The cleaning products found under most kitchen sinks can wreak havoc on your health and budget, as well as our planet. In The Organically Clean Home (F+W Media, 2014), author Becky Rapinchuk offers 150 easy-to-make homemade cleaning products. In this excerpt, from chapter 1 “Organic Cleaning 101,” Rapinchuk analyzes why everyone should choose organic.
You can purchase this book from the Mother Earth Living store: The Organically Clean Home
Homemade Cleaning Products for the Kitchen
Citrus Liquid Hand Soap Recipe
Lemon Dishwasher Detergent Powder Recipe
Kitchen Disinfecting Spray Recipe
Why Use Organic Cleaning Products
There are many great reasons to switch to organic or natural cleaning products. Here are just a handful:
• Keep toxins out of your home. (Most homemade products are toxin-free!) According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidental household poisonings affect more than 300 children in the United States every day. If you keep the medicine cabinet locked and use cleaning products that are safe, you’re reducing your risk of an accident.
• Save some money. (You certainly will!)
• Cut down on what you’re sending to the landfill. (You can cut back dramatically on plastics by simply using reusable spray bottles and cleaning containers.)
• Use natural products because someone in your home has asthma or allergies. (Organic cleaners are much better to use around those with sensitivities.) Interestingly enough, the stuff that you clean with can actually make you sick, essentially negating the benefits of cleaning itself. According to the Environmental Working Group, conventional cleaning products and artificial fragrances can trigger asthma, can include low levels of 1,4-dioxane (a carcinogen), and can even include low levels of formaldehyde (another carcinogen) without disclosure.
• These ingredients can also lead to birth defects in pregnant women using the cleaners. Although many people don’t have any reactions to the toxins, why take a chance?
• No matter why you’ve decided to use organic cleaning products, you can rest assured that you are cleaning with the safest products and getting the best results at the same time.
Making Safe Cleaning Products the Norm
Perhaps the most common reason people choose organic cleaners is that they’re safer to have around the house than the store-bought versions. Sadly, safe cleaning products are not the norm. You’d think that cleaning products would have to be safe to be sold for home use, but that isn’t the always the case. I experienced this firsthand when my oldest child was a toddler and grabbed a “safe” cleaning product (sold to be used on highchairs and baby products) and sprayed it in her face and consequently her mouth. I grabbed the bottle from her hands and washed her off. After a quick glance of the bottle, I realized that a call to poison control was necessary. This incident ended safely with her drinking a cup or two of milk and taking a long bath, but my journey to finding safe cleaning products was just beginning.
Take a look at your cleaning product labels and read the warnings and lists of ingredients. You might see warnings like “hazardous to humans and animals” and “causes substantial but temporary eye injury,” and unpronounceable ingredients like “ethanolamine” or “hexoxyethanol.” Even the ingredient “fragrance” is a concern because it can cause skin irritation, and can trigger asthma and allergies. Scary stuff, right?
Commercial cleaners are composed primarily of water, chemicals, and fragrance. Some of these chemicals can aggravate allergies and skin sensitivities as well as pose poisoning risks to children and pets that may get their hands and paws on them when you aren’t looking.
Besides the obvious poison risks, breathing in the fumes of some cleaners can also be a health risk. For example, some cleaners say to use a mask or to ventilate a room while using, but most users probably don’t follow that safety rule. Even if you do, is that really a product you want to be using in your home?
As someone who is nervous about germs and getting sick (and then having a whole house of sick family members!), I understand the appeal of store-bought products that say they kill 99.9 percent of all bacteria. Killing germs is actually difficult to do, but in a normal household, making sure the surfaces are wiped down daily does get rid of the majority of germs and bacteria. If you want to kill them altogether, there are natural ways to do that with 99.9 percent accuracy, too—you’ll find a variety of disinfecting recipes in this book. When I realized that keeping counters clean and wiped down regularly will accomplish the same goal, I began making my own safe and natural cleaning products.
The Cost-Savings Factor
If making your own cleaning products isn’t appealing enough for safety reasons, you’ll actually be able to save money, too! Did you know you can make a bottle of all-purpose cleaner for pennies and you can make a batch of powdered laundry detergent for less than $5? A 16-ounce bottle of homemade granite cleaner costs less than 25 cents, whereas a 16-ounce bottle of granite cleaner at the store is at least $5.
That 68-load box of detergent you just heaved into your trunk and paid over $15 for? You can make it for under $5. Actually, with my recipe you’ll get a few more loads out of it so it’ll be an even better savings. If you purchase your ingredients in larger quantities, you’ll be making just about every cleaning product from this book to clean your entire home for mere pennies per use!
Check Product Ratings
A fantastic resource for determining the safety of products in your home is Environmental Working Group, online at www.ewg.org. They rate the safety of just about every over-the-counter brand and product. You’ll see that with the exception of borax, most ingredients in this book are an A on an A to F scale. I love a clean house, and I hold high standards for products that I create and endorse. It has to be safe and it has to work. This might seem like an easy accomplishment, but it’s not.
Excerpted from The Organically Clean Home Copyright © 2014 by Rebecca Rapinchuk, cleanmama.net, and published by F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.