Reducing Toxin Exposure from Household Cleaners

Summary: Avoid toxic household cleaners as much as possible. Some generally non-toxic ones are the following:

Dr. Wood's soaps for handsoap and dishwashing

Bi-O-Kleen products

Earth Friendly Products

Miracle II Soap

Cleaners recommended by Hulda Clark

Borax for washing clothes, in automatic dishwashers, and for scouring.

Bleach (plain Chlorox) for disinfecting and cleaning unless there are mental problems with anyone in the household, especially senile dementia.

Vinegar mixed half and half with distilled water for cleaning glass.

Baking soda for scrubbing and cleaning.

Vodka or grain alcohol for glass cleaning and disinfecting.

Orange oil for cleaning wood floors and furniture

Soapworks and Shaklee household cleaner products are advertised as toxin free, but repeated inquiries to the companies asking the source of specific ingredients, like glycerine, yield no response.

Earth Friendly and Bi-O-Kleen products are widely available at health markets. They sell all types of household cleaning items and are a good choice.

Dr. Wood's makes many different types of lye and fat based soaps and cleaners which are safe. Their body care soaps are generally harsh and tend to give one a "lardy" smell when used long term, but as household cleaners they work fine. A good selection of Wood's products is available at iHerb.

Miracle II Soap is a better choice for most cleaning needs. It is toxin free, but does contain a coconut-based surfactant, which some are sensitive to. It is colored green and scented by green vegetable extracts, not dyes. Miracle II green soap is excellent for most cleaning around the home, including as soap, hand soap, shampoo, body soap, floors, dishwashing, automatic dishwashers, clothes washers, floors, etc. Although it is an industrial strength degreaser, it is gentle enough for babies. It is, well, a miracle soap, and highly recommended by Electroherbalism.

Borax is cheap and works fine as an automatic dishwashing detergent. It can also be used alone for washing clothes, but is not that effective for heavily soiled clothes. Borax can be made much more effective by adding a couple of teaspoons of Dr. Wood's soap to a full load of wash. Too much and foam may erupt during the wash cycle. Miracle II soap also works well as a clothes detergent used in small amounts.

White vinegar can be mixed half and half with water to make a glass cleaner that also works okay as an all-purpose cleaner. Also can mix a cup of straight vinegar in a gallon of hot water to clean heavily soiled wood floors. For regular cleaning of wood floors, the best cleaner and preserver is orange oil. Now brand orange oil costs around $3 per ounce, which is 6 teaspoons. Mix a teaspoon into a half gallon to gallon of hot water for wood floors. Put a few drops on a clean cloth for dusting wood furniture.

Orange oil, as well as most other steam distilled oils, are safe from a toxin viewpoint. Orange oil is an excellent cleaner. Instead of mixing it directly in water, one can make a mix of 4 ounces in a quart of water with a teaspoon of Miracle II soap to make a base for cleaning floors - add two ounces of this mixture to a half gallon of water to clean wood floors and other surfaces. A teaspoon or two of orange oil in a 22 oz bottle with a few drops of soap is the typical recipe for orange spray cleaners. Making it oneself is very inexpensive if the orange oil is purchased cheap. Now is usually a good value, but a far less expensive source is to purchase orange oil directly from iHerb or Bulk Apothecary.

Vodka and other drinkable alcohols, especially pure grain alcohol like Golden Grain, make the best all-purpose and glass cleaners. Cheap vodka costs around $12 for a big bottle.

The following article was written by Ange Foret and gives more recipes for household cleaners. They all look good except where she recommends using "fabric softener sheets", those smelly things that are put in dryers to reduce static and give clothes a toxic "spring-fresh smell."

Household cleaner recipes

by Ange Foret

Maybe you have a problem with fumes or some ingredients irritate your skin and eyes. Maybe you want to help the environment and protect your children. Maybe you're just frugal whatever the reason, you can make your own cleaning products out of ordinary items you may already have on hand!

