Ethly glycol. Aluminum zirconium. Artificial fragrances. The list of ingredients in commercially available cleaners and beauty products can be troubling, to say the least. Sometimes it’s downright scary.
If you’re looking to make your home — and your body — less toxic, one
of the first places to start is knowing what to avoid. The
Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetics safety database is a
searchable resource for finding out just what that string of chemical
names on your deodorant means.
Fortunately there are natural alternatives for cleaners, deodorants and disinfectants, but do they work?
“I wouldn’t recommend our all-purpose cleaner for cleaning down an autopsy room,” says Steve Savage, co-owner of Eco Ellie’s Home Store. But for most people, orange oil and other natural cleaners work just fine, sometimes even better.
Many laundry detergents, for example, contain “optical brighteners” which don’t actually make clothes any cleaner. Instead, these chemicals make clothes look less yellowed by increasing the overall amount of blue light reflected.
Natural detergents like Steve Savage’s Boulder Laundry Detergent are formulated without optical brighteners — or any other harmful chemicals — and instead use natural citrus ingredients.
If you want even more control over what goes on your belongings, you can make your own household cleaners from as few as two ingredients.
Kathy Thorpe, a certified homeopath with Six Persimmons, has plenty of advice for anyone wanting to formulate his or her own cleaners, from the simple baking soda-and-vinegar concoction her mother used to clean pots and pans to more sophisticated blends of essential oils.
For a basic, all-purpose kitchen cleaner, Thorpe suggests a simple mix of essential oil and water.
Basic Kitchen counter disinfectant:
In a 16-ounce spray bottle, add pure water and 10 drops each of the following essential oils: lemon, lavender and oregano. Shake well. (If you don’t have a spray bottle, sprinkle a few drops of these essential oils onto a damp cloth.)
Spray and wipe down all the surfaces in the kitchen, including countertops, stovetop, appliances and sink. You can also spray it on cutting boards.
This creates a good anti-bacterial and anti-fungal disinfectant for the kitchen, Thorpe says.
Use half of a lemon and rub it in baking soda. Use the lemon as your scrubber on grimy, dirty areas when needed.
You can find more ideas at Six Persimmons, which is located at 840 Pearl St. in Boulder and is where you can also pick up a wide variety of organic essential oils. At Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary, which also stocks a wide selection of essential oils, you can find Karyn Siegel-Maier’s The Naturally Clean Home, a collection of 150 recipes for homemade cleaners that covers everything from cleaning hardwood floors to automatic dishwasher liquid.
And if you can’t avoid toxic cleaners entirely, there’s one other fact to keep in mind: New, energy-efficient homes can actually pose a slightly greater risk when it comes to toxic fumes. Having a tight “thermal envelope” that insulates the home more efficiently can mean less fresh air circulating through the building. Even if you use mostly natural cleaners, paints and air fresheners, it’s a good idea to open up some windows and air out your home regularly.For more tips on creating a toxic-free home and a list of chemicals to avoid, visit Eco Ellie’s blog at http://bit.ly/ellies.