Reducing our toxic load is one of the most important components of living a long and healthy life. You might be surprised to know that the majority of our toxin exposure actually happens within our own household by products that we have purchased and brought home for cleaning purposes. In the year 2000, cleaning products were responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures reported to U.S. Poison Control. More then half of those exposures involved children under six. Cleaning ingredients vary in the type of health hazard, some cause acute (immediate) reactions such as skin or respiratory irritation, watery eyes, or even chemical burns, while others are associated with chronic (long-term) conditions.
Ingredients with high acute toxicity include chlorine bleach and ammonia. These produce fumes that are highly irritating to eyes, nose, throat and lungs, and should not be used by people with asthma or lung or heart problems. These two chemicals pose an added threat in that they can react with each other, or other chemicals, to form lung-damaging gases. The following is a short statement that may frustrate some scientists but to try to break it into easy terms…here we go… Combining products that contain chlorine and ammonia OR ammonia and lye (prominent in oven cleaners) produces chloramine gases, while chlorine combined with acids (commonly used in toilet bowl cleaners) forms toxic chlorine gas. Yummy.
Besides causing toxic fumes in our house, have you every thought about what happens to these chemicals when they go down the drain? They are treated along with sewage and other waste water at municipal treatment plants, then discharged into nearby waterways. Most ingredients in chemical cleaners do actually break down into harmless substances during treatment or soon afterward. Others, however, do not. Maybe this is more so on my mind because we live in a coastal community, but not only does this threaten our aquatic life population, it can majorly effect water supply. I know major is a subjective word…but in my opinion, this is major. In a May 2002 study of contaminants in stream water samples across the country, the U.S. Geological Survey found persistent detergent metabolites in 69% of streams tested and 66% contained disinfectants.
So, we have a problem. Luckily, we also have a solution.
Before I go further… let me ask you, what does your cleaning supply basket looks like? Does it fit in a basket? Is it more like a cleaning cabinet or even a closet? I know prior to our cleaning cabinet makeover, I had a different cleaner for every item (shower tile spray, toilet bowl cleaner, sink cleaner, kitchen counter cleaner, floor cleaner etc…). Take a look at what my cleaning basket looks like now!
So what do I keep in this magical tiny basket that miraculously cleans my ENTIRE house just as effectively as the other cleaning products but without the nasty chemicals? Vinegar, Baking Soda and four CPTG Essential Oils: Wild Orange, Lemond, OnGuard (an EO Blend) & Purify (an EO Blend).
Essential oils are quite amazing little cleaners. Let’s start with my favorite and most commonly used all-purpose cleaner.
I make my own OnGuard spray for surface cleaning. OnGuard is a blend of the following Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade oils: Cinnamon, Clove, Eucalyptus, Rosemary & Wild Orange. We use OnGuard as our all purpose cleaner and we also spray down toys (and little hands) before and after playdates. To make the spray, I use a 8 oz glass spray bottle, and then add about 15 drops of OnGuard EO. For my on-the-go spray, I use a 1 oz glass spray bottle with about 5 drops of OnGuard. You can add Vinegar to your larger all purpose spray bottle if you desire, but I typically just use OnGuard and water. I’m not going to go into full detail here about how effective Vinegar is at cleaning, but if you are interested this website has a lot of great ideas: http://www.vinegartips.com/
We also love using OnGuard in our laundry detergent. doTERRA sells laundry detergent, or you can actually make your own pretty easily! Speaking of laundry, are you using dryer balls? If you aren’t, you should be. My favorite dryer balls are made of alpaca wool. I bought them at a local farmer’s market from an alpaca farmer. YES, in SOUTH TEXAS someone is farming alpaca. Who knew? They make fabulous wool and thus, fabulous dryer balls. The balls cut my drying time for towels, sheets, diapers and jeans in half. I don’t use them on delicates or items I’m just “fluffing”. If you add a few drops of essential oil to them, you’ll have some fresh and lovely smelling towels when you open the dryer. I like to use Wild Orange. I have found that the oils last for up to 5 dryer cycles.
I mentioned that I use OnGuard and Vinegar to clean the toilet bowl, but sometimes for additional support I will combine backing soda, vinegar and OnGuard OR Lemon EO at the same time into the toilet bowl. This will create a foaming effect (much like a middle school science experiment) which is nice when you need to do a little scrubbing. You can use the same ingredients along with castile soap to make a scrub if you need additional support for grout on your contertops or in the bathtub.
Just make sure you follow the steps in the correct order. (This time you do NOT want the middle school science project)
Household deodorizers are one of the biggest offenders to our home. The leading household deodorizer has over 80 harmful chemicals. For this reason, I make what I call “faux-breze” out of a blend from doTERRA called Purify.
I use to call it the “stinky shoe spray”, but “faux-breze” rolls of the tongue a lot quicker. It does work for stinky shoes though, because it disinfects and kills airborn pathogens. I mentioned how wonderful Melaleuca was earlier. Well, Melaleuca is included in Purify along with Cilantro, Citronella, Lemon, Lime and Pine. I like to keep my Purify Spray in the bathroom but we use it all over the house (the dog bed receives frequent faux-breze sprays).
I’m sorry if I’ve been skipping around a bit…I’m going to wrap things up with Lemon essential oil.
We use Lemon EO a lot at our house because we eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables that I want to make sure are clean. We try to buy organic, but if we are unable to, I love knowing that lemon oil will do an amazing job of getting my organic as well as non-organic as clean as possible, (post growing process). All that to say, there are things that I can’t control (I wish I could grow all of my own food, or know what kind of environment each apply that we eat was grown in) but those things are (for now) out of my control. But I can utilize tools like Lemon essential oil to help me with whatever end product I end up with. I keep lemon oil in a glass spray bottle with water and I shake before I spray my fruits and veggies. A fun (but slightly frightening) experiment is to drop 1 drop of Lemon EO onto a balloon. It will pop instantly. I don’t do this at classes anymore because of the noise and also is sprays oil everywhere and wastes the drop. An easier way to show this, is to put a drop of lemon oil on a piece of styrofoam and watch it disappear. Lemon essential oil reacts with synthetics, such as petrochemicals, in a not so nice way. However, put a drop of lemon on your hand or on another fruit – and you will notice that no devastation occurs. This is why I choose to use lemon to clean my fruits and vegetables. Lemon will love on those fruits and veggies (and on us and our systems), but it will destroy any non-carbon based things that it finds. Go lemon! If you know about the “dirty dozen” (I think now it’s the dirty 15?) grapes are one of the top items to never buy non-organically because of the amount of pesticides used. However, it’s so SO hard to find organic grapes where I currently live. I know this isn’t the best solution, but for now, I buy non-organic grapes and I soak them with a few drops of lemon and water for 10-15 minutes. It’s an interesting process to watch. I periodically mix around the grapes because the water just disperses the lemon, it doesn’t attach to it or spread it evenly. The oil will pool together and I feel like I can actually see things being sucked out of my grapes. Maybe I’ve lost my mind. Too many oil fumes you know…starts getting to your head… One last thing that I do with my lemon spray is I spray half eaten apples or avocados because it keeps them fresh!