Is Cleaning Your House Bad for the Environment and Your Health?
By Sally Keys
As an off-gridder, protecting the environment is likely to be one of your foremost concerns. You’ll no doubt be keen to limit the harmful chemicals used in your home, and household cleaners should be top of your list. The chemicals that they contain are common air and water pollutants, and what’s more, the very substances used to keep your home clean and free from allergens can actually cause allergy-like symptoms that damage your health.
The True Contents of Your Cleaning Cupboard
Look out for these potentially harmful chemicals:
- Formaldehyde: High exposure to formaldehyde can cause irritation to the eyes, ears, nose, and throat when inhaled. It can also cause skin irritation, inflame the gastrointestinal tract if taken orally, trigger asthma, and even lead to nose and throat cancer.
- Ammonia: Many household products contain ammonium hydroxide, a hazardous substance according to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the Clean Water Act Amendments of 1977 and 1978. Ammonia is also potentially dangerous to human health. Mild exposure can lead to coughing and nose and throat irritation, while excessive exposure can cause blindness, lung damage, and even death.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS): Prolonged exposure to this foaming substance can cause damage to hair, skin, and eyes, and it can also cause immunological problems – and even cancer.
So What’s the Alternative to Harsh Chemical Cleaning Products?
Real Goods sells a variety of effective and eco-friendly cleaning products, or you can make your own non-toxic cleaners – it’s easy! There are just five basic ingredients that serve as the building blocks for all your safe home cleaning needs:
- Baking soda
- Soap (like our popular Pure Soap)
- Washing soda
- White vinegar or lemon juice
For example, to make a non-toxic glass cleaner, mix one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice into one quart of water. Furniture polish can be created by mixing one teaspoonful of lemon juice with one pint of mineral or vegetable oil. And baking soda can be used as a carpet deodorizer: simply sprinkle on your carpet, leave for 15 minutes, then vacuum it up!
Choose Safer Household Cleaners!
The benefits of using alternative homemade cleaners are numerous: you will be improving air quality, reducing water pollution, eliminating the health risks posed by hazardous chemicals, decreasing packaging, and reducing cost. And with the US household cleaning product market set to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.89% from 2015 – 2019, it’s important to do your part and stay green.
Sally Keys is a professional freelance writer with many years of experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible.