Growing up I remember the lemony smell of ‘Pinesol’ on wooden floors, bleach in the bathroom and the strong scent of ‘Windex’ on sparkling windows. These are the smells that I grew up associating with a clean home. So when I first started to clean my own home I remained brand loyal. If it didn’t make my nose and throat tingle there was no way it was killing all of those nasty germs, right?
As more and more companies begin to create “eco-friendly” cleaning products they have also begun to educate consumers on the negative effects of chemical filled conventional cleaners. Many effects are just plain scary, from how they can impact our health to the long term impacts on the environment. Out of plain fear many people have begun to make the switch from the all-purpose bottle of bleach to a plant derived equivalent.
A few years ago I started to make the switch to eco cleaners, but almost every time I went to the stores I suffered a serious case of sticker shock. Replacing all of our household products with chemical free, plant derived alternatives can add up to some serious cash. So I started to research other alternatives. Now I’ve replaced the products that I grew up with, with new products such as vinegar, baking soda, salts and essential oils. Many of these products are not only better for your health and safe to use around kids and pets, but they’re also safe for the environment and save you a ton of money.
So if you are still using harmful, store bought products or even store bought eco products, now may be the time to start thinking about making the switch. Below are four reasons to start making your own natural, eco-friendly products today.
1) Keeping your family safe
Unfortunately many ingredients in common household cleaning products are harmful to our health. They have warnings such as “Keep Out of Reach of Children” or “Toxic if Swallowed” in bold on the label. As consumers, we believe that as long as our family doesn’t ingest these products they will not be harmed, but think about the exposure they will have through their skin and respiratory tract.
Children are especially at risk as they are frequently in contact with chemical residues that household cleaning products leave behind by crawling, lying and sitting on freshly cleaned floors. Children, especially infants and toddlers, often put their fingers in their mouths and noses, increasing their risk of exposure. What about the products you use to clean their toys, highchairs, and clothing?
Essentially, pound for pound children’s exposure levels are higher than adults because their bodies are smaller, so the level of concentration is stronger. Also, their immune systems are still developing. For many of these same reasons, pets are also at high risk. Other members of the family that are at high risk are people battling cancer, the elderly, asthma and allergy sufferers and anyone with compromised immune systems.
At a high level, there are three categories in which most of the hazardous ingredients in household cleaning products fall:
Carcinogens – Suspected to cause cancer and/or promote cancer’s growth.
Endocrine disruptors – Which mimic human hormones, confusing the body with false signals. Exposure to these can lead to many health issues including reproductive, developmental, growth and behaviour problems. Endocrine disruptors have also been linked to reduced fertility, premature puberty, miscarriages, menstrual problems, challenged immune systems, abnormal prostate size, ADHD and certain cancers.
Neurotoxins – Alter neurons, affecting brain activity, causing a range of problems from headaches to loss of intellect.
Do you still need more reasons to make the switch?
2) Knowledge is power
Since cleaning products are not food, beverages or drugs meant to be ingested, they aren’t regulated. Manufacturers are not required to list specific ingredients on their labels, or warn consumers about potential health impacts, resulting in people spreading products all over their home while having no idea what is really in them. Making your own cleaning products means that you actually know what you’re using and you can be confident that your clean home isn’t harming your family or the environment.
3) It’s better for the environment
Many people get overwhelmed with all of the environmental “should do’s” that are out there. I always say, just pick one thing to change and start from there. Making your own natural cleaning supplies is a great first step.
The biggest impact of using conventional cleaning products comes from the chemicals which they contain. These chemicals are released into the environment through evaporation and when we rinse them down our drains or flush them down our toilets they find their way into our water supply. They take a long time to break down when disposed of and they even find their way into our food chain, being eaten by aquatic creatures and sometimes eventually by us.
Although the chemicals in these products pose a great issue, so do their packaging. Think about how many cleaning products you have in your home right now. How many containers does that add up to? What if you could make your own and continue to reuse your containers for years to come. Imagine the amount of packaging that you would keep out of the waste stream.
4) You will save money
Detergents, soaps and cleaning products may seem like small things, but they quickly add up. Your cabinets and shelves are probably crammed full of a variety of household cleaners that you could make with just a few basic (cheap) ingredients that you probably already have in your home.
A bottle of all-purpose cleaner will usually cost SGD$4 – $6 (depending on which country you live in) and if you want to buy an eco-friendly alternative that cost can rise to well over SGD$10. I make my own all-purpose spray at home with ingredients that are already stocked in my kitchen for less than 50 cents per 500ml bottle. Plus my DIY version smells better, is safe for the whole family and packs just as much punch as anything found on a store shelf.
If you would like to learn how to start making your own natural cleaning supplies, join one of our Natural Living Workshops in Singapore. And if you decide to make the switch, please don’t just pour your old chemical cleaners down the drain or throw them in the bin. There are many people that still use these brands, so give them away to someone. Or check your city’s website for any “hazardous waste disposal” sites or scheduled drop off days.