When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I decided to "detox" our home. We were concerned about the effects the chemicals in our household products might have on our baby, not to mention the effect they were probably having on us.
About 12,500 industrial chemical ingredients are used in personal care products alone, including pesticides, carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors. Even products labeled as “natural” can be misleading, as the U.S. government does not regulate the use of such terms on personal care products or cosmetics.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? Thankfully, as consumers we can try to regulate what we expose ourselves to, and doing a household detox doesn't have to be super complicated. If you're up for it, you can even make your own safe plant-based products for a fraction of the cost.
I suggest harnessing the natural springtime urge to cleanse and tackling one room at a time. In this four-part series, we’ll explore how to create a healthier home by detoxing your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and beauty routine.
Let’s start with the kitchen. Many of us with children have locked kitchen cupboards below our sinks. They may be full of products boasting warning labels and poison control warnings, or maybe “natural” products that still contain unfamiliar ingredients.
Detox question: What cleaning products are under your kitchen sink? What are the ingredients?
I think we’ve been duped into believing that we need a different chemical cocktail for every chore, coupled with the belief that only strong chemicals can make things truly clean. I’d like to differ, though: It’s not clean if it contains chemicals that harm your health! Natural soap, baking soda, vinegar, and hot soapy water clean most things well. If you’re looking for a resource to help you find safe, trustworthy natural brands to buy, the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning is great. Another good way to know what’s in your cleaning supplies is to make them yourself! It can be cost-effective, fun, and easy—as you’ll see in the recipes below.
Detox question: Which products are really necessary?
After our own detox, the only cleaning products under our kitchen sink are bottles of citrus-infused vinegar. Vinegar contains 5 percent acetic acid, which is a natural disinfectant. Our kitchen cupboards are now unlocked and our toddler is free to play with the spray bottles when she feels like helping mama—what a great feeling! (For more on the cleaning power of vinegar, read Does Vinegar Kill Germs?)
Recipe for Citrus-Infused Vinegar All-Purpose Cleaner:
You will need:
1 pint of orange peels or quartered citrus fruits
1 wide-mouthed quart-sized mason jar
Add peels or fruit to jar and fill jar with vinegar. Let sit for four weeks and then add to a spray bottle (you can dilute with water as you like to find the desired strength). Add essential oils for fragrance. Voilà!
Recipe for Drain Cleaner:
This cleaner can be used as a preventative measure or to unplug a stubborn, clogged drain.
You will need:
1 quart boiling water
2-4 tablespoons baking soda
½ cup vinegar
Boil water and pour it down the drain to loosen grease deposits. Sprinkle baking soda in the drain. Add vinegar. Wait for the chemical reaction to cease and then flush with hot water. For stubborn drains, repeat this process as needed.
Detox question: How will you dispose of the products you no longer need?
Use caution when disposing of household products that contain harmful chemicals. If a product says flammable, toxic, corrosive, or poisonous, it should not be thrown in the trash or be put down the drain. Many cities and towns have resources to help you dispose of unwanted toxic products safely. Just Google hazardous waste collection sites or pollution prevention programs in your area.
Stay tuned! Next week’s article will help you tackle the bathroom.