The apparent convenience of many cleaning products and the promises advertised of a better life and the ability to clean quicker is in fact often more costly to our health, the household budget and the environment.
There are simple changes and improvements we can all make to detoxify our homes and reduce the toxins we release into the world.
In this guide, we highlight ideas, top tips and recipes you can use to implement change in your home.
Anti-fungal underwear and nappy wash
Diaper cleaning solution
- 20-30 drops of one of the following essential oils: lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, orange of a natural disinfectant blend
- Â½ cup of white vinegar (distilled)
- 2 cups of washing soda
Mix the ingredients together.
Add to wash cycle once or twice per month to remove bacteria, germs and stubborn odours.
By adding a little bluing solution fabrics appear whiter. Do not use at the same time as fabric softener.
Leave white clothes on the grass in direct sunlight until the desired whiteness is achieved.
This disinfectant is a safer option than chlorine bleach for whitening and disinfecting.
By using a spray nozzle bottle, Hydrogen peroxide can be used on cloth diaper stains, blood stains and other stubborn stains before washing.
Use Â½ – 1 cup of lemon juice in a wash cycle.
After washing with lemon juice clothes can be placed in the sun to whiten further.
Lemon juice is also useful as a spot remover:
- Moisten spot with lemon juice
- Set item in the sun
- Add a little more lemon juice to the area before washing
To remove hard to clean stains including rust stains mix cream of tartar with lemon juice.
Oxygen bleach is 100% biodegradable and non-toxic. It wonâ€™t discolour clothing and there are no enzymes, chlorine, phosphates or petroleum ingredients.
There are three types of oxygen bleach:
- Sodium percarbonate
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Sodium perborate
Oxygen bleach is ideal for use on stains, mould and mildew and on upholstery.
The most natural bleach available to use is the sunlight. For centuries white items of clothing have been hung out in the sun to naturally whiten. Be aware though that colours hung in the sun can fade.
Washing soda and hydrogen peroxide
This effervescent combination will bubble away the stains â€“ combine equal parts of washing soda and hydrogen peroxide and leave to do its magic.
It will likely take longer than chlorine bleach but it is a more environmentally friendly option.
Tips on washing detergents
For those who wish there is always the option to make your own washing detergent entirely from scratch. By creating your own it can be a scent that you prefer, thereâ€™ll be no toxic soaps, no lingering chemicals, household pollution will be reduced and youâ€™ll save money.
There are also several biodegradable liquid household soaps available on the market that are often reasonably priced, effective ad better for the environment.
Choosing a biodegradable liquid household soap
When looking for the best biodegradable liquid household soap there are a few things to watch out for on the label.
– Â Highly concentrated
– Â No fillers
– Â Contains NO:
o Â Glyol ether
o Â Petrochemicals
o Â Alcohol
o Â Artificial fragrances
o Â Chlorine
o Â MEA
o Â Nonyl phenol
o Â Artificial colours
o Â Ammonial
o Â EDTA
o Â Sodium lauryl or laureth sulfate
o Â Artificial preservatives
The great thing about these more natural soaps is that there are no toxic fumes and theyâ€™re ideal for people with chemical sensitivities.
If you want you can add additional essential oils to strengthen the aroma.
Simple & easy to use
For a light load Â½ – 3 teaspoons of soap
For a medium load 3-5 teaspoonsÂ
For a heavy load 1-4 tablespoons
Add essential oils such as orange, grapefruit or lemon to boost the aroma.
Tips for specialty laundryÂ
New clothing is often full of chemicals so itâ€™s a good idea to clean them before wearing. You can soak them for a few hours overnight before washing with detergent.
Soak in either of the following:
– Â Â½ cup coarse non-iodized salt
o Â Be wary of soaking elasticated items as they can be ruined if left in salt solution too long)
– Â Â½ cup baking soda. This might fade colours and several rinses will be needed to fully remove baking soda from the clothes.
– Â 1 cup of distilled white vinegar
Biodegradable soap or a natural shampoo will work just as well as specialist soaps for woollen clothing.
