Do you know that indoor air pollution is even worse than outdoor air pollution?
If you want an eye-opening view of what toxins lurk in your home, please watch this episode of Inside Man by Morgan Spurlock.
Part of what started me on this whole journey of simple and natural living, was cleaners. Way back when my oldest was a newborn, I suddenly became aware of how toxic my cleaning supplies were. I recall making sure she was safely asleep in her room, with her door closed, before I would clean the bathroom. I wanted to protect her from those toxic fumes. Then I had a bit of an epiphany ~ why was I willing to expose myself to them? After all, I was her mom – didn’t I want to stay healthy, too? I also realized that if the fumes were so toxic, then what kind of residue were they leaving behind on my tub (which she bathed in), the floor (which she would eventually crawl on), etc. However, at the time, I wasn’t really aware that there were other options. I grew up using things like Windex, Pine Sol, Comet, and the like… were there really other things you could use to clean your home?
Fast forward a couple of years, when I gave birth to my 2nd child. When he was 5 months old, I was snuggled up with him on the couch, nursing him, and watching an episode of Oprah. It was all about the toxins that were in our homes, and she gave alternatives that were safe and non-toxic. This is the point that the light bulb went on. It was a very distinctive point in time, as it really changed the whole trajectory of our lives. Everything she pointed out on the show, I realized we had in our home. All the cleaners, personal care products, scented plug-ins, even the disposable diapers I was using on my baby were toxic. It became my new mission to detoxify our home, one item at a time. The very first thing I started with, was our cleaning supplies. I figured they were the most toxic thing we had in our home. I began replacing everything with store-bought, natural versions of the cleaners I was used to purchasing. I also discovered the miracle of vinegar! It was so useful for cleaning windows and mirrors.
Over time, I wanted to save some money, so I began phasing out the store-bought natural cleaners and replacing them with homemade versions. Doing so also greatly simplified my life, and reduced our waste. Instead of purchasing multiple bottles of different products (which I would then have to recycle), I could simply buy a few basic ingredients in bulk and keep re-filling my own bottles. Less things to buy and store, less things to recycle, and a win for the planet!
Here are some of the basic cleaners that I make for my home. You’ll notice how incredibly simple they are, and how few ingredients they require.
I always keep a very basic, all-purpose cleaner on hand. It’s simply 50/50 vinegar and water, and about 10-20 drops of essential oils. I sometimes switch it up, I like lemon and wild orange. You could also use things like tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass… whatever you like, really! All essential oils have anti-bacterial properties, but some are better for cleaning than others. You can play around and see what you like! Depending on the seasons, I like to use different oils.
I use a plastic spray bottle for this, because a large glass bottle would be too heavy to carry around the house. Just make sure you invest in a higher-quality plastic bottle. Cheap, dollar store ones will break down very quickly with the essential oils. I purchased mine at a local hardware store (TSC). You want a professional-quality sprayer.
Advertisers would like us to believe that we need a different cleaning product for every application in our home. It’s simply not true, and I have drastically simplified my cleaning cupboard, replacing almost all of my cleaners with this one simple cleaner.
I use this for:
- pet messes
In place of something like Comet, I wanted something that I could use when things needed an extra good scrub. Like my stainless steel sink or my bath tub. I came up with this very simple cleaner!
- Baking soda
- Lemon essential oil
I simply took an old tomato sauce jar, and using a hammer and nail, poked some holes in the lid. Filled the jar with baking soda and lemon essential oil (10-20 drops). This works amazingly well – and leaves a lemony fresh scent behind! It takes all the grunge out of my kitchen sink and leaves it shiny.
Sometimes, spring cleaning tasks require an extra boost of cleaning power. When doing things like washing down walls, I mix some natural dish soap with vinegar, and add a few drops of citrus oils. Citrus oils are amazing for cutting grease and dirt. I just add some dish soap and vinegar, and about 10 drops of essential oil to my sink and fill it up with hot water. Then I use a rag or a cloth to wipe down the walls or extra dirty surfaces. Not only does it clean amazingly well, but nothing beats a clean, citrusy scent. You will totally fall in love with this version of clean, rather than leaving behind a stinky chemical scent.
To clean my bathroom, I absolutely love to use dōTERRA’s OnGuard Cleaning Concentrate. It’s a concentrated, plant-based solution that you dilute with water. I add just 1-2 tbsp of this to a spray bottle of water, and that will usually last me a couple of weeks with daily use. I use a glass spray bottle for the bathroom, because it looks pretty, and also I’m not carting it around, so I don’t mind that it is a little heavier. I also use the concentrate straight-up for cleaning my tub. I just apply some to a cloth and wipe everything down. The bottle of concentrate lasts me months, with daily use in the spray bottle and weekly use for cleaning the tub.
I haven’t had much luck with coming up with an effective dish soap recipe. Instead, I buy an all-natural, Canadian-made dish soap in one gallon jugs and just decant it into a smaller container which I keep at my sink. Because it is unscented, I like to add essential oils to it to liven it up a little. About 10 drops is plenty for this much dish soap. You can add more or less depending on how much scent you like. The brand of dish soap I use and love is called Nature Clean.
I used to buy a powdered laundry soap from Nature Clean. I could get it in very large boxes that would last us 6 months or more. However, for whatever reason, it’s no longer available, so I decided it was time to try making my own. Making my own laundry soap was something I had wanted to do for a long time, I just needed an excuse!
Here is my simple recipe:
- 1 bar of natural or homemade soap
- 1 cup borax
- 1 cup Super Washing Soda
- 25 drops of your favourite essential oil(s). At Christmastime, I was obsessed with Holiday Joy. Most of the time, I like to use OnGuard and Lemon.
I grate the bar of soap in my food processor, then add in the other ingredients and blend it all up. I use 1 TBSP per load.
If you wish to make a larger quantity at once, you can use this recipe:
- 1 box borax
- 1 box Super Washing Soda
- 4 bars of natural or homemade soap
- 100 drops of your favourite essential oil(s)
Fabric softener is actually one of the most toxic items in your home, especially those dryer sheets. They essentially leave a chemical residue on your clothing, which you (and your family) are wearing against your skin. Those chemicals are being absorbed into our bodies and building up our level of personal toxicity. When you use your dryer, those toxins are also being vented into our environment. Not really a good situation.
A great, simple fabric softener is simply adding some plain white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washing machine. You can also purchase wool dryer balls for use in your dryer, where you can add a few drops of essential oils for scent. The dryer balls also help your clothes dry more quickly. I tend to use my dryer in the winter, and my clothesline in the summer. Dryer balls can also be used for hundreds or thousands of uses – I am always in favour of one-time purchases vs. things that have to be purchased (and thrown away) over and over again. Each time you replace a disposable item with a reusable one, not only are you keeping toxic things out of a landfill, but you are saving yourself a significant amount of money over time.
Tip: If you’re dealing with static, it’s because you have synthetic clothing. Synthetics are anything man-made, like polyester, microfibre, nylon, etc. These fibres create static. I have phased all synthetic fibres out of our wardrobe, because not only do they create static, but they are toxic to our bodies and our planet. But if you still have some, you can simply hang them to dry rather than putting them in your dryer with your natural fibres. This will eliminate any static issues that you have.
Wool dryer balls can be purchased at places like Winners or HomeSense. If you are local to me, my friend Marjory at Amazing Graze Alpacas sells these from her alpaca fibre.
I hope that gives you some simple ideas for replacing your cleaning products with homemade, non-toxic versions. One of the most common questions I get asked is what do I use for cleaning, so I thought it would be helpful to have it all in one place! If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments below.