You know you’re an adult when:
- You prefer to meet up with friends over coffee in the morning or on a weekend afternoon than at nighttime—past 9;
- You use your birthday or Christmas money toward rent;
- Grocery shopping or a Target run is an activity you report on when someone asks “What did you do today?”;
- You get a spring in your step when you hear music from your “youth”;
- You spend a Saturday morning at the mechanic, getting your oil changed;
- You get excited for “boring things”: like a car wash, a scented candle, or a new pair of fresh socks;
- You find you need more sleep than you once did;
- You wash your whites and colors separately;
- You find yourself saying, “When I was younger…”
- You invest in a “deep cleaning” for your home
I feel like such a big girl.
I hired a professional to come clean my home after a good six months of being well-lived in; and while I am a very tidy, neat person, some people simply have a gift of deep cleaning (that is was not me).
And I hired not just any professional, but a “conscious cleaning professional” at that.
Charles is a local guy in town who radiates ‘awesome Austin hippie vibe’ at it’s core—highly laid back, big on green juices and mindful meditation, long hair—just all around really rad.
He and his wife recently started their business “Conscious Cleaning Company” to provide Austinites with a “chemical free way to a healthier space.”
Our daily cleaning products we have been using for YEARS to clean our…counters, our floors, our bathrooms, our hands…our homes…are full of tons of toxic chemicals that are making us sick…unbeknownst to us.
Quite honestly, I’ve ignored this claim for years, thinking: “Everything nowadays causes cancer” when I would hear phrases like: “Our environment is full of toxins” or “Go green”, thinking… “Cool. Ya. Sure. But…(It’s convenient. It’s not going to kill me. It’s a bit extreme.).” However, knowledge IS POWER and the more I’ve become educated on the toxic chemicals lurking in our…homes, our cleaning products, hygiene products, makeup, our cooking supplies, etc.…the more I’ve come to realize that:
While no one can avoid exposure to toxic chemicals altogether, it is possible to reduce it significantly….And, consequently, (just like when you started eating ‘healthier’ or ‘real food’), you really have no idea how much better you can (and will) feel…
Firs things first, it’s all about getting educated!
The phrase “toxic chemicals” seems rather elusive doesn’t it?
What are these “toxic chemicals” of which “they” (the “Great and Powerful Environmental Oz”) speak?
And moreover, what do they really do to us? After all—they don’t bite or even have teeth!
How bad could they really be?
Here are some common culprits found in our homes and cleaning products:
Fragranced Household Products (dish soap, air freshener, toilet paper even!).
The dirty? Who doesn’t like smell-good things? If you see the word “fragrance” on a label, there’s a good chance phthalates are present. Phthalates are linked to endocrine problems (i.e. hormone issues), and are therefore known as ‘hormone disruptors’: chemicals that interfere with the body’s natural chemical messages, either by blocking or mimicking the actions of hormones.
For instance, according to a 2003 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Harvard School of Public Health, men with higher phthalate compounds in their blood had correspondingly reduced sperm counts.
Another study examined phthalate levels in apparently healthy girls who went through pre-mature breast development before the age of 8, compared with either (a.) girls who underwent early puberty due to abnormalities in their neuroendocrine systems or (b.) girls who underwent through puberty at normal ages. Researchers found that increased levels of phthalates were associated with early breast-development group, but with neither of the comparison groups (Chou, 2009), adding, “Early breast development in otherwise healthy girls is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer (Steingraber, 2007).”
Although exposure to phthalates primarily occurs through inhalation, it can also happen through skin contact with things like scented soaps, which is a significant problem
When possible choose fragrance-free or all-natural organic products. Consider bypassing aerosol or plug-in air fresheners and use essential oils or simply opening windows to freshen the air instead. Some of my favorite oils include: lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and tea tree oils; these have antibacterial, antifungal, or insect-repelling properties. (If you’re pregnant – stick with eucalyptus, lemongrass and tea tree oils). You can even buy pump-spray bottles that contain natural oils rather than synthetic fragrances.
Dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers (Tide to Go), and carpet/upholstery cleaners
The Dirty? These products contain a neurotoxin called Perchlorethylene (or ‘Perc’). “Neurotoxin” essentially means: It messes with your mind and brain. The primary route of contamination is through inhalation (think about the smell of your clothes when they return from a dry cleaner, or smell from a good ol’ carpet cleaning that lingers for hours). People who live in residential buildings where dry cleaners are located have reported dizziness, loss of coordination and other symptoms.
