When we hear the term “environmental pollution,” what usually comes to mind are the toxins we encounter when we venture outside, like exhaust fumes, smog, pesticides, and even radioactive chemicals.

However, there is another major source of toxins that are lurking a little closer to home. These toxins follow you home from the grocery store, where it settles onto your countertops, your dishware, your bathroom, your clothes, your hair, and eventually, your body. This source is your cleaning products.

“Fresh,” “sparkling,” and “germ-free,” are all familiar terms used by companies to describe mainstream cleaning supplies.

While these labels may make consumers feel safe and clean when using these products, the truth is much dirtier and far from safe.

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are toxic fumes emitted from solids and liquids, and are extremely common in household products. Cleansers, disinfectants, air fresheners, glues, and aerosol sprays (think Lysol, Tide, Febreeze, etc.) are just a handful of products that contain high levels of VOCs (1).

Most of these VOCs, such as ethylene-based glycol ethers common in water-based cleaners, are classified as hazardous air pollutants under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act Amendments and as toxic air contaminants by California’s Air Resources Board (2, 3).

Yet, even though they can cause major toxicity symptoms, ranging from eye and throat irritation to liver, kidney, and nervous system damage and even cancer, they are still promoted for use indoors (4).

And the scariest part? If you’re using these substances in your home, your exposure isn’t limited to the timeframe that you used it in. For instance, you aren’t limiting your exposure time to these chemicals only when you’re cleaning the shower or the toilet; VOCs expose you to very high pollution levels during use and remain in the air long after you’re finished (5).

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Natural Alternatives

Luckily, nature has provided plenty of natural options for cleaning that won’t give off toxic VOCs and aren’t classified as carcinogens. In addition, many are cheaper than their chemical alternatives and can be made with ingredients you probably already have on hand.

Natural Cleaning Recipes: Main Ingredients

You’ll notice that most of these recipes include baking soda and/or white vinegar as their base. This is because both vinegar and baking soda are nature’s powerhouse stain removers, buffers, and disinfectants (not to mention super cheap).

Baking soda in particular has a strong alkalinity (8.1 on the pH scale) and a crystalline structure that acts as a gentle abrasive to help dissolve stains and buildups. It also has antibacterial properties, making it a great natural deodorizer – another reason you’ll see it in the ingredient list of store-bought natural toothpastes and deodorants (6).

Vinegar also has some pretty impressive antibacterial properties. In one study, vinegar was shown to be effective against several foodborne bacteria strains, including E-coli. Interestingly, this effect was increased when the vinegar was combined with salt, which is exactly what several of the recipes below do (7).

When combined, vinegar and baking soda create a highly effective natural stain remover and antibacterial cleaner base that won’t add to your daily toxin exposure.

9 Natural DIY Cleaning Products

So without further ado, let’s dive into those natural cleaning recipes. Don’t worry: even if you’re not in the mood for a cleaning spree, you’ll still find yourself rummaging through your cabinets for the ingredients once you see how simple they are to put together!

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

Recipe by: Megan Patiry
Use this cleaner for countertops, windows or bathrooms!

Tools

  •  16 oz glass spray bottle

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 3 drops lemon essential oil

Instructions

  • Combine all of the ingredients in your glass bottle and shake.
  • Spray on kitchen countertops and other surfaces as needed. Since the ingredients will settle and separate, give this cleaner a light shake before each use.

Homemade Shower and Tub Cleaner

Recipe by: Megan Patiry
Kill germs and fight mold with this bathroom cleaner.

Tools

  • 16 oz glass spray bottle

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3-5 drops lemon essential oil

Instructions

  • Combine all of the ingredients in your glass bottle and shake.
  • Spray throughout your tub and shower as needed. Since the ingredients will settle and separate, give this cleaner a shake before using.

Homemade Glass Cleaner

Recipe by: Megan Patiry
Use this cleaner to wipe smears off windows and mirrors.

Tools

  •  16 oz glass spray bottle
  • Cloth or paper towel

Ingredients

  •  1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water

Instructions

  •  Combine the vinegar and water in your spray bottle.
  • Use on glass or mirrors as needed, letting the solution sit for 30 seconds to a minute before wiping away for hard stains.

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner

This article is shared with permission from our friends at Paleohacks.

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