Spring is a celebration of life and renewal. Every year around this time, leaves and flowers return to the trees, bulbs erupt from the soil, grass again becomes green. We begin to come out of our winter hibernation, open the windows, get outside, and enjoy the life around us. The return of warm weather is also the start of the traditional spring-cleaning season. But why is spring cleaning synonymous with putting on your heavy-duty gloves and scrubbing your house? It should be the perfect opportunity to reduce toxic chemicals!
In addition to its connection to cleaning, spring is also a time to celebrate nature. Earth Day on April 20th, being the most famous celebration. It is a day when people aim to reduce their impact or improve their natural environment. Typically, Earth Day is filled with local clean-up events and opportunities for us to do better. But how to “do better” can be overwhelming. There are so many ways that we can reduce our impact—walk more, find products with less packaging, maybe eat less meat. There’s a good way to tie in your spring cleaning with the goal of doing something good for the earth, and yourself—use fewer chemicals while you clean.
Many cleaning products are toxic. Bleach and ammonia-based products can damage the skin, make eyes and nose burn, and if accidentally mixed, cause a dangerous chlorine gas! And these aren’t the only toxic chemicals in cleaning products. Many multi-purpose cleaners include 2-butoxyethanol, and extended exposure can cause liver and kidney damage. Other heavy-duty cleaners can include formaldehyde, perchloroethylene or sodium hydroxide. These chemicals can cause burning sensation in the throat or skin, damage the nervous system, headaches, insomnia, irritability, and even cause trouble with concentration.
You don’t necessarily need long, extended exposure to feel these impacts. I’m sure most of us have felt the sting in our nose while using a cleaning product or noticed that our hands feel dry and raw after cleaning. This isn’t your imagination! These products clean, polish, disinfect, and remove stubborn stains with toxic chemicals.
Thankfully, we can reduce harmful chemicals when we clean. There are many natural alternatives that can deliver similar or even better results!
Replace Ammonia with Vinegar
Vinegar is an acid, with a PH of 2.5 is it very good at removing water and rust spots, making it great for cleaning glass and mirrors. Ammonia is also hailed for its ability to clean glass, however, ammonia is corrosive and needs plenty of ventilation as well as gloves and a mask to use safely. Meanwhile, vinegar is so mild you can consume it! Although, it helps to flavor your vinegar with other ingredients like oil and spices (in the case of an oil and vinegar salad dressing) to improve the taste.
Nontoxic window and mirror cleaner recipe:
- 5 parts water
- 5 parts white vinegar
- 1 squirt of liquid dish soap or castile soap (optional- helps with stubborn grime)
- Mix together in a spray bottle
- Spray and wipe with a reusable cloth
Replace Multi-Surface Cleaner with Castile Soap
Castile soap has long been used for everything from shampoo to floor cleaner. And it still works well at many of these duties. The gentle soap is made from all-natural ingredients such as coconut and hemp oils. Because it doesn’t have harsh surfactants it doesn’t suds up as it cleans, which can make cleaning surfaces like countertops easier than those bubbly toxic cleaners.
What’s more, many of these soaps come in plant-based bottles, and from companies with sustainable missions, such as Dr. Bronner who has been making soap since 1858!
Nontoxic multi-surface cleaner:
- ¼ cup of Castile soap
- 1 quart of water
- 5 drops of your favorite essential oil (lemon or orange for a fresh scent, tea tree for germ-killing)
- Mix together in a spray or squirt bottle
- Gently swirl or turn the bottle upside down to fully mix
- Spray and wipe with a damp cloth (for stubborn grease and grime, let the cleaner sit for a few minutes before wiping up)
Replace Drain Cleaner with Baking Soda and Vinegar
Who remembers making a volcano as a child with these simple ingredients? This natural expansive foaming comes down to the ph differences between baking soda and vinegar. Baking soda is alkaline, with a ph of 8, white vinegar is an acid with a ph of 2.5. Mixed together, the vinegar dissolves the baking soda, creating a powerful cleaning mixture. Baking soda and vinegar is a great way to get stains out of upholstery or carpet or to unclog drains.
Non-Toxic Drain Cleaner
1. Pour boiling water down the clogged drain.
2. Pour a cup of baking soda into the drain followed by 1 cup of vinegar.
3. Cover the drain to keep in the reaction and wait 5-10 minutes.
4. Uncover and pour more hot water down the drain.
If the drain is still slow, repeat the method until it drains correctly. You can also add dish soap to the boiling water for better grease dissolving power if you need more oomph than just baking soda and vinegar can provide.
Replace Clorox Wipes with UV-C
While our bleachy Clorox wipes may claim to kill 99% of germs and bacteria, Connect-UV has found this claim to be quite misleading. Using a medical-grade Hygina testing meter, we found that a Clorox wipe really kills more like 40-50% of germs.
What is more, these toxic wipes should not be used on anything that goes near the face or mouth (i.e. pacifiers or masks) and the liquid can damage sensitive electronics such as tablets and phones.
UV-C light or ultraviolet-c light is naturally made by the sun, however, our atmosphere filters most of it out. This powerful shortwave light destroys the DNA of microorganisms such as germs, bacteria, and viruses chemical-free, making it a great way to reduce toxic chemicals!
UV-C light devices, such as the Connect-UV All-In-One Sanitizing Station, uses powerful UV-C lights to kill virtually all germs and bacteria in as little as 59 seconds! The box is big enough to fit cell phones, car keys, masks, makeup brushes, watches, earbuds, jewelry, pacifiers and small toys. Its magnetic sealed lid has an auto-off function, so if you open the box before it is done cleaning the lights will turn off, to protect your eyes, making it safe to use around children.
Additionally, the All-In-One-Sanitizing Station includes an aromatherapy diffuser, allowing you to scent your items with calming lavender or the essential oil of your choice (can you imagine a freshly sanitized eye mask with lavender essential oil to put on before bed? The box also supports wireless charging on newer phones equipped with the technology.
Replace Dryer Sheets with Wool Balls
Do you have a pesky rash that just won’t go away? Red bumps or itchy, irritated skin could be a reaction to your laundry cleaning products. There are many natural laundry detergents on the market now that can help soothe your skin. But don’t forget about your dryer sheets! These floral sheets contain many unnatural chemicals to produce their strong smell or provide the anti-cling we all use them for. Thankfully, wool dryer balls are an excellent replacement.
Produced from sheep wool, these balls are sustainable and renewable. The animal’s fluffy wool grows back each year and without sheering, the animals could suffer from overheating or infection. Wool has many helpful uses in our lives, due to its natural water and germ repelling qualities. It is also great at helping clothes dry faster and with less cling. Two to four dryer balls work best for most loads of laundry.
Are you worried that you’ll miss the scent of your favorite dryer sheet? Try putting a few drops of your favorite essential oil on the wool dryer balls before throwing them in. Add lavender on balls when you dry your sheets or pajamas for a relaxing bedtime escape or use grapefruit or orange on your exercise clothes to give you more energy.
Not only are these simple solutions non-toxic, they also can save you money over their chemical alternatives, can reduce waste, and leave your home healthier, and happier, with fewer unnatural scents to create headaches or dry your skin. Who knew it could be so easy to reduce toxic chemicals!
What ways have you reduced your chemical use around the house? Share with us on our Facebook page!