The Replacements: Switch from taking your curtains, drapes and clothes to get “dry cleaned” to instead be “wet cleaned” (which uses water-based technology rather than chemical solvents). Liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) is an environmentally safe alternative to more toxic dry-cleaning solutions. Ask around to various dry cleaners to see which method they use. As for spot removal on clothes, carpets or curtains, look for a nontoxic brand like Ecover at a natural market, or rub good ol’ fashioned undiluted castile soap directly on stains before washing.
Multipurpose, Kitchen & Window Cleaners
The Dirty? 2-butoxyethanol is the primary ingredient in many multi-purpose cleaners that gives them their characteristic sweet smell. 2-butoxyethanol is linked to causing sore throats when inhaled, narcosis, pulmonary edema, and severe liver and kidney damage.
The Replacements: Use what’s in your pantry!
- Baking soda works as a gentle scouring powder and eliminates odors.
- White vinegar is an antifungal that also kills germs and bacteria.
- Lemon juice is a pleasant-smelling non-toxic bleach, grease cutter and stain remover.
- Olive oil makes a wonderful natural furniture polish.
- Clean mirrors and windows with newspaper and diluted vinegar.
- Add essential oils to any of these mixes for a little refreshing smell
Oven Cleaners, Drain Openers
The Dirty? Sodium Hydroxide, or ‘lye’, is highly corrosive, causing severe burns if it touches your skin or eyes. Skin contact and inhalation are the primary means of dispersion.
The Replacements: Unclog your drains with this little trick: Pour a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down the drain and plug it for 30 minutes. After the bubbles die down, run hot water down the drain to clear the debris.
Toilet bowl cleaners, Mildew removers, laundry whiteners, tap water
The Dirty? Chlorine. Chlorine bleach is chemically reactive, irritating to the lungs, and potentially corrosive to skin or eyes.
The Replacements: For a bleach replacement, choose powdered oxygen cleaners instead of bleach. Oxygen bleaches use oxygen (duh) instead of chlorine to remove stains. Meaning: They won’t permanently stain fabrics and don’t release the toxic fumes that make regular bleach dangerous. Biokleen is a great chlorine-free oxygen bleach powder option.
In addition, Bon Ami, vinegar and/or baking soda are also great alternatives for cleaning. Stick to Bon Ami or baking soda for straight up scrubbing; clean toilet bowls with vinegar; and use vinegar or borax powder for whitening clothes. To reduce your exposure to chlorine through tap water, install filters on your kitchen sink and in the shower.
Fabric Softener Sheets, Most ‘anti-bacterial’ household cleaners
The Dirty? Quarternary Ammonium Compounds (“Quats”) are the leading cause of dermatitis (skin irritation) as well as respiratory disorders, like asthma.
The Replacements: Vinegar (white vinegar in particular) is the natural fabric softener and cleaner of choice. It removes soap residue in the rinse cycle and helps to prevent static cling in the dryer. Throw it in with your wash. As for chemical disinfectants in your household cleaners, use tea-tree oil. Mix a few drops of tea-tree oil with a tablespoon of vinegar and water in a spray bottle for a safe, germ killing, all-purpose cleaner. Add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil for scent. So simple!
Dishwashing detergents and ‘antibacterial’ hand soaps and gels
The Dirty? Watch out for Triclosan in these babies– an aggressive antibacterial agent that can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria as well as endocrine (hormone) disruption and cancers. In fact, ‘antibacterial’ soaps in particular are marketing hype if anything, with studies in recent years revealing that they really are no better (and actually worse) then using plain soap and water.
The Replacements: Practice good hand hygiene with that plain Jane soap and water:
- Use warm, running water, and a mild soap (avoid antibacterial soap)
- Work up a good lather, all the way up to your wrists, and scrubbing for at least 15 or 20 seconds (most people only wash for about 6 seconds)
- Make sure you cover all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers, and around and below your fingernails
- Rinse thoroughly under running water
- In public places, use a paper towel to open the door as a protection from germs that the handles may harbor
As for dish detergents—look for eco-friendly versions, such as:
- Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Powder, Free & Clear
- Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Detergent Concentrated Pacs, Free & Clear
- Green Shield Organic Squeez Automatic Dishwasher Liquid Detergent, Lemongrass
The Honest Co. Honest Auto Dishwasher Gel, Free & Clear
…Or, if you are feeling crafty and Pinteresty, try making your own! See below!
