Welcome to September! This month’s challenge takes place in your cleaning cupboard…
September goal: Replace the harsh chemical cleaners in your home with natural alternatives.
Across much of the country, Spring is beginning to burst forth which means it’s time for some much needed spring cleaning! While this is a great time of year to give your home a deep clean, the products you use to do it can have lasting impacts on our environment and your family’s health. So this month, let’s explore some simple, natural alternatives that are not just healthier but are likely to save you some money too.
First up – your health. Harsh chemical cleaners can have a multitude of health effects. Chemical fumes can increase asthma and allergy symptoms – especially for kids. There is also some evidence that growing up in a house that is ‘too clean’ can increase children’s risk of developing allergies. Some exposure to dirt is a good thing, so don’t worry if your house isn’t immaculately clean in the first place.
Antibacterial cleaners – for surfaces as well as hands – kill the good bacteria along with the bad and tend to do more harm than good. Overuse of these products is also potentially aiding in the development of ‘superbacteria’ – bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and other chemicals. Regular old soap and warm water is enough to wash away most bad bacteria. And you only need to look to the warning labels on household cleaners to know that lots of them are actually toxic; posing a risk if ingested by kids or pets.
The health of the environment is at risk too. Many household cleaners contain chemicals that are harmful to aquatic life and are difficult to remove in our current water treatment systems, meaning they end up in our rivers and oceans. Once there, some harmful chemicals don’t break down but persist and accumulate, leading to ever-increasing levels. Examples include phthalates which the European Union considers toxic to aquatic organisms and phosphates, which act as fertilizers in water systems, encouraging algal growth.
So how to move forward without harsh cleaners? For those who want ease and simplicity, there are commercially available non-toxic, natural cleaning products in most supermarkets. But for the lowest-impact and cheapest option, making your own cleaners is best. Most household cleaning can be done with four low cost, easy-to-find ingredients: water, a biodegradable or non-toxic dish soap, white vinegar and baking soda.
Sprinkle baking soda on your tub, bench-top or sink and rub in with a sponge or soft cloth, then rinse. Its gritty nature is gently abrasive, removing stains and dirt with ease. Warm water with a splash of dish soap is great for floors and walls; add vinegar to boost your disinfecting power. Diluted vinegar is also great as a window cleaner and has the added benefit of being able to kill mould too! While lots of natural cleaning remedies contain essential oils, these are not a necessary addition – most are just there to make the house smell nice. Hop onto Google, or check the resources section below for some more specific natural cleaning recipes.
How to participate:
Choose the level below that works for you, and don’t forget to upload a picture of yourself getting your natural clean on. Feel free to share tips, tricks and recipes for cleaners. Whatever you post, include the hashtag #OSOFSustainableMe and you could be featured on the Plastic Free New Zealand page!
Here’s what to do:
Beginner: If you’re wary of baking ingredients as household cleaners, maybe the best way to begin is with commercially available eco-friendly cleaning products such as those available through the Earthwise or Ecostore brands.
Step it up: Start simple and find one or two cleaning product to change over. Baking soda as a scrub for your sinks, counters and tubs is a great way to begin.
Want more? Ditch your chemical cleaners and go all natural. There are lots of internet resources available for someone who wants chemical free cleaners – see the resources section below for suggestions of where to begin.
Even more??? Need an added challenge this month? Check out OSOF’s newest campaign, Straw Free September. Resources available for going straw free yourself, but more importantly, encouraging your favourite bar, café or restaurant to go straw free too!
How does it help?
Natural cleaners keep harmful chemicals out of our homes and out of our freshwater and ocean systems. It’s healthier for your family and your planet. Enough said.
Resources: (Please note, this is not an endorsement of these organisations, stores or products from OSOF, just a suggestion of how to get started)
Recipes abound on the web for natural cleaning products. Here are a few links to get you going!
Contributor: Andrea Greene-Liberatore