Clothes that has a musty smell can be refreshed by soaking in a coarse salt and water mix for an hour or two and then washing as usual.
The proposed washing powder recipes below could be made using several different soap bars but the following are suggested for use: Kirkâ€™s HardwaterCastile, Fels-Naptha, Sunlight bar soap, Ivory soap and Zote.
If you have hard water at your home you will need to adjust the amount of powder used in a wash accordingly.
Washing powder #1
– Â 2 cups grated soap bar
– Â 1 cup washing soda
– Â 1 cup borax
Mix well â€“ use two tablespoons per laundry load.
Washing powder #2
This recipe makes enough washing powder to last a family of for around 12 months (on average)
– Â 20 cups baking powder (not washing soda)
– Â 16 cups of borax
– Â 12 cups grated soap bar
– Â 5 tablespoons of an essential oil
Combine the baking powder, borax and grated soap first and then add the essential oil.
Store homemade washing powders in an airtight container.
Laundry soap gel
– Â 2 gallons water
– Â 1 bar of soap â€“ grated
– Â Â½ cup of washing soda
– Â Â½ cup of borax
– Â 1 tablespoon essential oil
Dissolve the grated bar of soap in water over low heat.
Add the soda, borax and essential oil to the soap and water.
Stir carefully to combine.
Use Â¼ – Â½ a cup per wash load.
Dust mite â€“ deep clean
Bed bugs and dust mites feed off of dead skin cells and they can be particularly difficult to get rid of. The chemicals often used to rid of these pests can be incredibly toxic.
Research shows that the naturally derived eucalyptus oil kills dust mites and bed bugs.
– Â Add 25 drops of eucalyptus globulus per load of affected washing
– Â Add 25 drops of eucalyptus globulus to clean bedding or clothing when putting in the dryer.
– Â During the cold and flu seasons adding 10-12 drops of a non-toxic protector or disinfectant blend to your washing machine to prevent the spread of germs
– Â Add lemon or orange, for its antibacterial qualities, when washing undergarments.
– Â A few drops of tea tree, lemon, eucalyptus or orange to disinfect laundry and adds an aroma too.
– Â Adding a few drops of scotch pine to laundry will also disinfect clothes.
â€œMost people arenâ€™t aware of the toxicity of many commercial laundry productsâ€¦
Theyâ€™re often not aware that dry sheets cover clothes in a thin layer of chemicals that are believed to promote liver cancer. So they keep buying them.
Meanwhile product manufacturers deny the health consequences of their products. Theyâ€™ll acknowledge that the chemicals are present but claim skin wonâ€™t absorb them. Though its well documented that skin absorbs almost all chemicals. Thatâ€™s why â€œpatchâ€ administered medicines work, the medicine is absorbed through the skin.â€ Mike Adams, The Health Ranger
Where possible, itâ€™s better to avoid buying clothes that require dry cleaning, though many of the items that are marked â€˜requires dry cleaningâ€™ often do not need this care.
Manufacturers will place this on the label to avoid upset customers who do not care for their clothes.
– Â Wash your delicate clothing by hand, a dry cleaner can then press your clothes if you so desire
– Â Stains and odours from perspiration can be treated by spritzing with vodka
– Â In the instance you donâ€™t want to try to dry clean at home you can try professional wet cleaning or liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) cleaning
If an item of clothing absolutely has to be dry cleaned, once you bring it home remove the bag and hand the clothes outside to â€˜air outâ€™ and allow the solvents to evaporate. Itâ€™s recommended to leave items out for airing for 3-4 days at least.
Beware of â€˜naturalâ€™ or â€˜organicâ€™ dry cleaners
If youâ€™ve found a dry cleaner that claims to be earth-friendly be sure to ask about the methods and chemicals that are used to ensure their claims are true.
Hydocarbon cleaning is a petroleum-based method. It is a major source of greenhouse gases. Some hydrocarbon cleaners will claim that their methods are organic when theyâ€™re in fact petroleum based â€“ though it is not as toxic as traditional methods.
