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With three pets and four small children, I have to clean a lot.
I mean, A LOT.
All of that cleaning used to come with so many cleaners: lysol spray, linoleum and wood floor cleaners, toilet bowl cleaner, all purpose spray, Fa-breeze, carpet shampoo, air fresheners, bathroom cleaners, Clorox, dishwasher detergent, oven cleaner, window cleaner, dusting spray, fabric softener and detergent. That’s a lot of cleaning products!
As I have been learning more about natural health, and the toxicity of man-made chemicals, I’ve begun evaluating my vast array of cleaning products: I needed to know, “Are these chemical-based products really safe for my family?”
Chemical Cleaning Products: Learning the Truth
I admit, it wasn’t easy for me to research this topic. I like streak-free windows, the smell of bleach in a clean bathroom, Pinesol-cleaned floors and downy-fresh clothes too! Was I really ready to give all that up if that’s where my research took me? I honestly wasn’t sure, but I had know. So, what did I find out?
Cleaning Products May Cause Cancer
According to a 1985 EPA Report, toxic chemicals in household cleaners are three times more likely to cause cancer than outdoor air pollution, and are among the top contributors to indoor air pollution.
Another, 15-year study found that women who cleaned their own home had a 54% higher cancer rate than women who had others clean for them. The study concluded that toxic cleaning supplies was the culprit.
Chemical Cleaning Products and Indoor Pollution
The toxins in cleaning products are a major contributor to indoor air pollution. Keeping the windows closed can cause these toxins to build up to levels 2-100 times more than outside pollution levels.
Indoor air pollution can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, asthma, headaches, fatigue and dizziness, and even flu-like symptoms.
This is scary stuff!
Chemical Cleaning Products Contain Xenoestrogens
Xenoestrogens are estrogen mimicking compounds are found in everything from soy, meats and dairy to cleaning supplies to birth control pills, to plastics. They act like the hormone estrogen in the body, and can wreak havoc on your hormonal system.
Chronic exposure to Xenoestrogens can cause early puberty, reduce sperm count and quality, allergies, and estrogen dominance–symptoms of which include chronic fatigue reproductive problems, weight gain, thyroid problems, and mood swings.
Researchers looked at fish in a river in France (see article here)and found that almost the entire population were female.
Xenoestrogens in the water!
Doctors are seeing girls as young as six years old entering puberty.
Xenoestrogens in their food and environment.
Other Harmful Effects of Cleaning Products
A report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission identified 150 chemicals commonly found in homes that have been linked to birth defects, allergies, hormonal imbalances, cancer and psychological abnormalities.
So, exposure to the toxins in cleaning supplies–and by exposure, I mean, being around them during normal use– can cause eye irritation, itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, congestion, respiratory problems, nausea, headaches, central nervous system depression, rashes, cancer, hormone imbalances, birth defects, reproductive issues, and a whole host of other problems, and these chemicals can travel through the blood stream and into the placenta, effecting unborn children, and I have been using them everyday?
Chemical Cleaning Products Affect the Environment
The final piece–although the immediate health effects were enough make we want to change–was the environmental factor. “Where do these chemicals go once I have used them?” I began to wonder.
The answer was obvious: into the environment.
They are either released into the air or flushed down our drains and end up polluting rivers and lakes. In fact, a study from the University of Colorado found that cleaning products were a major source of air pollution in urban areas.
These chemicals can upset the nutrient balance in bodies of water and contaminate everything living in the water. The fish we eat, the water we let our children wade through, the lakes we ski in, all contaminated by these toxins.
Making the Switch to Natural Cleaners
I wondered, “Where should I even start?”
Natural products are typically much more expensive, and while absolutely worth it, I just didn’t have extra money to pay more to replace all of my cleaning products. I also was worried about viruses, bacteria, and other “germs,” and I just didn’t really know where begin.
You might be feeling a bit overwhelmed too. Don’t worry, you don’t have to change everything at once to make a difference. Here are some steps that I took to reduce my dependency on natural cleaners.
Commit to taking baby steps–one better choice at a time. Before you know it, you will look back and be amazed at how different your buying habits have become.
Ways to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality:
- Commit to opening your windows for at least 10 minutes every day to air out your rooms.
- Replace your air filters often
- Purchase air-purifying plants to filter out some of these toxins and improve your indoor air quality. You’ll need at least one plant for each bedroom and several for the main areas of your house.
Use Natural Cleaning Products Instead of Chemical Cleaners
Companies are finally taking the hint and today there are dozens of naturally-derived cleaners to choose from.
Swap Out Your Chemical Cleaners with DIY All-Natural Ones
Commercial Natural Cleaners are great but they can be expensive. Why not try making your own? Be sure to get my FREE printable with 5 easy DIY natural Cleaners to get you started.
A Few Final Tips
- Not sure where to start? Pick just one cleaner to replace each week or replace your cleaning supplies as they run out. This will also help to spread out the cost of replacing all of your cleaners.
- Mix and Match: I DIY some cleaners, and some I buy commercially.
- It’s okay to start small. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t feel ready to go natural on everything in your house. Every step you take towards more natural living matters. Maybe just change out the cleaners you use the most. I’m not all-natural yet, but I feel good about where I am now verses where I was this time last year.
- Worried about germs? Don’t be! Contrary to what the industry claims, there are natural ways to fight germs, but I’ll save that for another post.
What Are Your Favorite Natural Cleaners?
Let me know in the comments below! While you’re at it, what should I write about next? I’d love to hear from you!