5 Ways to Replace Toxic Cleaning Products in Your Home


Cleaning products expose you — and your family — to a host of harmful chemicals. A recent study found that those who use cleaners every day can suffer lung damage comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Replacing them with healthy alternatives is easy. You can buy the ingredients for these five DIY solutions in bulk and use them with a reusable spray bottle and cleaning cloths to reduce waste from packaging, paper towels and disposable wipes.

1. Kitchen Cleaners

Many cleaning products used in kitchens contain ammonium compounds that irritate the skin and lungs. These products can also contain butyl cellosolve, a compound on California’s Toxic Air Contaminant List for its harmful effects on lungs, kidneys, hormones, liver, skin and the central nervous system.

To clean up greasy messes without these chemicals, mix the following ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well: 2 cups of water, ½ teaspoon of natural liquid soap (such as Castile), and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. You can also make a useful disinfectant spray by mixing ½ cup of white vinegar and ½ cup of rubbing alcohol with ¾ cup of water. After spraying surfaces, wait 10 minutes before wiping up disinfectant.

2. Bathroom Cleaners

Cleaning your bathroom with common products may also expose you to butyl cellosolve.

To avoid this chemical, wipe down your bathroom with an all-purpose cleaner made from ¾ cup water, ¼ cup rubbing alcohol and 1 squirt of natural liquid soap.

3. Glass Cleaners

Common glass cleaners achieve a streak-free shine with ammonia, which irritates the lungs, and can lead to chronic bronchitis and asthma.

An ammonia-free glass cleaner can also achieve streak-free results. Make one from 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 2 cups of water.

4. Oven Cleaners

Many oven cleaners contain ethanolamine, a skin and lung irritant.

Instead of using this harsh chemical, sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda on the bottom of your oven, spray with water and leave to soak overnight. Scrub and rinse away the mixture the following day.

5. Scrubbing Powders

You might think some tough kitchen and bathroom messes require tough chemical scrubs. These products often contain chlorine, another skin and lung irritant.

Make an effective cleansing scrub by mixing equal parts natural liquid soap and baking soda and adding just enough water until it forms a paste. Apply and scrub with your choice of sponge, brush or rag before rinsing.

A note on fragrances: Many cleaning products contain fragrances to offset the odors of their chemical cleaning agents. Manufacturers are not required to specify the ingredients that make up a fragrance, but an EPA study found at least six different chemicals linked to a wide variety of health effects.

For fresher air, open your windows. The air in your home could contain up to five times the pollutants fresh air does. You may consider adding some air-cleaning plants to your home. To eliminate odors, try leaving an open container of baking soda, charcoal or cedar chips out. All are natural odor absorbers. Essential oils are a healthy way to add pleasant smells to your home, and you can put a few drops in any of the above recipes.

For more information on what chemicals to watch out for in your cleaning products, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. You can also find their top-rated products or look up any cleaner in their database to find its health rating. If you decide to ditch your old products, read this post to find out how, or consider donating them to a local shelter.

In the mood for more spring cleaning? Check out our tips on decluttering your home.