You can create your own dryer sheets at home.
Natural non toxic dryer sheet #1
– Â Cut 10 â€“ 15 5 inch squares of an old t-shirt or other soft fabric
– Â Put 4-5 drops of an essential oil onto each sheet
– Â Stack cloths in an airtight container
– Â Take out as needed and use the same way you would a shop bought dryer sheet
– Â Refresh with essential oil drops each time you use
Natural non toxic dryer sheet #2
– Â Fill an 8 oz spray bottle with distilled water
– Â Add 40 drops of an essential oil of your choice
Shake contents well and then spray a clean wash cloth with the solution until its damp. Add to the dryer with clothes.
Eco-friendly, non-polluting Fabric softeners
Even unscented fabric softeners are filled with toxins. A study completed by the University of Washington discovered that detergents and dryer sheets usually contain two carcinogens â€“ benzene and acetaldehyde which both carry a warning advising not to inhale.
Using essential oils and vinegar is healthier and more cost effective.
The following reduce static with no toxins, no scents and no chemical residues.
– Â Add Â½ a cup of white wine vinegar of baking soda to soften water and reduce static
– Â Roll a ball of aluminium foil and put it in the dryer whilst running clothes through as it can naturally reduce the static cling.
– Â Reduce static in synthetic materials by running the dryer on a â€˜no heatâ€™ or â€˜air dryâ€™ setting when the laundry is almost dry and then hang the clothes up to completely dry. This method also reduces the need for ironing.
– Â Natural dryer balls such as those made from wool can eliminate static, reduce drying time and soften clothes.
– Â Turn down the temperature on the dryer and reduce the length of drying time to prevent over drying which causes static.
Fabric softener recipe #1
– Â Â¾ cup of distilled white vinegar
– Â 5-10 drops essential oil
Add the mix to the washing machine during the final rinse and your clothes will come out clean and soft. The vinegar removes any detergent residue and relaxes the fabric fibres. Once the clothes are dry there will be no vinegar smell and the clothes will dry quicker.
Fabric softener recipe #2
– Â 1 gallon of distilled white vinegar
– Â 40 drops of an essential oil
Add the essential oil to the vinegar and mix well. The solution should be kept in a sealed container â€“ shake well before each use.
Add 1 cup to the final rinse cycle for large loads, add Â½ a cup for smaller loads.
Fabric softener recipe #3
– Â 1 cup of baking soda
– Â 1 cup of white vinegar
– Â 2 cups distilled water
– Â 20 drops of an essential oil â€“ grapefruit, lemon, orange or scotch pine are all good additions
Mix the ingredients together, add 1 cup to the rinse stage of the washing cycle.
Fabric softener recipe #4
– Â 6 cups of distilled white vinegar
– Â 1 cup of distilled water
– Â 1 cupÂ of baking soda
– Â 20 – 30 drops eucalyptus, lemon, orange, palmarosa, or desired essential oil
Mix the ingredients well. Add Â½ – 1 cup to the rinse cycle of a wash.
Commercial spray starches can contain chemicals such as formaldehyde, phenol, and pentachlorophenol. It makes sense to avoid these sprays and instead make your own.
Starch spray recipe for light coloured clothing
– Â 2-3 teaspoons corn starch dissolved in 1 pint of water
Pour the mix into a refillable spray bottle and use it as needed.
Starch spray for dark coloured clothing
– Â 2-3 teaspoons of corn starch dissolved in 1 pint of water
– Â Â½ cup of black tea
Mix well and pour into a refillable spray bottle, use as needed.
Toxin-free laundry solutions for pests
For use cleaning laundry infected with fleas, ticks, dust mites and other pests.
Information about dust mites
Dust mites are tiny microscopic arachnids and are a part of the tick and spider family. Theyâ€™re so small that they are able to linger in the air for around 8 hours.
