Elizabeth Dyer

lifestyle blog

Safer Cleaning

August 27, 2019

Growing up, my friends never wanted to come to my house because they said it was like a staged home. Which is true. My home was impeccably kept and spotless at any given time. My mother was known to follow us around the kitchen and clean up any crumbs we might have left behind, oftentimes accidentally spraying our food she was so aggressive. Transitioning into adulthood, living with roommates, and now a husband that does not have the same level of cleanliness as me has been one of my biggest real-world challenges. I grew up with OCD, but I didn’t even recognize that it existed until I was on my own. I have extensively worked on the issue in recent years, which has helped me to relinquish a lot of my habits just in time for us to live in a full-on house renovation where nothing ever, ever stays clean. The #1 biggest argument in my household is still over cleanliness though –  it’s a work in progress! 

So, needless to say, I love my cleaning products. I feel like Bob Saget’s character on Full House sometimes when I really get into it. However, it wasn’t until I started living with my now-husband, Andrew, that I even thought, “why is Windex BLUE?!” and “why do I always get a headache in the cleaning aisle of the store??”

Andrew grew up with severe eczema and a lot of our early relationship was spent navigating his skin disease. It consumed our lives and I started questioning everything I had ever been taught by doctors, society, marketing, and my parents. 

When literally nothing seemed to stop the incessant swelling, itching and flaking anymore, we made a conscious decision to have him work from home for a lengthy period of time, stop all steroids and medications cold turkey despite the pleading of many doctors and concerned friends, and completely alter our lifestyles. That meant throwing everything away and starting fresh with all new products, clothes, food, furniture, and choice in healthcare providers. 

Long story short, with the huge help of our AMAZING acupuncturist, he is 99% healed after a lifetime of heartache. We could not have gotten there without changing our home environment including how we cleanse our environment. 

 

The benefits of cleaning, in general, are pretty clear. Allergens like dust mites and mold thrive when not taken care of promptly. Germs run amuck. Everything just feels gross. I cannot stand walking in my house with bare feet and having the bottoms of my feet collect crumbs and turn black. 

Having an unclean house can wreak havoc on your air quality and overall sense of peace, but if you’re cleaning with chemicals are you really improving your air quality?  Just like the beauty industry, there are little to no regulations on the ingredients in cleaning products and what is considered safe. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), gases from the use of harsh chemicals, are heightened at the time of cleaning often outweighing the intuitive benefits of cleaning itself. 

Another argument for going chemical-free (or as close to it as possible) is the microbiome. It is the same argument for not using antibiotics, hand sanitizer, or antibacterial soaps frequently. A variety of bacteria is a GOOD THING. Harsh chemicals and antibacterial products kill all bacteria, even the good stuff. You need that good stuff to fight off anything that tries to intrude. Constantly building them up and killing them back weakens them, but the truth is with the standard American diet and standard of care for most illnesses, a lot of our society is not even working on building their good bacteria stores back up through fermented foods, probiotic cultures, etc in the first place. 

Additionally, constantly affecting the microbiome with unhealthy products can cause a variety of issues for anyone, but women and young children are highly susceptible. The smaller your child, including in the womb, the more they are thought to be affected because their little immune systems aren’t quite fully up and running yet. Bombarding them with a bunch of icky things is just playing Russian roulette on how it’s going to manifest: mental challenges, sinus infections, allergies, weight gain, hyper/hypothyroidism, early or late puberty, etc. 

If you’re the kind of guy or gal that needs a little more “proof” here are a few quick articles that go more in-depth:

Commonly used household cleaners could be making children overweight by altering their gut microbiota 

Dietary Exposure to the Environmental Chemical, PFOS on the Diversity of Gut Microbiota, Associated With the Development of Metabolic Syndrome 

Environmental toxicants in breast milk of Norwegian mothers and gut bacteria composition and metabolites in their infants at 1 month

 

Not only does using harsh chemicals harm our bodies, but they also harm our environment. 

When you use harsh chemicals, especially common ingredients like ammonia and phosphorous, in your home, the chemicals are eventually rinsed down the drain. The water then heads to wastewater treatment facilities, where the majority of contaminants are removed before the water makes its way back to rivers and lakes. However, not all the contaminants from these chemical products are removed, and over time, they can build up to have a substantial and negative effect on the wildlife and the quality of your drinking water. 

For tools, I like to buy as plastic-free as possible. Plastic is not biodegradable and sits in landfills forever if not recycled. Even when recycled, the hormones in plastic have me questioning the sustainability of recycled plastic being used for everything from toilet paper to clothes. Are we just further contaminating our environment because we simply can’t agree to stop making and buying plastic in the first place?? 

 

So, I just gave you a ton of reasons to ditch your blue Windex and Dawn soap. Equipped with the same knowledge, Andrew and I decided to clean as natural and non-toxic as possible. We try to limit chemical and plastic use, but we are not perfect. It took us several years to get where we are. I encourage you, just like beauty products, to try something safer when you run out of what you have or you feel the itch to try something new. Easing into a more holistic lifestyle will help it become a more sustainable practice and one that you feel at ease with. When there are too many balls in the air it can get overwhelming and cause you to slide back to where you started. 

