by Lawrence Wilson
© March 2019, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is solely the opinion of the author and for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
While plain soap is a safe product that breaks down quickly and does not build up in the body, the same is not true of detergents. Most, if not all of them, contain a number of chemicals that take ten years or more to break down. Many, if not all of them, also contain poisons that accumulate in the liver and elsewhere in the body.
“All-natural” and “plain and fragrance-free” cleaners and detergents are often just as toxic than the standard detergents sold in supermarkets.
This serious environmental problem is not well known. This article will serve as an introduction.
WHAT IS IN DETERGENTS?
Chemicals that are problematic include surfactants, stabilizers, foaming agents, fragrances, phosphates, and others. They include coconut products that are naturally derived substances. However, they are altered to produce the common surfactants that are found in all detergents. This is when they become toxic chemicals.
These chemicals build up in the soil and in water supplies. From there they find their way onto our crops and into the entire food supply. They also contaminate all the oceans of the earth today, and therefore affect all marine life on the planet.
Powders are better than liquids. Powders are generally less toxic than liquids.
Also, try to avoid fragrances. Some are okay and others are not.
Among the least harmful products are:
- Grandpa’s Pine Tar Soap is an excellent bar soap.
- Bon Ami is a scouring powder that works well for dishes and even laundry.
- Arm & Hammer powdered laundry detergent is better than most others. It is also inexpensive and widely available in supermarkets throughout the world.
- Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Biodegradable Cleaner.
- Soap nuts for the laundry. We would like to know if these work well.
- There are other less toxic products that are A-rated by the Environmental Working Group. For details, go to EWG Product Ratings.
Stay away from Calben brand products that advertise they are natural, but in our opinion something is not right about them.
To compound the detergent toxicity problem, some chemicals are not all listed on detergent labels. For this reason, consumers have no way to know about them.
The only way to know about them is to read reports by groups such as the Environmental Working Group, which tests and ranks detergents for toxicity.
The following is extracted from several articles on the internet:
Baking Soda and White Vinegar — Two Powerful Multiuse Cleaning Agents
In preparation for the Statue of Liberty's 100th anniversary in 1986, 99 years' worth of coal tar had to be removed from its inner copper walls, without causing damage. Baking soda — more than 100 tons — was the cleaner of choice,28 so there's a good chance it can remove dirt and grime around your home too. Here are a few examples of how it can be used:
Š Nonscratch scrub for metals and porcelain.
Š Nontoxic oven cleaner — Sprinkle 1 cup or more of baking soda over the bottom of the oven, then cover the baking soda with enough water to make a thick paste. Let the mixture set overnight. The next morning, the grease will be easy to wipe off. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge and wash the remaining residue from the oven.
Š Drain cleaner — To unclog a drain, pour one-half to 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, then slowly pour one-half to 1 cup of vinegar in after it. Cover the drain and let sit for 15 minutes. If it bubbles like a volcano, it means it's working as planned. Flush with a gallon of boiling water.
Š Carpet deodorizer — Liberally sprinkle baking soda over the carpet. Wait at least 15 minutes, then vacuum thoroughly.
Distilled white vinegar is another cleaning staple that has a long history of use. Depending on your age, you may recall your grandmother washing windows with a mixture of white vinegar and water. Indeed, it makes for a great window cleaner, but it also has disinfectant properties, with research showing white vinegar is useful for disinfection against Escherichia coli (E. coli), provided it's a freshly prepared solution of at least 50 percent vinegar.29
For disinfecting purposes, one study found spraying vinegar, followed by hydrogen peroxide, was effective for killing a variety of bacteria, including E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella.30 You can also spray white vinegar onto a dusting of baking soda to clean your tubs and tile floors.
A vinegar and water mixture makes a great all-purpose countertop cleaner as well, but for stone counters, use rubbing alcohol or vodka with water instead, as the acidity of the vinegar may harm surfaces such as marble and granite. For heavier-duty cleaning, like mildew on your bathroom grout, spray vinegar straight onto the area, let set for 30 minutes, then scrub with a sponge and warm water.
15 Ways to Clean With Lemons
Lemons, both the juice and peel, can be used throughout your home for cleaning and deodorizing. For example, you can use them to clean and freshen your:
Garbage disposal — Freeze lemon slices and vinegar in ice cube trays. Place a few frozen cubes down your disposal for cleaning and freshening. Alternatively, simply run some lemon peel through your disposal.
Refrigerator — Soak a sponge in lemon juice and let it set in your fridge for a few hours; it works better than baking soda to remove odors.
Room freshener — Simmer a pot of water with lemon peels, cloves and cinnamon sticks on your stove.
Humidifier — Add lemon juice to the water in your humidifier, then let the machine run for deodorizing.
Fireplace — Dried citrus peels can act as kindling in your fireplace, adding a wonderful smell and acting as a flame starter. Simply set the peels out to dry for a few days before using.
Trash cans — A few lemon peels added to your garbage can will help with odors.
Cutting boards — Sprinkle coarse salt on your cutting board then rub with a cut lemon to freshen and remove grease. This trick also works for wooden salad bowls and rolling pins.
Coffee maker — Run a cycle with plain water, then add a mixture of lemon juice and water to the water tank. Let it sit for several minutes, then run the cycle through. Repeat this process once more, then run another plain water cycle (you'll want to wash the coffee pot and filter afterward to remove any lemon taste).
