Your Guide to Natural Household Cleaning

Fit4God is all about optimizing our health so that we can serve God to our fullest and best ability. We do that by not eating the toxins (grains, sugar, industrial oils) that are behind the obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and mental health epidemics. We do it by eating the most nourishing foods we can find, like grass-fed and pastured meat, wild-caught fish, healthy fats, eggs, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. But there is another source of toxins that you may not have considered: the toxins that are in the very household cleaners that you use to try to keep your home clean and healthy.
Household cleaners injure as many as 33 million people each year. We are exposed to a greater amount of toxins as well as a greater variety of toxins each year. Just in the last 50 years, some 70,000 to 100,000 new chemicals have been introduced to the market. Tests of people’s bloodstreams show that most people have a wide variety of toxins in their bodies, from lead, arsenic and mercury to BPA, PCBs, phthalates, and flame retardants.
Your own toxic load is determined partially by how old you are (the older you are, the more exposure you have had) and by where you live (some regions of the country are more toxic than others). It is also determined by your lifestyle. We may not be able to eliminate our toxic load, but we can lower it significantly. And it doesn’t have to come at the price of living in fear or spending a lot of money on specialty products. In fact, going green and reducing your toxic load can actually save you money. And you and your family will be healthier for it.
Household cleaners are especially problematic when overused (who hasn’t overused a product, thinking more is better?), used in small unventilated areas (like small bathrooms), or when someone is exposed to them repeatedly (think the mom like me who keeps to a strict once-a-week cleaning schedule, or the children in daycares or schools where cleaners are used daily).
Household cleaners can harm people in two ways. First, they can cause acute immediate damage if you inhale or ingest them or expose your skin to them for too long. Second, they can build up in your body, creating more serious long term problems down the road, or even damaging your future children. And for the hypersensitive, like me, they can cause immediate serious problems from even casual low-dose exposure. I have had neurological reactions to bleach in which my MS symptoms accelerated and left me fatigued for several weeks after exposure. And I quickly learned that, although I had cleaned with Murphy Oil Soap my whole life, once I had MS, I had to throw it out. Simply using a little Murphy Oil Soap diluted in water to clean the wood in my house brought on strong neurological reactions where my mind went foggy and my body went limp. I was home alone with my 18-month old the two times it happened and you can bet I never used it again.
Here is a list of common household cleaners, the toxins they contain, and what they can do to your body. Keep in mind that most of these toxins will not be listed on a label as an ingredient because they are a component or byproduct of the ingredients.
Six Toxic Household Cleaners
Bleach – Bleach is in many household products and can be very problematic. It can cause neurological problems, and when combined with ammonia or vinegar can release very harmful gasses that are corrosive to membranes, can damage lungs, and can bring on something similar to an asthma attack. Many products contain bleach or ammonia and if you don’t read labels carefully it can be very easy to mix the two.
Synthetic Fragrances in All Cleaners – Contain phthalates. Ninety percent of more of conventional cleaners can be synthetic fragrance. That “clean” smell that you love from your cleaners may be making you sick. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, interfering with the actions of hormones in the body. Phthalates can result in learning disabilities, precocious puberty, genital birth defects, low birth weight, and metabolic disorders, among others.
Toilet Bowl Cleaners – Contain chlorinated phenols. Main ingredients in Lysol, Pine-Sol, and Spic-n-Span. Can cause respiratory and circulatory damage, and can damage the liver, kidney, and eyes. Phenols are also an endocrine disruptor, capable of resulting the in same problems listed above under phthalates.
Window Cleaners – Contain diethylene glycol. Glycols can disrupt the neurological system.
Disinfectants – Contain phenols. Phenols disrupt the respiratory and circulatory systems.
Deodorizers – Contain formaldehyde as a byproduct. Formaldehyde is a respiratory irritant and a suspected carcinogen.
Floor Cleaners – Contain petroleum solvents. These are known to damage mucus membranes.
Natural Cleaning Solutions
I haven’t switched our household 100% (yet!) to natural cleaning products. I still use commercial laundry detergent and dryer sheets, and I don’t make my own toothpaste, but I am getting there. Here are some of the ways I clean naturally in my house, as well as a links to some other natural cleaning solutions others use.