Itâ€™s estimated that there are around 40,000 dust mites in just one ounce of regular household dust.
Dust mites live off of the dead skin cells that fall of our bodies at a rate of about 50 million cells per day.
Each individual dust mite produces 20 faecal pellets per day on average, adding to the grime and potential toxins around our homes, in bedding and upholstery etc. One double mattress can easily be home to 2 million dust mites.
When an allergy sufferer inhales these pollutants symptoms can be triggered.
Unfortunately for us, dust mites have sticky feet meaning they cannot be easily hoovered up and simply washing the bedding as standard will not get rid of them.
The University of Sydney conducted a study using Eucalyptus Globulus essential oil in a wash load with wool, linen or cotton sheets and found that wool washed with both detergent and eucalyptus oil eliminated up to 95% of the pests. The research concluded that the method is simple, effective and inexpensive.
Dust mite control for linens
There are several essential oils such as balsam fir, eucalyptus globulus and scotch pine that have all been proven to repel many types of pests including lice, fleas and mites.
When placed on doorways, peppermint has been proven to prevent small critters from entering.
Always conduct a patch test before using essential oils as they might dissolve petrochemicals.
Using essential oils by creating a misting spray can also be effective. A good ratio for making a misting spray is to use 15-20 drops of essential oil per pint of water. Always use distilled water to create misting sprays. Continue to wash bedding/coverings and washable toys as well as spraying with mist.
To create a washing solution Dr Tovey of the Institute of Respiratory Medicine University of Sydney in Australia recommends the following combination:
– Â Four parts Eucalyptus Globulus Oil
– Â One part liquid dish washing soap (not laundry detergent)
Mix together and add this solution to around 3 fl oz. of water to dilute.
Allow the washing cycle to wash for a short time with the solution and then stop the machine and let it soak for 30 minutes before turning it on to complete the laundry cycle.
Dust mite spray sofas, mattresses etc.
– Â 1 pint of distilled water
– Â 15-20 drops of essential oil such as balsam fir, eucalyptus globulus or scotch pine
Mix together and put in spray bottle, shake well before each use.
Spray solution onto pillows, mattresses, curtains, upholstered furniture, soft furnishings and toys. Allow to sit for 2 hours.
Always do a patch test on an unseen area before spraying all over.
Shop bought moth repellents used for linens or wool items or in closets are usually toxic as theyâ€™re made of naphthalene. Non toxic options include essential oils such as scotch pine, balsam fir and eucalyptus globulus can repel moths and other critters. These essential oils will also infuse a pleasant aroma throughout your house.
Create your own moth ball by placing several drops of oil onto a cotton ball and then wrapping and tying the ball within a small piece of cotton cloth. Hang this in your closet or place in drawers with clothing. Refresh when needed.
Non-toxic stain removers
Many conventional spot and stain removing products contain benzene, xylene and toluene, these are all neurotoxins. Other toxins that are commonly used include formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen and chlorine.
Itâ€™s possible to make your own, safe stain remover:
General stain or spot remover #1
– Â Â¼ cup of bio-degradable liquid household soap
– Â Â¾ cup water
– Â 1-/20 drops essential oil
Mix the solution well in a spray bottle and spray as needed on stains before washing as normal. For tough stains use a toothbrush to scrub.
General stain or spot remover #2
– Â Â½ cup of white vinegar
– Â Â¼ cup of baking soda
– Â 2 tablespoons of biodegradable liquid household soap
– Â 2 quarts of water
Mix the ingredients together in a spray bottle and shake before each us. Spray onto the spot or stain and leave to stand before washing as normal.
General stain or spot remover #3
– Â 1 cup of baking soda
– Â 1 cup hydrogen peroxide
– Â 2 cup very hot water (to dissolve the baking soda)
– Â 50-60 drops of your favourite essential oil
Combine the ingredients in a pot and stir until mixed, store in a spray bottle for ease of use. When needed spray the affected area, allow to sit for a few minutes and then wash as normal.