In the Kitchen

An equal mixture of vinegar and water has long been the professional cleaner's solution to expensive window cleaners. This solution will clean glass, microwaves, stove fronts and windows. Use slightly more vinegar in your solution if you are not getting the desired results.

An complementary to CometBaking soda! Sprinkle baking soda on pans coated with baked-on grease, add enough water to make a paste, and let sit overnight. The next morning, the pan will wipe clean. Baking soda also works on counter stains, sinks (not stainless steel, as the abrasives may scratch it) and even faucet grout.

Remember the Home Ec trick for testing your baking soda to see if it's fresh? Add one tablespoon baking soda to 1/4 cup vinegar. If the vinegar fizzes, the baking soda is still fresh. You can use that fizzy action to clean out your drains and garbage disposal! Once every two or three months, dump 5-6 tablespoons of baking soda down the drain. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar and let the fizzies go to work!

Another good drain freshener for particularly smelly garbage disposals also keeps the blades clean. Cut a lemon in half and drop it down the garbage disposal. Add several ice cubes, tell everyone to cover their ears and flip the switch. The lemon deodorizes the disposal, while the ice cubes help sharpen the blades.

Cleaning the oven is a particularly onerous task. Smelly cleaners that require long gloves, goggles and widespread evacuation do work, but often at the expense of your pocketbook and your sensitive nose. If your oven does not self clean, you can try a few simple tricks be sure to check your owner's manual first, though. A paste of baking soda and vinegar, smeared on the walls and left to sit for a few hours, is a surprisingly effective oven cleaner. Another idea (but one that comes with a lot of fumes) is to fill a bowl with ammonia, place it in the oven and let it sit overnight. By morning, the fumes from the ammonia will have loosened the dirt particles. Before opening the door, however, be sure to open a few windows and wear a face mask if you're particularly sensitive to strong odors.

In the Bathroom

Keeping a bathroom clean and fresh smelling can be a tough job, but you can do it with common household products! Bleach is probably the most versatile and widely used cleaning solution, especially in places that collect germs, such as the bathroom and kitchen.

The toilet bowl can be a chore to clean, but it doesn't have to be! First, invest in a handled scrub brush. Not only does this protect your hands but it also keeps the toilet bowl sparkling. Pouring 1/2 cup bleach into the bowl and allowing it to sit for several hours or overnight will magically clean the bowl of mildew and rust spots. Once the bleach has worked it's magic, simply use the scrub brush to clean under the rim and around the bowl. Another old-time suggestion is to pour half a can of Coca-Cola in the bowl and let it sit for several hours. The citric acid in the cola reportedly breaks down mold enzymes and allows you to easily wash the stains away. Whichever method you choose, be sure to flush the toilet when finished ammonia and bleach do not mix well!

Cleaning the shower is another dreaded chore that can be reduced. The first thing you should do before cleaning the shower is turn the shower on it's hottest setting and leave it on for a few minutes. The heat from the water helps to loosen dirt and make it easier to scrub off. Then, using a sponge and a pail of hot, soapy water, sprinkle a layer of baking soda around the tub. Use the sponge and water to make a paste of baking soda and scrub the paste onto the tub. Let this paste sit for 15-20 minutes (you can start on the sinks while you're waiting), then scrub and rinse away. To get rid of stubborn ring around the bathtub stains, use an old cloth dipped in white vinegar and rubbed along the stain. No need to rinse when finished your tub will sparkle!

Clean mildew on shower curtains, ceilings and other areas by spraying the area with a mixture of one part water to one part bleach. Wipe away as needed. Spraying often with bleach, such as once a month or so, may prevent mildew buildup.

For sinks and countertops, use the same methods you use in the kitchen a sponge or cloth, hot, soapy water and baking soda if needed. Use a small, old toothbrush to clean around sink and faucet edges. Blot white toothpaste on a soft, dry cloth and use it to clean stainless steel faucets; when finished, rinse thoroughly and dry.

