Cleaning products can have a huge impact on our personal health and the environment around us. While it may seem easy to wipe down the kitchen counter with a disinfectant and then wring out the cloth in the sink, the chemicals in the cleaning agent do not disappear just because they are poured down the drain. Rather, they are included with the rest of the sewage and waste, and are led into a nearby water source where they contribute to water pollution. Even before the chemicals are discharged into water, they already will have impacted greatly on our indoor air quality and our health. It is not exactly possible to stop cleaning altogether—that may have even more profound effects on our health—but it is possible to reduce the number of harmful chemicals we allow to influence our environment by adopting greener, more environmentally friendly cleaning methods and supplies.

Environmental impact.

Some of the major culprits when it comes to the environmental impact of cleaning and chemicals are detergents, water softeners and disinfectant. They, and many other cleaning products, contain chemicals such as APEs and phosphates. APEs are non-biodegradable chemicals that mimic the female hormone Oestrogen, and which as a result have a negative effect on the reproduction of fish and other organisms in the waters where they are released. Phosphates act as a fertiliser when they enter water bodies, and stimulate an overgrowth of algae. The rapidly growing algae population will eventually deplete the oxygen in the water, and kill fish and other life forms.

Once the cleaning agent has been used up, we are left with more waste—the plastic bottle. Plastic is very harmful to the environment as it breaks down very slowly, and as such will, if disposed of incorrectly remain in the environment where it poses a risk to animals and plants for a long time. Using natural household cleaning supplies will diminish this issue significantly.

Chemical-based cleaning agents do not only have adverse effects on the environment. They also put our personal health and indoor climate at stake.

Health impact.

The chemicals in our cleaning supplies also pollute our indoor air and pose a risk to our personal health. Some chemicals commonly used in cleaning agents cling to the surfaces they are used on, and will rub off on clothes and exposed skin every time a person touches the surface. This allows the chemicals to spread to areas they were never intended to be applied to where can cause side effects such as skin irritation or rashes. When bottles of cleaning supplies are kept in the house, it may also be possible for small children to gain access to them and accidentally ingest or spill them. Such accidents can be very harmful and cause severe poisoning.

Fragrances used in a variety of cleaning agents can cause acute effects such as respiratory difficulties, headaches or sneezing. Corrosive drain cleaners and oven cleaners can cause severe burns if used incorrectly, and fumes from chlorine bleach and ammonia may contribute to lung damage. These examples are a few of the hazards of cleaning supplies containing harsh chemicals, and they pose a risk even in small quantities—bear in mind that the more of the cleaning agent is used, the more harmful its effects can potentially be.

Cleaning agents from the supermarket are popular for a reason—they do what they are expected to do, and that is cleaning our homes. When a specialised glass cleaner is used to wipe down mirrors and windows, it leaves them shining and pleasant to look at. Laundry is cleaned thoroughly and winds up smelling nice when a commercial detergent is used. It is possible to achieve the same results with household supplies, elbow grease and a little finesse.

Greener cleaning.

By using regular household supplies, it is possible to attain cleanliness to the same standards as when using commercial products. Rather than stocking a plethora of scents, soaps, bleaches, detergents, disinfectants and specialised cleaners, having a look at the kitchen cupboard can provide us with supplies for a lot of tasks.

Simple ingredients such as soap, water, lemon juice, baking soda, essential oils and white vinegar can achieve most regular cleaning chores around the house. They are natural and biodegradable, and will not be a risk to the environment when led into waterways, or cause skin irritation or respiratory difficulties. Using methods with household ingredients may take some extra scrubbing, but the positive effects outweigh that single negative aspect.

Half white vinegar and half water with a few drops of essential oils make a good general cleaner and disinfectant, and baking soda and vinegar poured down the sink can clear up the drain. There’s a multitude of ways to use natural ingredients to your—and the environment’s—benefit when doing your chores.

You can also make your own homemade natural all-purpose cleaner from various essential oils. Below we will look at a few of such cleaners, and how you can make and use them:

  • Eucalyptus Oil All-Purpose Cleaner. You need fifteen drops of eucalyptus oil and 1/2 cup of white vinegar water Add the vinegar and eucalyptus oil to a clean spray bottle. Fill it with tap water and mix. Great for bench-tops, showers and basins.
  • Lavender Disinfectant Spray. You need 1/2 cup of white vinegar and six drops of Lavender water. Add the lavender drops to a spray bottle and fill it with white vinegar. Great for bathroom and toilet cleaning.
  • Orange Oil All-Round Cleaner. You need fifteen drops of Orange Oil and three tablespoons of Bicarbonate of soda Water. Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle. Great for kitchen bench tops!
  • Soap nut Multi-Purpose Spray. You need twenty five grams of Soap nuts, 500ml of boiling water and a few drops of eucalyptus oil. Add the Soap nuts to the boiling water and have it steep for thirty minutes. Drain and discard the soap nut shells and add the eucalyptus oil. Suitable for all-purpose use.

Today’s modern homes are loaded with polluting and toxic substances designed to ease domestic life. These commercial, chemical based products come at a very high cost—long-term health concerns, and environmental pollution resulting from their manufacture or disposal. Treatment for such conditions includes reducing the use of synthetic chemicals in our homes.

For many home cleaning chores, you can make your own natural cleaning products using the formulas discussed above. A huge variety of commercial nontoxic cleaning products are also available, as healthier and environmentally-responsible alternatives. Using these products also promotes the growing green businesses thereby contributing to a sustainable economy.