Non-toxic home cleaning: Only 3 ingredients needed
Before I embarked upon this zero waste, non-toxic, sustainability journey, I was like most people when it comes to home cleaning.
I had dozens of different commercial cleaning products jammed under my kitchen sink and in my laundry cupboards – disinfectants, glass and surface sprays, dishwashing liquid, and bleach… so much bleach.
I wasn’t wedded to any one brand but all of them contained a cocktail of chemicals like phthalates, triclosan or perchloroethylene (to name just a few of the nasties).
What I didn’t realise at the time, was that many of these ingredients are known to pose both short-term health risks, including skin, eye or respiratory irritation, as well as more sinister long-term health effects, such as asthma, endocrine disruption, and even cancer.
They also pollute our waterways; and as many of the chemicals in conventional household cleaners are petroleum-based, adversely affect the earth's eco-systems.
Armed with this knowledge, our home received a "detox". I gathered up all of our commercial cleaning products and disposed of them safely through Sustainability Victoria’s Detox Your Home program.
If you want to do the same, it’s incredibly important you rid your home of commercial cleaning products correctly, as this will keep them out of our waterways, and will minimise environmental pollution and bushfire hazards.
And now? I literally clean our entire house with just three, or sometimes only two ingredients: vinegar, baking soda and tea tree oil.
Here are three of the best non-toxic home cleaning “products” I use on a daily basis.
White vinegar really is a miracle solution – it has so many different uses and is relatively cheap, and it’s the number one ingredient for DIY non-toxic home cleaning products.
To make your own citrus white vinegar all-purpose spray, save the peels of any oranges, limes or lemons you consume in a large glass jar and fill it with white vinegar.
Leave it in the fridge for two weeks and then strain the liquid into a reusable glass amber spray bottle and add a few drops of tea tree oil.
You can use this surface spray in every room of the house – whether it’s for the kitchen benches, a glass coffee table or the bathroom sinks (have a couple of separate bottles for both kitchen and bathroom cleaning).
It’s great as a window cleaner and fabric softener, and also works as an oven, drain or toilet cleaner when coupled with baking soda,
A word of warning: some inferior brands of white vinegar may be derived from petroleum (crude oil) and fossil fuel products. Check the label or email the company if you’re unsure whether the vinegar you have chosen is synthetic or not.
Waste’o-metre: Zero waste – I buy white vinegar from a bulk foods store.
Baking soda is an amazing scouring agent. Sprinkle it in the bottom of the shower, in the bathroom sinks and anywhere else that needs a good scrub. Then spray some citrus white vinegar spray and let it sit for a few minutes before giving everything a good scrub.
Any drains that need declogging, pour half a cup of baking soda down the sinkhole, add white vinegar and let it bubble away for half an hour before running the hot water for a couple of minutes. It works just as well as toxic drain cleaners and is infinitely better for the environment and your health.
Waste’o-metre: Zero waste - I buy baking soda from a bulk foods store.
Tea tree oil
This versatile oil has antimicrobial, antibacterial and antifungal properties, which are perfect for non-toxic home cleaning purposes.
Add a few drops to your homemade citrus all-purpose cleaner, as well to your washing machine to deodorise and freshen up clothes throughout each cycle.
Ensure you purchase oil that comes in a dark glass bottle so that the light does not reduce the oil's potency.
I buy doTERRA essential oils (usually tea tree oil, peppermint and lavender), which are used sparingly so they last a long time.
Waste’o-metre: Low waste – comes in a glass bottle which can be recycled with Terracycle.