All-Purpose Cleaner for Kitchens, Bathrooms, and Whatever Else – Vinegar is an excellent cleaner that I use all over the house. I use it to clean the kitchen sink, kitchen countertops, bathroom sink and counters, outside of the toilet bowl, ceiling fans, placemats, kitchen table and chairs, and baseboards. It leaves everything with a nice sparkling shine. Yes, the vinegar smell lingers for a bit, but it disappears within 15-30 minutes. It’s a natural deodorizer, so use wherever you need to get rid of smells. You can put 1 or 2 bowls of it in the dishwasher and run the dishwasher empty to clean the washer. It does not disinfect. I get a spray bottle and fill it with 1 part vinegar and 1 part water. I know some others who use 5 parts vinegar to 2 parts water. You can eat vinegar, so you know it’s not harming you. Do not, however, use vinegar on granite as it will harm it. Wellness Mama has an alternative and slightly more involved all-purpose cleaner recipe here.
Toilet Bowl – I haven’t yet made the switch away from chemicals in the bowl, but after researching this article and having one of my shirts ruined with bleach spots last time I cleaned, I’ll be making the switch. Pure vinegar or half a box of baking soda will both get rid of unsightly rings. You can pour in the baking soda, then add the vinegar. It will make a chemical reaction and you can scrub the toilet to get it clean. To disinfect, you can then spray with undiluted hydrogen peroxide and then wipe it down.
Glass and Windows – Use water and old newspapers for the most sparkling shine you’ve ever seen on glass. Or for mirrors, you can spray with vinegar/water and wipe with either newspaper or a microfiber cloth or cut-up t-shirt.
Mopping – I used to relish the “clean” smell of my floors after vigorously mopping with a traditional mop and my beloved Lysol. But when my aunt gave me money to buy a steam mop for Christmas, I jumped at the chance. And I have to tell you, that thing is WONDERFUL! First of all, it is much easier to use. All of my house except the bedrooms are ceramic tile, so I have a lot of mopping to do each week. That took a lot of muscle to scrub all that square footage with a regular mop. Steam mops clean (and disinfect!) through the power of steam, so you must drag the mop slowly and deliberately over the floor. Much less tiring! I LOVE that it sanitizes (by leaving the mop in place for about 8 seconds), which I do regularly around the kitchen sink, the toilets, and the place where the garbage can go. And the best part: No chemicals! Bye-bye Lysol! I just fill the basin with water, heat it up, and off I go. Just for kicks the other day I used my regular mop and a bucket of Lysol, and I was really sorry later. Not only was I physically tired from the job, but the chemical smell of the Lysol lingered ALL DAY. I used to think that signified “clean,” but now I know it signified phenols, which could be harming my lungs, hormones and brain. No thanks! I have read that the Shark steam mop has a pretty flimsy handle and some brands don’t really heat up to the point where they can sanitize. I bought the Eureka Hard-Surface Enviro-Steamer, which got excellent reviews online and I have been very happy with it. If you don’t have a steam mop and need to do regular mopping, just use 1 dup of vinegar  per gallon of water.
Dusting – I learned from my friend Vanessa in college that trying to dust with Pledge or Endust was a bad idea! Not only do they contain all kinds of nasty chemicals and cost a bunch, but they seem to immediately attract dust as soon as you finish using it. Great product! I use a soft cloth with water and rinse it out frequently. Works great, free, no chemicals.
Air Fresheners – Air fresheners leave chemicals in the air for you to breathe in and often have formaldehyde as a byproduct. Not what I want my family breathing! Get some of those refrigerator/freezer boxes (or just the regular ones) of baking soda and place them about the area you want deodorized. Works naturally without chemicals.
Oven Cleaners – You can tell from the chemical smell they leave behind for days and by the scary warning labels that these are not good products to have in your house. If you don’t have a self-cleaning oven, use baking soda. Open up the oven, sprinkle it with baking soda. Spritz it with water until it is wet and forms a paste. Leave it on for several hours or overnight and then rinse with water. It’s messy for sure, but it beats using the worst of the chemicals.
Grout – Clean grout by sprinkling baking soda on the grout and then spraying with hydrogen peroxide. Leave this on for 3-5minutes, then wipe off.
A sterile environment is probably not a healthy environment, and isn’t the best way to keep you and your family from getting sick. Health comes from a healthy immune system, and there is plenty of evidence that the hyper-sterile society we live in is contributing to our inability to be healthy. Obsessively cleaning with strong chemicals is counterproductive. Not only do they eliminate our exposure to some friendly bacteria that can help our immune systems get stronger, but they contain harmful chemicals that can cause serious immediate or long term health problems. Natural cleaning is easy, less expensive, and healthier. Give it a try!
Be healthy, be strong, be Fit4God!
For Further Reading
The Easiest Guide to Safe Household Cleaners You can Make Yourself - from Mark’s Daily Apple
Natural Cleaning: Bathroom – From Wellness Mama
Natural Cleaning: Kitchen - From Wellness Mama
10 Dangerous Everyday Things in Your Home - from Dr. Mercola

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