Phew…ok that’s a lot of information and a lot of scientific names of ingredients you and I had no idea about!
Here are a few take home points for de-toxing your home so you can breathe better, empower (not harm) your health and feel even more amazing! (I know I do after having my own home cleaned in an eco-friendly way for the first time ever!)
1. Read your labels. Detergents have two major ingredient categories: “builders” to reduce water hardness and “surfactants” to lower the surface tension of water.
- Avoid the bad “builders”, namely any kind of phosphates, which contribute to the deoxygenation of marine environments, and EDTA, (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), which can bind to heavy metals and cause damage to both people and aquatic animals.
- Instead, go for products that use safe builders such as sodium citrate.
- Avoid these “surfactants”: butyl or 2-butoxyethanol, which are toxic when inhaled, and oxalates, which can interfere with hormonal regulation above certain concentrations.
Instead, choose surfactants like alkyl polyglycoside, isopropanol and glycerol.
2. Do your research. Unsure of whether a product you use is ‘good’ or not? Or want to find great alternatives for detoxing your home and cleaning needs?
Check out the EWG’s Guide to Health Cleaning here.
They list tons of products for all your household needs, from air fresheners and all-purpose cleaners, to floor care, laundry and kitchen duty.
3. Commit to treating your body well. Just like you value and keep conscious about what you put in your body (what you eat), treat your environmental options the same way. You can tremendously impact your health, your skin, your energy levels, and ultimately how you feel through a truly clean and healthy environment. It’s the little things in life people.
4. Get crafty (and save money)
Here are 6 awesome recipes for DIY home cleaning agents that you can make yourself on the cheap!
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
Put mixture in a spray bottle and label contents.
Use baking soda in place of scouring powder. Sprinkle it on porcelain fixtures and rub with a wet sponge. Add a little soap to the sponge for more cleaning power. Rinse well to avoid leaving a cloudy film.
1/2 cup vinegar
1 quart warm water
Few drops of liquid soap (optional)
Mix ingredients in a spray bottle and use on glass surfaces. Rub with a lint-free cloth and polish with wadded up newspaper. For dirty outdoor windows, wash with soapy water, rinse well, and squeegie dry.
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup vinegar
Kettle of boiling water
This recipe will free minor clogs and is great preventative medicine. Pour the baking soda down the drain first, then the vinegar. Let it bubble for a few minutes. Then pour down a kettle full of boiling water. If clog is stubborn, repeat or use a mechanical snake.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Don’t bother with strong disinfectants or acids. Use a non-chlorinated scouring powder or baking soda and liquid soap to clean the toilet bowl thoroughly and often.
Copper scouring pad
Make a paste of baking soda and water, apply to oven surfaces, and let stand a little while. Mechanical action is the key. Use a copper scouring pad for most surfaces. A razor blade is effective to get under large food deposits.
Mix equal parts vinegar and salt and apply to surface with a sponge or immerse object in solution. Rinse thoroughly with water afterwards, otherwise it will corrode. Apply a little vegetable oil with a cloth and rub for a shiny appearance. (Don’t use on lacquered finishes.)
- 1 cup washing soda (old recipe used baking soda)
- 1/4 c. citric acid
- 1/4 c. coarse salt
- 10-15 drops of citrus essential oil (Optional. Orange, grapefruit, or lemon essential oils have great cleaning as well as antibacterial properties.)
- Distilled white vinegar (in the rinse aid compartment)
Mix first 3 ingredients well in an air tight container. Add essential oil. Mix again. Fill your rinse aid compartment with undiluted white distilled vinegar.
Use 1 tsp. detergent for average loads.
Use 1 tbsp. detergent for extra greasy, dirty loads.
*Look for all these ingredients at Mountain Rose Herbs!
Giveaway. And, if you don’t feel like making your own products…or you simply want to clean up your environment in a non-toxic friendly way, consider hiring Conscious Cleaning Company to come to your house! In fact, if you tell Charles that Dr. Lauryn sent you, you get $20 off your first cleaning, or $60 off a 5-hour project (if you have a bigger home or space that definitely needs some love!).
Visit their website here: http://home/laurynlax/public_html.consciouscleaningaustin.com
And contact them here: 512.923.5687
Boom! Clean (and refreshed) house here you come.