Stain, mould, grease and odour remover
– Â Â¼ cup borax
– Â 2 cups cold water
For additional strength baking soda or washing soda can be added. Soak the clothing in the mixture of use a sponge to treat a particular area.
Tips for removing marks from clothing
– Â Use several drops of orange essence oil and add bio-degradable liquid soap together put directly onto mark or spot and allow to sit before washing as normal.
– Â Use a few drops of lemon or orange oil on a stain and allow to sit before washing as normal.
– Â Use club soda to remove a stain, rub into spot and then clean off with a sponge. For tougher stains mix baking soda with club soda.
– Â Soak stained clothing in a mix of borax and water before washing as normal.
– Â Clothing or linen can be soaked in oxygen bleach and water.
– Â Organic shampoo can be used to remove stains as it is formulated to cut through oil. Put shampoo on stain and allow to sit before washing as normal.
– Â Wet a bar of non-toxic laundry soap and rub directly onto the mark, allow to sit before washing as normal.
– Â For extreme grease marks and stains add one can of coke to the washer.
– Â To remove perspiration odours add one cup of vinegar or baking soda to the wash.
To remove rust marks from clothing: soak the stained area with lemon juice and a lemon essential oil then rub with salt. Lace in direct sunlight until dry and then wash as normal.
To remove blood: soak the stained area in cold water and then spray with hydrogen peroxide before washing as normal.
Remove a fruit stain from clothing: Immediately blot the mark with a towel, then add cold water and continue blotting.
To remove grease from clothing: Saturate the stain in orange essential oil. Allow to sit then pour boiling water on the stains. Sprinkle with baking soda and allow to sit again before washing as normal.
Remove mildew from clothing: Saturate the clothing with tea tree essential oil and allow to sit. Then pour soap and salts on the spots and place in sunlight. Keep moist and repeat the process as often as is needed.
Laundry chemicals to avoid
The below table highlights which laundry chemicals are likely to put your health at risk.
|Chemicals to avoid
|Usually found in
|Potential health risks
|Bleach and perfumes
|Can cause irritation to eyes, mouth, throat and skin
|Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)
|Reproductive and developmental effects have been seen in animal studies
|Detergent, dryer sheets and fabric softener
|Can cause irritation to the skin and eyes
|Diethanolamine (DEA or DEOA)
|Can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. Has also been linked to liver and kidney tumours
|Releases formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen. Causes rashes and skin inflammation
|Stain removers and dry cleaning chemicals
|Animal studies have shown it to cause birth defects and have effect on development
|Potent irritant to eyes, lungs and upper respiratory tract
|Dry cleaning chemicals
|Liver and kidney damage
|Irritant and neurotoxin
|Detergent, dry cleaning products
|Known hormone disruptor
|ER, KSN, OB, OB-1
|Possible reproductive and developmental effects
|Linear alkyl sodium sulfonates (LAS)
|Eye and skin irritate, can be toxic to aquatic life
|Petroleum distillates (also known as naphthas)
|Chemicals have been linked to cancer and lung damage
Finding the best essential oils
If youâ€™re making the switch to more natural and non-toxic methods itâ€™s important to find quality essential oils.
Look for these qualities:
– Â Check the oils are from organic and wildcrafted plants. No pesticides or chemicals should have been used in the cultivation.
– Â Choose premium 100% pure essential oils with no additive, extenders or compromises.
– Â Ensure extraction of the oils is done in a way to preserve the plant material
– Â No GMO plants should be used for extraction or distillation
– Â There should be no irradiation
– Â Sewage sludge should not be used in any of the plants or plant materials from which the oils have been sourced
– Â Choose cruelty-free oils. There should be no animal testing or no animal derivatives
– Â There should be no cross-contamination from allergens such as peanuts, milk, wheat, soy, fish, egg, shellfish or tree nuts.
– Â Check for authentic and therapeutic grade oils that have been independently tested and documented for purity and authenticity.
– Â Itâ€™s often the case that authenticity can be assured by oils showing a lot or batch number