Cleaning the chemicals out of your home

TIP OF THE MONTH – June 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Growing up, cleaning wasn’t just about removing the dust. Our house wasn’t clean until you could smell the Pine-Sol, LYSOL, Windex and Mr. Clean throughout the house. While many of us now use cleaning products that include enticing scents like Magnolia Lily or Jasmine Mint, these synthetic fragrances just mask the noxious solvents that we use in our households year after year.  Many conventional cleaning products are based on petrochemical VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and create air pollution within your home. Unfortunately, these chemicals build up in your home each time you use these cleaners. As they evaporate, the can make their way into your body and are dangerous to your health, causing dizziness, eye irritation, skin rashes and respiratory problems. I decided long ago that it isn’t worth risking our health and so I set out to find alternative products to make my home sparkle.

Once I started my research, I couldn’t believe how many things could be cleaned with white vinegar. The magical elixir of half vinegar and half water cleans everything in my home from windows to toilets. I even add a little baking soda and grape seed oil to wash apples and other fruit before eating. Kids love the ‘science experiment’ caused mixing these ingredients – just one tablespoon of baking soda added to the water and vinegar provides an entertaining show of foaming bubbles.

So we have windows to refrigerators to countertops covered, but what about the cooktop and oven? You guessed it…vinegar and water for general cleaning and for those stubborn stains – mix half sea salt and baking soda, add water to form a paste, cover the spot and let it sit for ten minutes and then spray with your vinegar mixture to scrub your ‘Comet’ clean. For the most serious gunk, I turn to Bon Ami, the barkeepers’ friend and rated a 10 for health by

Since we’re talking ‘gunk’, nothing is worse in my book than cleaning grout. For most situations, I find if I dampen the area with water and then sprinkle baking soda on the area – followed by a light scrubbing with an old toothbrush, things look as good as new. I read that one part hydrogen peroxide to one part water is great for getting rid of mold. However, only mix what you’ll need for the current application as hydrogen peroxide loses effectiveness when exposed to light, air and water. Explains why it’s sold in brown bottles. Hydrogen peroxide is also a wonderful alternative to bleach. Add a cup to your whites as you would bleach and enjoy the whitening benefits without the issues associated with laundry bleach to you and your clothes. Besides the effects of the chemical off-gassing, and the warnings on major brands that product may cause eye irritation and skin burns, chlorine bleach is harsh on the fibers of your favorite T-shirt shortening its life. While we’re talking about laundry, use laundry soap without NPE (nonylphenol ethoxylate) which is an endocrine disruptor and estrogen mimic. In other words, it can mess with your hormones and reproductive functions. Unfortunately, manufacturers’ aren’t required to disclose detailed ingredients and such information to consumers. Once again, I turned to and boy was I surprised to find that the brand with the cute snuggly bear fairs the worst!

Here’s a few of my favorite ways to save money and reduce chemicals when cleaning your home:

Air Freshener: Add 10 drops lavender (or other essential oil) and 2 tablespoons baking soda to 2 cups hot water. Pour into spray bottle.  For a whole house freshener, bring 2 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of cinnamon to boil and let simmer on the stove top.

Disinfectant:  20-30 drops tea tree extract, 3 tablespoons castile soap and white vinegar. Mix in a 16-ounce sprayer and top with water. “Germs be gone”.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Sprinkle baking soda in toilet, spray with vinegar and scrub

Furniture polish: ½ cup lemon juice, ¾ cup olive oil. Mix and add to spray bottle. Polish with soft cloth.

Dishwashing rinse:  White vinegar. I just pour it straight into the compartment for spot-free glasses and dinnerware.

And while we’re cleaning, there’s one more thing to ‘clean out’ of your routine. Antibacterial soaps and hand-sanitizers. Most of these products rely on Triclosan, which is an active ingredient in pesticides. Triclosan is quickly absorbed into the skin and entering the blood stream is known to cause allergies, hormonal and neurological side effects.  Our dear friend Peggy Yamamoto shares her secret alternative as gifts in lovely blue glass bottles: Mix 3 ounces vodka, ½ teaspoon glycerin, 15 drops tea tree oil, 25 drops lavender oil.

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News












One response to “Cleaning the chemicals out of your home

  1. Cynthia ~ I love all your articles, but this one is really spot on! Thank you for sharing all this wisdom in one comprehensive article!