In order to check the safety of your current products, I encourage you to visit the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website for cleaning products. Simply search for your cleaning products or, if it’s not listed, look up the grade of the individual ingredients. They are rated “A” as best to “F”. I try to stick to the “A” category, but sometimes go to “B” based on my own ingredient research. You will have to make a decision, based on the information provided, what stays and what is a no go for you. 

For example, if you are struggling to get pregnant and you see an ingredient in what you are using that causes reproductive harm and/or hormone imbalances, it is probably best to nix that ingredient and product entirely.

There are hundreds of products listed in the “C-F” range but a few sneaky ones that you might be using are Dawn, PineSol, Simple Green, and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. These products, among others, are known for greenwashing, or making you think that they are better for you and the environment than they actually are by utilizing marketing terms such as “green” or “plant-derived”. Some go as far as to show you commercials of them actually using their products to “help” animals in distress when, in fact, their ingredients cause environmental distress themselves. 

 

Natural Cleaning Solutions

All-Purpose Cleaning 

Want to know the magical ingredient for almost all of your natural cleaning purposes? Vinegar!

When diluted with water it can be used for a multitude of things like windows, wood, counters, toilet bowl, sinks, baths, etc. Pretty much any surface, except soft stone like marble or granite, or waxed wood, can be safely cleaned with vinegar. The best part?! It is seriously inexpensive. 

 

Mixture: 

1 part white vinegar to 3 or 4 parts water

I keep mine in glass spray bottles to pick up easily. If I decide to mop, I create the mixture in a bucket. 

 

Stains

Pour undiluted vinegar on the stain, wait a few minutes, and wipe excess with a damp cloth. Throw clothing in the wash like normal. 

 

Marble & Granite 

Marble and granite are softer, porous stones that will be etched by acidic liquids like lemon, vinegar, or harsh chemicals. 

 

Granite or Marble Mixture Option 1: 

½ cup of rubbing alcohol

½ teaspoon of (safe and mild!) dish soap

1½ cup of water

Add 10 to 20 drops of essential oil to the spray bottle to infuse the homemade granite cleaner with a subtle fragrance, if desired.

 

Granite or Marble Mixture Option 2: 

1 tablespoon Castile soap

1 quart of distilled water

or

 1-2 drops of Castile soap

2 cups of distilled water

 

If you have white marble and a stain forming, mix kaolin clay or white flour with 6% hydrogen peroxide to form a paste. Leave undisturbed for 48 hours and wipe away with water. Repeat if necessary.  

 

Floors

Invest in a steam mop. It changed my life. My floors are so clean and I don’t need any cleaning agent at all! If I have something heavy-duty to clean up, I will mix up the castile soap/ warm water mixture or vinegar/water mixture in a spray bottle. Spray on the floor and mop up. 

I have read not to use a steam cleaner on hardwood floors. I haven’t had issues with using the lowest setting on mine and then going back over the floor with a towel. Water, in general, should never stay on the floor for very long because it can warp it. Never let the mop heat up or sit on one spot on the floor for longer than a few seconds because it might leave a stain from the steam. I prop mine up on the table so that the head is hanging off of it while it heats up and cools down. 

 

Go to products:

Dish Soap: MADE OF Foaming Organic Baby Soap, Thieves Dish Soap

Dryer Sheets: NONE, if you absolutely need one, I recommend a reusable wool dryer ball.

Pro tip: switching your clothes from synthetic materials to natural removes the need for dryer sheets. Polyester, for example, tends to create a lot of static because it is plastic. Think about how your hair stood up playing in the ball pin as a child. 

Castile Soap: Dr. Bronner’s Baby Unscented Castile Soap 

Steam Mop: Shark Genius Steam Mop 

Dishwasher detergent: Nellie’s Dishwasher PowderThieves Automatic Dishwasher Detergent

Laundry detergent: Nellie’s Laundry Soda, Thieves Laundry Soap

 

Reduce plastic and switch to natural, sustainable items such as horsehair, goat hair, tampico, wood, bamboo, etc. These tools will last longer and make cleaning feel much more luxurious. 

I particularly love Redecker tools. Redecker is a German brand that prides itself on using natural and sustainable raw materials to make high-quality cleaning tools. You can buy their products online, but I happened to come across some of their gorgeous products when Andrew and I were on our honeymoon at Napa Valley’s Oxbow Market. I don’t think I would have even bought the duster if I didn’t see how beautiful it was in real life!

 

Redecker tools that I frequently use:

Veggie Brush

Pot Scrubber

Duster

Dish Brush

 

You can’t go wrong with anything from Package Free Shop either.

Toilet Brush

Reusable Cloths

 

 

Woohoo! Now you are super informed and ready to transform your cleaning habits and your health! Thanks for sticking with me 🙂

 

xo, Elizabeth

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