The ingredients found in over the counter cleaning products vary greatly, as do the health hazards the ingredients pose to those who come in contact with them. Our biggest mistake as consumers is to assume that just because these products are readily available and sold in almost every store imaginable, that they’re safe to use.
Companies that manufacture these cleaning products insist that being exposed to these toxic ingredients like quaternary ammonium compounds, or “quats,” such as benzalkonium chloride, bronopol, and formaldehyde, in small amounts in not harmful, but most people come in contact with these products several times a day, throughout their lifetime. Dish detergent, upholstery cleaner, fabric softener, window cleaner, dish soap, air fresheners, kitchen and bathroom cleaners, and drain cleaner can all contain these sorts of chemicals. While they might not seem “so bad,” studies have shown that repeated exposure to compounds can cause severe burns, irritation, reproductive disorders, asthma, headaches, hormone disruption, and in some cases, increase the risk of cancer.
The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, unlike food and personal care products, federal law does not require manufacturers to display the ingredients found in conventional cleaning products.
In recent years, as the consumer demand for green products has grown, a number of alternatives have become available. Although making, your own cleaning products may be more time consuming (though not THAT much time) than simply going to the store, in many cases it’s worth the extra effort.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. Better For Your Health
By making your own DIY cleaning supplies, you will greatly reduce toxins in your home that you and your family come in contact with. A lot of cleaners contain scents that will linger for hours – if not days – in the home. Typically, we equate that fragrance to “freshness,” but in reality it is not so clean.
Cleaning products that smell like “citrus” or “pine” can contain more than 3,000 different chemical ingredients including linalool and eugenol, which are common allergens. What is more concerning is the presence of phthalates, chemicals typically used in fragrances, which are potential hormone disruptors.
Some might think that these chemicals are “necessary” to properly clean, but your household white or apple cider vinegar can do the trick just as well (if not better). Check out the Ultimate Guide to DIY Cleaning for all the cleaning products you might need. Plus, as an added bonus, by making your own products, you can also cut your personal plastic consumption.
2. DIY is Less Expensive, We Promise
Many homemade cleaning products can be made with a few key ingredients. Vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and olive oil (and of course, water) are all staple products found in most kitchens and also the main components of a number of DIY cleaners. Toilet bowl cleaner, all purpose spray, glass cleaner and dish detergent can all be made with these few ingredients. When you compare the cost of your average cleaning spray (around $4) and multiply that by all the different types of sprays you typically use (four or five), and add on top the fact that you’ll have to replace these around once a month – the cost does add up. If you opt to use lemons or vinegar instead, the cost is much less, and you can always make refills without having to worry about buying a new plastic bottle!
3. It’s Better for the Environment
Toxins in cleaning products are more than just harmful to you and your family, when they are poured or washed down the drain they can also become hazardous for the environment. For example, chemicals like phthalates persist through water treatment plants and travel into local waterways unchanged. This causes a serious problem for marine life who are now exposed to harmful compounds.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency names phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia and chemicals grouped under the term “Volatile Organic Compounds” as the worst environmental hazards in household cleaners. When these specific chemicals make their way into the water system, they can completely disrupt the ecosystem. These compounds accelerate vegetation growth in marine environments which can lead to massive algae blooms and ultimately dead zones where all marine life disappears.
Chances are if something isn’t good for you, it’s not good for the environment either. By switching to DIY your own cleaning products you can save help both – pretty great win-win if you ask us!
Transitioning to DIY
In caring for the planet, we care for ourselves and those around us. In taking these small steps, like switching from toxic cleaning products to DIY green products, we’re not only keeping our loved ones safe but may very well begin to see the changes we hope for.
If you’d like more information on how you can begin making your own DIY cleaning supplies, check out our Ultimate Guide to DIY to help get you started.
Image source: Len Matthews/Flickr