They say cleanliness is next to Godliness, but is our extensive use of cleaning products doing us more harm than good? Here is our list of the best DIY green cleaners for your home.
Since the 50s, we’ve been using all sorts of potions and concoctions to clean our kitchens and bathrooms. And while they may promise to obliterate every last germ and achieve a sparkling clean finish, it’s not until recently we’ve started to investigate the effect these toxic chemicals have on our health.
Environmentalists have been highlighting the impacts of washing household chemicals down our drains for years, and now science is backing up suspicions that these chemicals may not be so good for our health either.
Wiping your benches down with a commercial product once a night probably won’t make you ill – but according to Tom Natan, chemical engineer with The National Environmental Trust, most people use more than one cleaning product with repeated exposure, and it’s these combinations that are doing the most harm. "We are exposed, in the process of cleaning our homes, to more than the manufacturers projected," Natan told LiveScience.com. "You get the sum total together, and you've got to wonder, why are you using these things?"
80,0000 chemicals are currently in common use in household cleaners – and there is mounting evidence to suggest that these volatile organic compounds can impair neurological functions, while other chemicals act as respiratory irritants, carcinogens or reproductive toxins according to The National Environmental Trust and other environmental groups.
Chemical residues from conventional cleaning products cling to surfaces and linger in the air and since most of us spend 90 per cent of our time indoors, we breathe in more of these chemicals than we think.
Even more worrying is the fact there is little regulation of cleaning products and virtually no labelling. "I think as a general rule, people who are avoiding these very toxic chemicals are going to be healthier," said Natan.
So what’s the answer for green germaphobes? You’ll be happy to hear that you don't really need any chemicals to clean - while chemicals may make cleaning easier, they don’t necessarily make cleaning better.
The list below might need a bit more elbow grease, but when you think about the benefits to your health, your family, the environment and your wallet, the extra sweat will be worth it!
Most green cleaners will use the following combinations of these ingredients, and most of these you’ll already have in your kitchen cupboard.
• Baking soda
• White vinegar
• Hydrogen peroxide
• Corn starch
• Essential oils, like tea tree oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, or lemongrass oil
• Castile soap (like Dr. Bronner's)
• Fresh herbs, citrus, or citrus peels
• Olive or vegetable oil
• A few spray bottles and nozzles
For a basic cleaner, mix a solution of 50/50 water and vinegar with a few drops of essential oil for an amazing all purpose cleaner. Vinegar loosens dirt, disinfects, deodorises and helps remove stains.
Lavender oil smells great and is a natural disinfectant. Don’t use this on stone surfaces as the acidic properties can damage. For stubborn stains, attach a nozzle to a three per cent solution of hydrogen peroxide.
FOR THE KITCHEN
* Cutting boards
Combine hydrogen peroxide and vinegar to clean and disinfect wooden cutting boards.
Soak your sponges in a solution of 50 per cent hydrogen peroxide and 50 per cent water for 10 minutes, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry to remove bacteria.
To shine a chrome sink, use two tablespoons of salt and one teaspoon of white distilled vinegar to create a paste.
Clean your oven without harsh toxic chemicals. Start the evening before, and mix up 1½ cups bicarb/baking soda with enough white vinegar to make a paste. Wipe this paste over the inside of the oven and on the door, particularly over the dirty spots. If your oven is greasy or very dirty, add a squirt of dish liquid. Leave overnight, and scrub with dish liquid and water the next day.
Get your fridge sparkling clean and smelling fresh with a half and half solution of water and white vinegar.
Dishwasher’s can be effectively cleaned once a year by pouring vinegar into the washing agent hole of your dishwasher and run a single load on hot water.
Clean your microwave with three tablespoons of lemon juice with a cup of water. Head on high five minutes, allow the steam to condense and wipe down. Squirt the juice of one fresh lemon in a bottle of water and use in your microwave for a quick refresh.
Baking soda can be used to remove stubborn stains on your bench tops. Sprinkle onto surface and rub with a damp cloth.
Pour baking soda and vinegar down your sink to clean. Add an extra cup of vinegar 10 minutes later. Flush with hot water, and repeat as necessary.
* For your mirrors and windows
One part vinegar and one part water in a spray bottle will work beautifully to clean mirrors and windows, but for extra shine factor, add in two teaspoons of rubbing alcohol, eight drops of citrus oil and two teaspoons of the secret ingredient corn starch. Use old newspapers for a good shine.
FOR THE BATHROOM
* Multi-purpose cleaner
Boraxis an incredibly effective cleaner for the bathroom. Sprinkle on a damp sponge to clean the shower stalls, tubs, and walls to remove soap scum, hard water spots and dirt.
Clean the grout with ½ cup baking soda, ¼ cup of vinegar. Mix in a small container. Using a toothbrush, apply paste to grout. Allow to sit for five minutes.
* Toilet cleaner
For a natural toilet cleaner, scrub with baking soda, borax and white vinegar combined. Leave for 20 minutes. Use a spray bottle with a few drops of tea tree oil as a toilet deodoriser. Spray into the toilet bowl after each use, or as needed.
* Liquid soap
There’s no need to buy expensive liquid hand cleaners when you can make your own that’s kinder to your skin – and your wallet! Grate two bars of castile soap. Heat water in a large pot, and stir in the soap. Let sit for 12 hours and thicken, stir in essential oils such as lavender, citrus or vanilla extract. Pour into three bottles.
FOR THE LIVING ROOM
* Carpet stains
To remove grease spots from carpets use one part salt to four parts rubbing alcohol, scrub and rinse well.
* Wood furniture
Combine two cups of olive oil with one cup of lemon or vinegar to clean wood furniture. Rub into the wood well.
* Air freshener
Don’t bother with commercial aerosols – a spray bottle with water and a few drops of essential oils works just as well.
FOR THE LAUNDRY
* Brighten your whites
You can use one cup of hydrogen peroxide in your wash to brighten your whites without bleach.
* Laundry detergent
For a natural home made laundry detergent, mix one cup of baking soda, one cup of borax and one bar of castile soap, grated. Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use approximately one tablespoon per load of laundry.
Have you got any green cleaning tips you’d like to share? Comment below!