied when you first start out. Bottom line – listen to them and stay away! It’s so easy. Avoid products with terms like Caution, Corrosive, Danger, Irritant, Poison, or Warning. Instead, look for products that don’t say they’re toxic and suggest simply to “drink water”. That’s a good thing to see!
Check The Ingredients
Start at the ingredient list. If the product you pick up doesn’t tell you what’s in it then put that one back down. Send that company a message and do not purchase their product. Transparency is huge when looking for safe products in this day and age. While there may be safe products without a disclosed ingredient list, you have no way of knowing that the product you are about to use is safe. The absence of an ingredient list is a big red flag and it’s not worth the risk.
DIY Natural Cleaning Ingredients
Trusted for over a century, baking soda cleans, deodorizes softens water, and scours.
Unscented soap in liquid form (along with soap flakes, powders, or bars) is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Castile soap is one example of an excellent, versatile cleaning ingredient. Avoid using soaps that contain petroleum distillates.
One of the strongest food acids, lemon juice is effective against most household bacteria.
Use white vinegar to cut grease; remove mildew, odours, and some stains; and to prevent or remove wax build-up.
Washing soda or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a mineral. It cuts grease; removes stains; softens water; and cleans walls, tiles, sinks and tubs. Use with care, since washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminium.
Vegetable or Olive Oil
Use in homemade wood polishes.
Alcohol is an excellent disinfectant. However, some safety concerns with isopropyl alcohol (also known as rubbing alcohol) make other forms of alcohol the more cautious choice. Vodka is a potent odour remover, and other forms of ethanol (grain alcohol) can be used for cleaners and disinfectants.
Use cornstarch to clean windows, polish furniture, and shampoo carpets and rugs.
Citrus solvent cleans paintbrushes, oil and grease, and some stains. But beware: citrus solvent may cause skin, lung or eye irritations for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.
Oxygen-based bleach (usually made from sodium carbonate and/or peroxide) gently removes stains, whitens fabric, and has a number of applications in household stain removal. Many common brands of oxygen bleaches have a number of additional (and less benign) chemicals.
A common disinfectant for wounds, hydrogen peroxide can also be used for disinfecting in the kitchen or bathroom. Its mild bleaching effect makes hydrogen peroxide an excellent stain remover for fabrics and grout. It may cause skin or respiratory irritation, so handle with care.