Homemade green cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, lemon and lime

Homeowners struggle to find time to clean the house. But this isn’t your only challenge. Make sure you’re safely and responsibly cleaning the house.

We live in a world in which we’re constantly surrounded by germs, bacteria and foreign substances harmful to the human body. For the past 150 years, people have relied on powerful cleaning agents to remove germs from our surroundings. Unfortunately, we often resort to the easiest and cheapest weapons, which also happen to contain toxins and chemicals that are equally as bad for our bodies and the environment.

Clean Without Causing Harm

Cleaning the house in a safe and environmentally friendly manner will take a little extra effort. But by putting some thought into the products you use for cleaning, you can avoid compromising the health of your family and the environment — definitely worth a bit of planning and preparation!

Where do you start? And what’s at stake? Let’s take a look:

Use Food-Safe Products in the Kitchen

If you walked into a restaurant, would you be surprised to learn that they are still using cleaning products that contain harsh chemicals like chlorine and ammonia? These chemicals can cause skin and eye irritation, respiratory issues and a host of other acute and chronic health conditions. If, on the other hand, you walked into the same restaurant and learned that they use food-grade cleaning products that contain none of these harsh chemicals and are 100 percent safe, you’d probably feel a lot better.

Take a cue for leading restaurants that have shifted from toxic cleaning products to food-grade alternatives. It’s happening all over the world in commercial kitchens and restaurants — don’t you want to keep your home safe as well?

All-purpose cleaners often contain MEA, DEA and TEA — ethanolamine compounds found in everything from household cleaning products to shampoo and mascara. These compounds can form carcinogenic nitrosamines, which are known to cause cancers in many species. They also contain coal tar dyes and petrochemical derivatives saturated with heavy metals believed to be implicated in many cancers.

Establish a practice of reading labels to identify and ignore MEA-, DEA-, and TEA-based products when for buying cleaners for the surfaces and utensils you use when preparing, cooking, and eating food!

Daughter and mother cleaning home together and having fun.
By putting some thought into the products you use for cleaning, you can avoid compromising the health of your family and the environment. Photo: Adobe Stock

Ditch Your Harmful Cleaning Products

“Phosphates from detergents, chlorine from bleach, and the toxins in pesticides will all wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems once they leave your local sewage treatment plant,” Greenhome.com explains. Once you realize which of the cleaning products in your home are harmful, get rid of them as quickly as possible. However, do not dump anything down the drain or throw it away.

The better solution is to take these products to a municipal household hazardous waste facility where they will be disposed of safely. Earth911.com’s recycling search tool makes it easy for you to search for local disposal sites that accept household cleaning products.

Make Your Own Cleaning Products

While there are some safe household cleaning products on the market, your best bet is to make your own. You can read up on specific formulas for individual uses, but it’s always good to have a safe all-purpose cleaner on hand. Try the following recipe and fill a couple spray bottles for quick clean-ups:

You can use this cleaner to remove stains, clean surfaces, wipe down mirrors and in many other household situations. You can even clean your deck with a variation on this recipe.

Wash Clothes Responsibly

Did you know that you can reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 550 pounds simply by not using hot water on just two loads of laundry per week? And by line-drying, instead of tossing the clothes directly into the dryer, you can greatly reduce electricity or natural gas consumption.

Most people don’t think about how their home cleaning habits contribute to greenhouse emissions, but every action adds up. Heating water, using too much water and turning on the dryer contribute to the planetary carbon load. Even the smallest steps — like washing in cold water — can contribute to a safer ecosystem.

Adding It All Up

While most people take cleaning products and habits for granted, it’s time to take responsibility for our impact on the planet. Always be aware when shopping how much harm standard cleaning solutions cause the human body and surrounding environment. It’s up to you to make smart, safe choices that allow you to clean your home without detrimental side effects.

By Anna Johansson

Anna is a freelance writer, researcher and business consultant. A columnist for Entrepreneur.com, HuffingtonPost.com and more, Anna loves enjoying the great outdoors with her family. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.