Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Toxic Household Cleaners
Our Western society seems to be obsessed with cleanliness. This obsession has infiltrated all aspects of our life. We want everything squeaky clean. We mustn't have a thing out of place. Neatness and hygiene reigns supreme. Imagine our horror if our friends saw a cockroach traverse our domain.
We want our bathrooms and kitchens disinfected with hospital-grade disinfectant to make sure there are no hidden 'baddies' lurking. We want our whites, whiter than white. Our floors and benches must shine. And of course industry is there to make sure our obsession is fed. Which came first? Was it the corporate marketers telling us we have to be squeaky clean, or was it some misguided puritan drive triggered by mothers having to be super-people? Which ever it was, the obsession is in full flight in our culture.
Did you know, alkylphenol ethoxylates, or APEs, which are used as surfactants and degreasers in hundreds of household cleaning products, can cause cancer cells to proliferate and can disrupt the endocrine systems of fish, birds, and mammals when they degrade in water into highly toxic compounds?
The chemicals in our household cleaning products are among the most toxic compounds found in the home. The typical home today contains more chemicals than were found in chemical factories of 100 years ago. Although marketing would have us believe these products are benign, using these products can expose our families to toxins through inhalation, absorption through the skin, or through ingestion when food or beverages come into contact with a surface cleaned with a toxic product, or when the food or beverage absorbs the chemical from the air.
We can put the blame with marketers or with ourselves. Either way, we need to take action. We need to know what is in the cleaners, scourers, bleaches, antiseptics, disinfectants etc that we douse our homes with on a daily basis. We also need to reassess just how clean, and germ free our homes need to be. When they are 'too' clean and germ free they are no longer feel like a home, and are one of the more toxic environments we encounter.
What often happens is that as people become more aware of the nasty chemicals in household cleaners etc they naturally start to get perspective on what is important. As we start to make changes in what we use to clean our homes, we also seem to get more in touch with what a home is, and just how clean it need to be.
Eco-friendly cleaning products are eco-friendly all round. They are:
- less polluting to manufacture;
- less polluting on the water environment to use;
- in most cases they are less likely to cause injury if accidentally ingested;
- generally less expensive than toxic chemical household products;
- accompanied by reduced packaging waste;
- not polluting to the indoor environment;
- simple and effective and have been used for generations; and
- fewer products because one product cleans many surfaces.
Toxic chemicals in the home can easily be eliminated. It is a case of knowing which ones are toxic and knowing which ones are not. Then we take that information to the supermarket. It is very seductive to think we can buy the best cleaning product out there that will save us time and effort. And the advertising market addresses that feeling. It is important to remember that the traditional cleaners are often more efficient and easy to use.
There are two things you need to know:
1. What chemicals are in household cleaning products, and their associated health risks;
2. What are safe household cleaners and where to use them.