The Proverbs 31 Woman and Non-Toxic Cleaners

Clean Green Image

Here’s an angle to becoming more like the Proverbs 31 woman we don’t usually consider:

Using non-toxic cleaners in our homes.

It may seem totally unrelated, but I propose that looking well to the ways of our households and seeking to do good and not harm to our families definitely includes how we clean our homes. After all, conventional cleaning products add dangerous toxins to the air. So, the “cleaner” your home is, the more toxic it may be.

Dangerous “Secret” Formulas

The government exempts cleaning product manufacturers from publishing ingredients lists on their labels in order to protect their “secret” formulas.

So, on the labels you’ll find innocent words like “odor eliminator” or “fragrance.”

But in reality, lab tests reveal that the labels should read something more like “known carcinogen,” “asthma trigger,” or “untested chemical compound.”

Lab Results

Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit group, recently tested 21 cleaners used in California schools, including a few that are also sold for household use. They sent the products to an air-quality lab, where levels of air pollutants were checked after the products were used according to instructions.

In their Executive Summary, EWG reports on these common household cleaners you may have under your kitchen sink:

  • Comet Disinfectant Powder Cleanser emitted 146 contaminants when used as directed, including formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform and four other chemicals identified by the state of California as causing cancer or reproductive harm.
  • Simple Green, a general purpose cleaner, released 93 chemicals into the air, including two linked to cancer (2-butoxyethanol and acetaldehyde) and one linked to cancer and asthma (formaldehyde).
  • Febreze Air Effects, an air freshener that gave off 89 airborne contaminants including acetaldehyde, a chemical linked to cancer.

As a side note, when Erich reviewed this post and did a little research on the EWG, he advised me to remove them as my source.  Some of the main guys behind the group have been involved in questionable liberal political activities.  While I did find a few other sources that came to the same conclusions as the EWG, I liked their format the best.  So, I decided to keep their study in and just let you know that we don’t approve of or appreciate all of their other activities.

Here are links to a couple other sources who reveal the same kinds of problems with household cleaners:

http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2006/05/22_householdchemicals.shtml

http://www.health-report.co.uk/toxic_household_chemicals.htm

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/1484

“Green” Cleaners Not Much Better

Though the EWG’s study found that green cleaners released 3-5 time less contaminants and lower levels of VOCs than their conventional counterparts, I tend to think that cleaners shouldn’t contaminate anything.  But maybe I’m just a little crazy.  😛

Non-Toxic, Environmentally-Safe, Kid-Friendly and Cheap Alternatives

It is possible to clean without contaminating.  Let me introduce you to three cheap and totally harmless things will revolutionize your cleaning:

Baking Soda, White Vinegar, and Hydrogen Peroxide

We’re talking good environmental, health, and financial stewardship. (I think the Proverbs 31 woman would have been all over these if she had the choice back in her day.)

Here is how they can replace those 3 standards in most homes:

  • Use baking soda instead of Comet to safely scour surfaces
  • Use vinegar instead of Simple Green.  Or for an extra disinfecting boost, follow the vinegar spray with  a spray of hydrogen peroxide.  The vinegar-peroxide combo kills all kinds of bad stuff and is safe enough even to spray on your fruits and vegetables!
  • Use baking soda or vinegar instead of Febreze Air Effects to get to the smelly root of the problem instead of just covering it up.

If you’re scared because you think vinegar is “stinky,” let me assure you that the vinegar smell vanishes after a few seconds leaving nothing behind. And once the vinegar smell is gone, any other odor will be gone too.

If you miss the perfumed smells of your old conventional cleaners, you can consider adding a few drops of an essential oil to your spray bottle – like Lemon, Tea Tree, Lavender or any of the other plentiful options.  Essential oils are not just good-smelling, but many of them also have germ-killing properties.

Here you can find some more specific recipes for home-made cleaners.

Want Proof?

If you’re anything like my husband, the lab results showing the dangers of conventional cleaners might not be enough incentive to make the switch to a natural alternative.  You might want proof that these natural alternatives actually work first.

Here are a few things I dug up:

  • A study published in Biological Research for Nursing in 2001 showed that 5% distilled white vinegar was as effective as bleach in cleaning urinary drainage bags.  The vinegar actively killed bacteria in the bag and was not highly irritating, not bad smelling, not corrosive, and not staining.  See summary here.
  • A study done by O. Peter Snyder, Jr., PHD in 1997 showed that 5% distilled white vinegar was more effective than both water and a 200-PPM quaternary ammonium compound sanitizer in cleaning wood, plastic, AND stainless steel.  See report here.
  • Susan Somner, a food scientist found that spraying fresh produce with peroxide and vinegar (from separate bottles) sterilizes it, killing almost all Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli bacteria.  Read more here.

I found many online sources saying that other studies have shown vinegar also kills 82% of molds, 99% of bacteria, and 80% of viruses, but I wasn’t able to track down the studies myself.

Getting Started

Here’s a great video to introduce you to various natural cleaning ideas.  I hope it inspires you to happier and healthier cleaning!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Leah on December 19, 2009 at 2:55 am

    Hey Erika! Thanks for letting me know about your blog!! There’s some great information on here and I am looking forward to reading more! What do you use for laundry detergent?

    Reply

    • Posted by Erika on December 21, 2009 at 4:01 pm

      Hey Leah, thanks for reading! I buy Ecos brand laundry detergent from Sam’s Club. It’s petrochemical-free, formaldehyde-free, 1,4-dioxane-free, has a neutral ph and has organic lavender oil for it’s fragrance. And it’s only like $13 for a big bottle that does between 100 and 200 loads of laundry (depending on how much you use). I’ve been wanting to make my own detergent for a while, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. Maybe I’ll test those waters in the coming year. 🙂

      Reply

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