Americans are re-discovering the importance of eating whole, natural, organic foods, which give our bodies all of what they need, and nothing that they don’t. Government has required for decades that processed foods be labeled with all ingredients, to give consumers the information that they need to decide whether or not to buy a certain food item.
But when it comes to personal care products and household cleaners and deodorizers, we’re barely getting started. Government doesn’t yet require the makers of these products to label all ingredients. That’s a problem because increasing numbers of people are proving allergic to the hundreds of laboratory chemicals and fumes that can be present in these products; many users have reported asthma attacks, skin rashes and even neurologic conditions such as seizures and confusion, upon being exposed to various substances.
Even people without allergies do well to limit their exposure to artificial chemicals, as long-term use has been linked in studies to serious health complications like cancer and disruption of hormones. Of notable concern are all products that have artificial fragrances — which is most of them — since these scents nearly always have phthalates. This is a class of chemicals believed to interfere with hormones, affecting child growth and fetal development.
As if that weren’t enough, when a product says “green” or “natural,” it can still have dangerous and sometimes hidden chemicals, since, again, the makers are not required to disclose all ingredients. And “unscented” products? These sometimes have chemicals to mask the smell of other chemicals in the mixture!
Yikes. What is a consumer to do, you ask? The same thing many of us are doing with food: stick to the naturals! We’ll tackle the vast subject of natural grooming products some other time. But today, we want to bring you the best ways we have found to clean and deodorize your home using truly natural and awesome ingredients. The rooms in your house will be kissing those nasty phthalates goodbye!
Cleaning Your Home with Non-Toxic, Natural Products
A discussion of how to make your home smell terrific should start with natural, effective cleaners and scrubbers you can use around the house. These are non-toxic for humans and pets when used as directed, and you can clean your entire home for a fraction of what you’d spend on chemical name brands.
For routine surface cleaning around the home, kitchen and bathroom:
We find that a simple solution of non-chlorinated bleach and water does a fantastic job. Use 1 part bleach to 4 parts water. (Why non-chlorinated bleach? It’s safer and gentler than regular bleach, but still does a great job cleaning and disinfecting.)
Another excellent surface cleaner is white vinegar. Again, dilute 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water in a spray bottle and clean away! Vinegar is super-potent for cleaning, yet all-natural.
For scrubbing jobs:
Remove hard-water spots from shower doors and fixtures, and soap residue from sinks and bath tubs with a paste of baking soda and water. The paste has just enough grit to tackle simple surface stains, but will not scratch glass, metals or tile. Baking soda also has natural sanitizing and deodorizing properties.
For heavier scrub jobs, such as cooking pots or soap scum on your tub, we recommend diatomaceous earth — it’s natural, non-toxic crushed rock sediment that is mostly silica, with other trace minerals, and has cleaning and deodorizing properties; it works great for scrubbing. One inexpensive box will last you a long time.
Deodorizing Your Carpet Naturally:
Skip the store-bought scented carpet fresheners … and just sprinkle baking soda on your carpet. Let stand 30 minutes, and vacuum.
(Also remember that by having plenty of air circulation in your home, either by opening windows or using exhaust fans, or both, you’ll do a lot to eliminate bad odors from your home.)
Next: Deodorizing Your Home with Natural Scents
If you get into natural scents, like a lot of us have done, you’ll be like a kid in a candy store. Nature supplies us with such a wonderful assortment of lovely fragrances, whatever your smell preferences may be. You can get a lot of nature’s scents by buying plant essential oils, which are extractives of different parts of the plants (the leaves, fruits, etc.).
The simplest of essential oil recipes for home-deodorizing is this: fill a spray bottle with 16 oz. of water (1 pint), and add about 20 drops of your favorite plant essential oil. Shake a few times, then spray anywhere in the home where you want a fresh, natural, invigorating fragrance. (While it’s perfectly fine to get the oil-and-water mixture on your skin or your hair, be careful not to get it in your eyes, as it could sting a tad.)
Some excellent oils to use for deodorizing:
- sweet almond
If you want to do like a French parfumier, add a few drops of vanilla or almond extract to the citrus, cinnamon or lavender oil; it will add other delicate tones to the fragrance.
You can also use half lavender oil and half citrus oil in the water, for a sweet, sporty scent.
Other winning combinations:
Citrus-mint-vanilla: use half (10 drops) orange oil, half peppermint oil, and 2 tbsp vanilla extract with 1 pint of water for a clean, invigorating fragrance.
Lavender-vanilla: use 20 drops of lavender oil and 2 tbsp vanilla extract with 1 pint of water for a sweet, delicate smell.
A eucalyptus bunch:
No tree is more fragrant than the eucalyptus tree, as attested by its very aromatic essential oil. The oil is great if you like a strong piny, woody smell. If you want the scent to last for weeks, try buying a bunch of eucalyptus branches at the florist, and set them in a dry vase on a table (away from any flames or heat).
By Lisa Pecos