Healthy Home: Greening Your Cleaning
The eco-friendly revolution is everywhere, but do you know why? We recently chatted with Megan Morton, green educator and owner of ProUtilitas, a Nashville business using eco-friendly materials to replace toxic commercial cleaners, about the motivation behind going green in the cleaning aisle. Megan explains, “This is super basic. The movement toward eating better and having a healthier lifestyle comes down to living better.” She says that if you’re incorporating organic foods into your diet to avoid eating pesticides but you’re still cleaning your house with toxic cleaners, you’re missing something.
“Here’s the thing,” says Megan, “the vast majority of the toxins that are being absorbed through your system come from the products you’re using to clean and wash with.” Both her husband and her youngest daughter have sensitivity to chemicals, which aggravates her children’s asthma. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Recently, a friend of Megan’s was diagnosed with breast cancer at only 34 years of age. “The first thing her doctor told her,” says Megan, “was to look at the products she used in her house. Parabens and phthalates are estrogen-stimulating chemicals and act like estrogen in our systems.
This can contribute to why we’re seeing crazy things happening with breast cancer, and also with earlier onset of puberty in young girls.” And it’s not just us ladies who are at risk. Studies show that chemicals in cleaning products can reduce sperm count in men. (That may be all your significant other needs to know in order to convince him to switch to greener cleaning!) Fragrances, dyes, and preservatives that alter the color and scent of cleaning products may smell nice, but they could very well be putting your body and your family at risk.
So how do you change course in your home without losing the fresh, clean smell of clean? First things first: audit your cleaning products. “I tell my students to take three simple steps,” says Megan.
First, go through your house — garage, kitchen, bathrooms, and all the little corners where you stash cleaners — and gather all your cleaning products together in one place.
Next, sort your cleaners into two piles: one group that you know you shouldn’t be using in your home (like bleach, ammonia, and drain cleaners), and those you think may be safe to use.
If you’re still spooked by what you have left in your cleaning cabinet, you’re not alone. There’s a lively and growing movement toward making DIY cleaning products. Megan says, “there are literally thousands of resources online to help you make everything you need.” And I’m not just talking about all-purpose cleaners — you can make your own dishwashing soap, laundry detergent, drain cleaners, and stain busters.
In fact, there are only seven ingredients you’ll need to gather: white vinegar, castile soap, baking soda, kosher salt, hydrogen peroxide, borax, and washing soda. You can add a few drops of essential oil (lavender, tea tree, or any other scent you like) to make your cleaners smell like a dream.
If you’re still overwhelmed by the thought of making your own cleaners, try taking a workshop to learn more — Megan also offers in-home greening classes. “Just gather up 12 friends and we’ll make a party out of it,” she says. And the best part? The organizer gets the class for free. You may have to duke it out with your friends to decide who will host!
In the meantime, here are some simple DIY recipes to get your spring cleaning off to a great start.
All Purpose Cleaner: Using funnel, combine 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon dish soap, and 2 tablespoons vinegar in a spray bottle. Give it a little shake and let it sit for a minute or two. Then, fill bottle with warm water and shake it up. Give it a few more minutes to calm down, and add a few drops of essential oil if desired.
Laundry Detergent: Combine 1 bar of laundry soap (Fels Naptha is my favorite, but you can use Ivory or Zote as well), 1 box of Borax, and 1 box of washing soda or OxiClean in a food processor. Blend until combined, then add a few drops of essential oil. I like tea tree.
Tub and Tile Cleaner: Mix 1 2/3 cup of baking soda, ½ cup castile soap, ½ cup water, and 2 tablespoons of vinegar in a spray bottle. Shake well.