One of my recent clients suffers from respiratory issues and multiple chemical sensitivity. She was advised by a naturopathic doctor to detox her home to help alleviate her symptoms, and called me for support. When we started going through her cupboards, she was shocked at how many household cleaners there were – some of which she couldn’t even remember buying. I’ve found that the household cleaners we buy often comes down to what our families used when we were growing up. We grab something off the store shelves that looks familiar, without really thinking about it.
I get it. We’re lucky to find time just to get to the store, let alone figure out what new products to try. But if you start looking into what’s in your products, you’ll soon realize there is good reason to set some time aside for switching to healthier products.
Common ingredients in household cleaners are known or suspected carcinogens, hormone disruptors, allergens, and asthmagens. Not be all dooms-day, but as I’m going through my clients cupboards and creating their personalized Action Plans, it does get me down a little about the situation we’re in. (It also makes me so happy to be helping them!)
Marketing departments are clever, and they do their job well. Remember: their job is to sell products. Our job is to decide if we like what they’re selling. And unfortunately, regulations aren’t strong enough to rely on for product safety.
If you’re ready to clean your home naturally, ditch the toxic chemicals, and start breathing easier, here are 5 steps to detox your household cleaners, without breaking the bank.
Go through your home and pull out all your cleaning products (don’t forget under sinks, laundry room, and the garage!). Put them all in one place, like on the kitchen table, and sort them by use. Do you actually need all the products you have? If you realize you’re over-stocked, decide whether you want to: use them up; give them away; or (last resort) put the contents in the garbage and recycle or toss the container. Check with your local municipality as certain cleaning products are actually considered household hazardous waste.
2. Avoid Fragrance
Look for terms like “scent” or “fragrance” on the package. These are typically a combination of any number of hundreds of chemicals that don’t have to be listed on the label. Synthetic fragrance typically includes phthalates (known endocrine disruptors), allergens and asthmagens.
3. Skip the Disinfectants
Unless you have an immune deficiency (in which case, consult your doctor), consider eliminating anything that has disinfecting claims. This is especially important for hand soaps – the US FDA has banned 17 chemicals, including triclosan, from body washes due to lack of evidence of safety and efficacy. Soap and water has been shown to be just as effective (and if you need something more powerful, consider this combo of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide).
4. Research Ingredients
You can skip this step if you want to do a complete overhaul of all your products. But if you hate the thought of giving up something that works without checking it out first, you can research ingredients to help you focus your detox efforts.
However, this is a little tricky for 2 main reasons: cleaners don’t have to list ingredients on the label, and there are no rules that govern terms like “natural” and “green”. The David Suzuki Foundation has a good list of ingredients to avoid, if you can find what’s in a product. Some companies will include ingredient lists on their website or will respond if you contact them directly.
You can also search the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. A word of caution: this database is a great tool, but it isn’t perfect. The ingredients aren’t necessarily up-to-date or applicable to products in Canada (it’s an American-based organization). There are also some ingredients that are rated well, but have been identified by some studies to be respiratory irritants or pose a cancer risk.
5. Make the Switch
Once you’ve identified what products you want to replace, and their priority, source alternates that meet your goals. Look for products that fully disclose ingredients (and that rate well on EWG’s ingredient database), or are 3rd party certified by EcoLogo or Green Seal. You can also make your own products, using a few ingredients you may already have – these recipes work surprisingly well and take very little time to prepare.
To help you cut through the greenwashing and label-reading confusion, I’ve pulled together a list of 11 brands that are commonly considered to be healthy or “green”. Learn how brands like Seventh Generation, Live Clean, and Green Works really stack up! Grab your free download here.