Furniture polish — Combine lemon oil, lemon juice and olive or jojoba oil to make a homemade furniture polish. Simply buff with a cloth.
Hardwood floors — Combine lemon and vinegar for a grime-fighting nontoxic floor cleaner.
Cat box — Place lemon slices in a bowl near your cat box to help freshen the air.
Windows — Lemon juice cuts through grease and grime on windows and glass. Try combining it with one-fourth cup white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 cups of warm water31 for a phenomenal window cleaner.
All-purpose cleaner — Combine water, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice and lemon essential oil for a wonderful kitchen or bathroom cleaner.
Hands — Add lemon juice while washing your hands with soap to help remove stubborn odors like garlic.
Breath — Drinking lemon water helps freshen your breath (rinse your mouth with plain water afterward since lemon juice may erode your teeth).
All-Natural Antibacterial Cleaning Suggestions Using Castile Soap, Hydrogen Peroxide and Coconut Oil
Castile soap is natural, biodegradable, chemical-free and incredibly versatile. You can use it for personal care, laundry and cleaning around your home. For instance, mixing baking soda with a small amount of liquid castile soap makes an excellent paste for cleaning your tub and shower.
For a homemade antibacterial solution, mix 2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of castile soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil. Spray onto the surface (such as toilet seat or sink), then wipe off. You can even make a homemade dishwasher detergent by mixing equal parts of liquid castile soap and water.
Hydrogen peroxide is another antibacterial option. For general cleaning around the house, simply add 20 to 30 drops of citrus essential oil to a spritzer bottle filled with 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. Spray surface and wipe off. It's great on greasy surfaces such as your kitchen counters.
Coconut oil also has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal compounds that have been shown to inactivate microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and fungi. Around the home, coconut oil is particularly useful for cleaning, sanitizing and conditioning wood items, such as cutting boards and furniture, but you can also use it for lubricating squeaky hinges and sticky mechanisms instead of WD-40.
It also works well for moisturizing and softening leather goods in lieu of leather conditioners and for removing chewing gum from virtually any area, including carpets and hair.
Essential Oils Have Countless Uses
Essential oils deserve a category of their own, as their uses for household cleaning are only limited by your imagination. Many essential oils have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activity and can be added as a boost to your homemade cleaners.
For instance, to make a homemade cleaning scrub with antibacterial activity, simply add a few drops of lavender oil to baking soda. Some of the most popular essential oils for cleaning include lemon, peppermint and tea tree, with tea tree showing antiviral activity against viruses like influenza A.32Sweet orange is another option, which has been shown to work against E. coli and Salmonella.33
Essential oils can also be diffused around your home for a natural, therapeutic air freshener. Ditch the toxic sprays, candles and plug-ins for an essential oil diffuser instead. They not only smell wonderful but can have beneficial effects on your mood and stress levels.
Unlike synthetic fragrances, which pollute your air, essential oils may actually help to improve indoor air quality. In the case of fungi and mold, for instance, essential oils from heartwood, marjoram, cinnamon, lemon basil, caraway, bay tree, fir, peppermint, pine, cedar leaf and manuka may be helpful, as they all have antifungal properties.34
In addition, you can easily freshen your laundry without risking your family's health simply by spritzing your wet laundry with a mix of water and a few drops of essential oil before placing it in the dryer. Alternatively, add a dozen or so drops to an old wool sock, and put it in the dryer with your laundry. For more information on the properties of individual essential oils, be sure to check out our "Ultimate Guide to Herbal Oils."
Homemade Laundry Detergent and Bleach Alternative
Once you dip your toe into the world of natural cleaning, you'll realize there's virtually no reason to resort to toxic chemical sprays and powders. You can reach a superior level of clean using simple ingredients you probably have in your kitchen right now. And feel free to be creative, as some of the best combinations are found through experimentation.
You can even make your own laundry detergent, adding in any essential oils you like for a natural scent. Here's a recipe from Mommypotamus to get you started.35 Happy natural cleaning!
Homemade Natural Laundry Detergent
Š 6 cups washing soda
Š 3 bars coconut oil soap (4.5 to 5 ounces each)
Š Lemon essential oil (optional)
1. Cut soap into small chunks. Add to a food processor along with the washing soda.
2. Blend until you have a fine powder. You may want to lay a dish towel over the top of your food processor to prevent a fine mist of powder from floating into the air.
3. Also, let it settle a bit before opening the container or the powder will float onto your kitchen counter.
4. Pour the powder into a clean container. Keep the essential oil next to the jar and add 5 drops with each load.
For whites, consider this recipe for a bleach alternative, courtesy of Beyond Toxics.36
Bleach Alternative Formula
Š 1/2 cup Basic Liquid Formula (see below)
Š 1/4 cup borax
Š 1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar
Š 6 drops lemon essential oil
Basic Liquid Formula
Š 2 1/4 cups liquid castile soap
Š 1 tablespoon glycerin
Š 3/4 cup water
Š 10 to 15 drops lemon essential oil (or other essential oil of your choice)
1. This recipe makes enough for one load of laundry. Keep lemon juice separate until ready to use. Combine all ingredients into a plastic container, and shake once or twice before adding to the wash.
This article will be updated with new product recommendatons as we find them.