MAKE YOUR OWN CLEANING PRODUCTS TO SAVE MONEY
Store shelves are lined with cleaning products that claim to smell like lemons, oranges, pine trees and dozens of other natural scents. And they do.
Unfortunately, alongside natural ingredients are often dozens of very unnatural components, packaged in a bottle that you will simply throw away in a few weeks, paying a decent penny in the process.
Believe it or not, you can skip the middleman and make your own cleaners that will still leave your house smelling like an orange grove, all the while giving you complete control over the ingredients, and keeping containers out of the trash cycle.
NOT ALL COMMERCIALLY MADE PRODUCTS ARE UNDESIRABLE, OF COURSE.
SOME ARE QUITE GOOD.
But according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s guide Cleaning Effectively for a Healthy School Environment, “The chemicals found in some cleaning products can cause health problems, including headaches and eye, nose and throat irritation. If products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), adverse health effects can include asthma, upper respiratory irritation, fatigue, nasal congestion, nausea and dizziness. Green cleaning products and practices may avoid these health effects.”
Going green is great. But be aware that cleaner manufacturers are not required to list every ingredient. The EPA warns, “Researchers have found that products labeled “green” often have as many toxic chemicals as conventional cleaning products.”
Jade Shutes, an internationally known aromatherapist, herbalist, and founder of the East West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies, (http://theida.com/) said that with the exception of laundry detergent, she uses nothing but cleaners she makes herself.
“I had someone come in a few weeks ago and they were like ‘Your house smells so good! Why does your house smell so good?’”
Shutes mixes essential oils (lemongrass is her favorite for cleaners), herbs, vinegar or vodka, baking soda and water for most of her cleaners.
“The essential oils themselves, because they have so many therapeutic benefits whether it’s antimicrobial or psychological like anti-stress, we’re not only cleaning but also having a positive effect on our health,” Shutes said. “They’re very simple to make and I really like knowing what ingredients are in the products that I use.”
HOW DO WE KNOW THAT UNTESTED HOMEMADE PRODUCTS ARE ONE, NOT HARMFUL, AND TWO, EFFECTIVE?
“We do have a considerable amount of toxicity information on the essential oils,” Shutes said. “In general, essential oils are very safe to use and don’t have any toxicity or negative impact on an individual’s health when used for cleaning specifically.”
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advocates baking soda, essential oils and vinegar as sources of homemade cleaning products when trying to avoid more harsh chemicals.
“To reduce your exposure, use natural cleaning products, such as vinegar (removes mildew and grease), lemon juice(stain remover, glass cleaner, and deodorizer), baking soda mixed with water (all-purpose cleaner), and olive oil (furniture polish),” states How to Reduce Your Exposure To Chemicals at Home Work and Play, published by ATSDR.
Looking at “effective” another way, ask yourself, do you need to just clean, sanitize or disinfect? The FDA says you don’t always need to disinfect, except for times of illness or exposure to harmful bacteria, and to always disinfect can cause problems, including killing good bacteria and possibly causing antibiotic resistance.
SO, HOW DO YOUR START MAKING YOUR OWN PRODUCTS?
1. INVEST IN A FEW GOOD GLASS SPRAY BOTTLES WITH TRIGGER SPRAY NOZZLES.
Plastic can leech and essential oils can corrode plastic. Glass can be a bit pricey, ranging from $8 to around $20 each, but these are bottles you will use again and again, rather than tossing when empty. Then gather white vinegar and baking soda at your local grocery for what it costs for about one bottle of commercial cleaner. You will use these items to make several equivalents of that one bottle.
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2. NOW SNIFF OUT YOUR FAVORITE ESSENTIAL OILS.
Essential oils can be found in many health food chains, or online.
Many people buy organic if they can, as essential oils are very concentrated, which can include concentrated pesticides. Oils or herbs that are considered antimicrobial include lavender (from the Latin word to wash), lemon, lemongrass, tea tree, thyme, and rosemary, among many others.
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3. NOW, FIND A GOOD RECIPE.
One of Shutes’ favorite cleaners is her lavender-lemon window cleaner: Place 1/2 to 3/4 cup of dried lavender flowers in a 16-ounce spray container. Cover the lavender flowers with vinegar. Add 50 drops of lemon essential oil. Gently shake bottle. Let it sit for two hours before use. Strain out the lavender flowers in approximately one to two weeks.
Another go-to is Shutes’ bathroom scrub, which she uses on tubs and sinks: Pour out box of baking soda into a clean glass bowl. Add 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of liquid castile soap. Add 2 teaspoons of lemongrass essential oil Stir with spoon then with fork to break up any chunks of baking soda.
- Andrea Butje’s kitchen sponge cleaner: http://www.aromahead.com/blog/2015/04/27/clean-kitchen-sponge-essential-oils/
- Andrea Butje’s yoga mat cleaner: http://www.aromahead.com/blog/2015/08/31/homemade-gym-equipment-cleaner-spray/
- Jade Shutes’ lemongrass bathroom scrub: http://theida.com/how-to-make-your-own-natural-bathroom-scrub/
- Jade Shutes’ window cleaner: http://theida.com/lavender-lemon-window-cleaner/
4. FILL CLEAN GLASS JARS WITH THE SCRUB.
Andrea Butje, internationally recognized aromatherapist and director of Aromahead School of Essential Oil (aromahead.com), is also the author of “Essential Living, Aromatherapy for Health & Home,” which contains more than 60 aromatherapy recipes, including cleaners for a healthier home environment. Two recipes she shared include one that cleans sponges, a major source of ick for many people.
Butje says to use a 2-ounce spray bottle, fill it ¾ full with water, then add 1 teaspoon castile soap, 10 drops peppermint essential oil, 5 drops eucalyptus essential oil and 5 drops lemon essential oil. Spray the sponge and let dry.
Need to put a little elbow grease into your yoga mat? Butje’s gym cleaner recipe helps keeps toxins off away while you detox. To make, combine 1 ounce water with 10 drops lemon essential oil and 10 drops tea tree essential oil. Shake spray and let dry.
If you’re not the recipe type and would rather improvise, use the following guidelines to help you make your own products.
Baking soda is for deodorizing and scrubbing. Vinegar can be diluted, 50/50 is strong, and can cut grease and inhibit mold growth. For added potency, add essential oils. You can experiment to invent your own cleaning scent. Be sure to test all new products on a small surface area.
NOT QUITE READY TO CUT OUT ALL COMMERCIAL CLEANERS?
Concentrated products that mix with water in a reusable bottle are a good way to go. While not quite making your own product, you are still being more economical and earth friendly by using fewer plastic bottles, and likely using cleaner cleansers.
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- Look up safety data on household cleaners by name or by ingredient: http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/index.htm
- Guides for safely using essential oils: https://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/
- Food and Drug Administration sheet on various essential oils http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=182.20
Sarah Buehrle is a certified aromatherapist. You can find her at www.facebook.com/SarahABuehrle.
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