Healthy Abode: 9 Tips for a Toxin-Free Home

By: 
Bill Rawls, MD

Chances are, there are cleaning products in your home that contain harmful ingredients.

Eliminating these dangerous chemicals is important to maintaining your optimal health. After all, you certainly wouldn’t willingly drink some of these ingredients. So why would you use them in your house, where they get into your lungs and absorbed into your skin?

If you’re interested in detoxing your home from the chemicals in many cleaning products, it’s important to first educate yourself on what to look for and what to avoid.

Familiarize yourself with the bad ingredients. Reading the labels might not help at first because they are filled with long, unpronounceable ingredients. Go online and take a look at the ingredient lists for various products. Then Google the ingredient. You’ll find that many of them are carcinogens, skin irritants, etc. Once you know what to avoid, it makes shopping for these products much easier.

Did You Know?

The European Union has banned more than 1,300 harmful chemicals from personal care products. The United States has banned only 11.

The labels on cleaning supplies do not list ingredients in the order of their quantity, unlike food labels. Manufacturers are not required to list ingredients for cleaning supplies unless they contain items that are known to be hazardous. Considering how few chemicals are actually banned in the United States, there is little to no regulation on harmful chemicals being incorporated into products.

The Biggest Offenders

Clearing out your entire supply of household products could be daunting—and expensive. Take a look at these common products for ideas on where to start.

·       Dishwashing soaps and detergents: With ingredients like bleach, phosphates, and DEA, these harmful chemicals may end up on your utensils and dishes, which then can end up in your food.

·       Ammonia: Affects the respiratory system and causes skin burns. Can turn into a poisonous gas if blended with bleach.

·       Drain clog products: These contain highly caustic ingredients, and can burn your skin or harm your mucous membranes.

·       Air fresheners: One of the biggest offenders, most commercial air fresheners contain multiple dangerous chemicals, including dichlorobenzene, a carcinogen that is also an EPA-registered pesticide.

·       Laundry detergents: Most contain harmful ingredients like benzaldehyde, nonylphenol ethoxylate and “fragrance,” which is an undisclosed and unregulated combination of chemicals used to produce artificial scents in products.

Are You Being Greenwashed?

Greenwashing refers to the deceptive marketing of products as “green” or “environmentally-friendly,” when actually, these products are potentially harmful—both to the environment and to us. Just because a product is tagged with a green leaf, or the words “natural” or “plant-derived ingredients” doesn’t mean it’s safe. Some pretty big names in “natural” cleaners are selling products with ingredients that have tested as harmful.

Natural Cleaners Don’t Have to Be Expensive

One thing that can discourage someone from switching over to a truly chemical-free house is the cost. Often, the packaged products found on the shelves of natural stores are considerably more expensive than the “mainstream” version. And though you can consider it an investment in your health, there’s no need to break the bank in order to detoxify your home cleaning products.

Many natural stores or food co-ops also offer cleaning supplies in bulk; by eliminating the cost of packaging, they are able to pass savings on to you. You can also consider creating a bulk-buying group of friends or community members that also want the toxins out of the house. Finding large supplies of products that have been identified as safe and splitting them among a group is a smart way to conserve dollars and get more for your money

By using a variety of very inexpensive natural ingredients, you can easily make your own household cleaners. There are many recipes online for everything from laundry detergent to bathroom cleaners.

White vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide and castile soap are examples of the ingredients that can be used to make your own cleaning products.

6 Simple DIY Cleaning Solutions

Baseboards, countertops, and walls:
Dissolve ½ cup borax in 1 gallon hot water and pour the solution into a spray bottle (which you can store for later use). Spritz generously, wipe down with a damp cloth and let air-dry.

Countertops:
Dip the cut side of a lemon half in baking soda to tackle countertops; wipe with a wet sponge and dry. Don’t use on delicate stone, like marble, or stainless steel (it may discolor).

Drains:
Clean drains and the pipes they’re attached to by pouring vinegar down them. After 30 minutes, flush with cold water.

Floors:
You can mop almost any type of floor with a solution of ¼ cup liquid Castile soap and 2 gallons warm water. If the floors are greasy, add ¼ cup distilled white vinegar to the bucket. You can use vinegar on any type of floor except marble (vinegar can scratch it) or wood (vinegar can strip it).

Upholstered furniture:
To remove odors, sprinkle baking soda on the fabric, and then vacuum.

Leather upholstery:
Add 2 drops liquid Castile soap to 1-quart warm water. Apply to the leather with a barely moist sponge.

9 Tips for a Non-Toxic Home

1. Buy unbleached paper products: paper towels, napkins, tissues, and toilet paper. Use washable cloth dish towels and cloth napkins whenever possible, but wash them frequently.

2. Use stainless steel or cast iron pots and pans. Avoid aluminum and non-stick, and avoid cooking and drinking directly from copper or brass.

3. Use glass containers for food storage.  Never microwave foods in plastic containers.

4. Use non-toxic, natural cleaning products (available at health food stores) or make your own using the DIY detox tips above.

5. Install a water filter for drinking water. This is one of the best ways to avoid harmful toxins in your water.

6. Avoid using carpet in the home, especially if you suffer from chronic allergies.

7. Use non-toxic paints, and wall/floor coverings.

8. Choose minimally toxic ways to deal with pests. Never allow someone to spray pesticides inside your home or office.

9. Change A/C filters regularly, and have the duct work in your home cleaned periodically by a professional.

Want more wellness tips?  Here's more from YogaUOnline and Dr. Bill Rawls: How to Mobilize Your Immune System to Fight Chronic Disease.

Reprinted with permission from Vital Plan.

Bill Rawls, MD is an advocate for individuals with fibromyalgia and related conditions. Board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Rawls has always focused his practice on health and wellness. After experiencing fibromyalgia and Lyme disease first hand, he shifted toward helping others with those conditions. He uses his passions for writing and study of natural herbal medicine to reach out to those left behind by the current healthcare system. Through books and health restoration protocols available at rawlsmd.com, he paves the way toward a better life. Dr. Rawls also serves as Medical Director for VitalPlan.com, an herbal supplement and wellness company he co-founded with his daughter, Braden.