Once every few months, pour a mixture of 2 parts vinegar to one part baking soda down the drain. This keeps it clean and fresh-smelling. To keep hair and other particles from clogging the drain, invest in a drain-catch, a small piece of perforated metal or plastic that fits over the drain hole and catches particles while allowing water to run down freely.

For floors, use a combination of hot, soapy water and bleach. Your floors will shine and be disinfected at the same time.

In other areas of the home

Clean and deodorize carpets by sprinkling them with baking soda and letting it sit for 15 minutes before vacuuming. Baking soda absorbs odors and leaves the carpet smelling fresh and clean.

For stains in the carpet, treat them immediately with a combination of warm water and a few drops of regular dishwashing detergent (NOT dishwasher detergent). Test a small area of the carpet for color-fastness. First vacuum the area thoroughly to remove as much debris as possible. Using a sponge or old, clean cloth, blot the stain until it transfers to the cloth do not rub, as this may cause the stain to set deeper. Then, use a different cloth and a bowl of clear water to blot up the soap and stain residue. Vacuum and let dry.

Dust furniture using an electric-static cloth or fabric softener sheet. These solutions are extremely effective at attracting and keeping dust adhered to cloth, especially since using a cloth or duster alone merely transfers the dust to the air, forcing it to resettle back where you dusted!

When cleaning litterboxes, use a solution of ammonia, warm water and a few drops of dishwashing detergent. Once the litter has been emptied, wash and rinse thoroughly, then dry completely. Sprinkle a layer of baking soda on the bottom of the pan, then add litter. Sprinkle a light layer of baking soda on top of the litter, then shake the pan lightly to distribute the baking soda throughout the pan. Use charcoal filters to keep smells at a minimum.

Remove crayon marks from walls using a fabric softener sheet. Rub marks lightly with sheet and the stains lift right off!

Some tips and warnings

Before using any cleaner, homemade or commercial, be sure to check the label and test the area you will be using it on, if necessary. This is especially true for carpets and upholstery always test the cleaner in a small, inconspicuous area first.

Although these cleaners are homemade and use products already in your home, be careful of mixing the wrong chemicals. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia together creates powerful fumes that can cause dizziness and fainting, especially if you are pregnant or underweight. It's a good idea to always have windows open and/or ventilator fans running when cleaning, especially in enclosed areas such as bathrooms and near ovens.

The best homemade solution for cleaning is prevention. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of your oven, under the burner (check the manufacturer's specifications first), to catch spills and make for easy cleanup. Wipe down shower walls or turn your shower head on them after showers to prevent soap scum buildup. Make it a habit to clean up spills before they become stains, especially on carpet and upholstery.

You don't have to spend a fortune and lug around twelve bottles for each room of your home to keep it clean. Using these homemade cleaners will not only save you time, but also money and help protect the environment by re-using bottles and more environmentally friendly products like baking soda.

Feedback and Comments

Note: This comment was made before Seventh Generation products were removed from the recommendations:


I was reading information on your website on Reducing Toxin Exposure from Household Cleaners. You seem to recommend Seventh Generation products. snip-

Seventh Generation household cleaners (a full line of them, including dishwashing, autodishwashing, clothes, general cleaners, even a toilet bowl cleaner.)

I had an experience with their dishwashing soap. I became aware of the ingredient SLS. It is a sulphite thatis made in many forms so as not to be as irritating as SLS. Sorry I can't spell it. It is also synthetic.I purchased the dishwashing product and got sick 1 minute after putting my hands into the soap water. I emailed the company and asked if they had that ingredient in their soap. They do not have an ingredient list on the bottle. They wrote back and said they use another form of sulphite in their soap, not the SLS, and that is in the same family. Also they consider this to be a good product even though it takes years for this soap to biodegrade in the environment.

I don't know why you recommend this company on your website. I had found a dishwashing product from the company Bi-O-Kleen, that does NOT have this toxic substance in it. I would like you to list this company over the other one. I am not affiliated with the company. Just a person who kept getting sick buying products that promote themselves as being safe. I won't buy any product that won't list the ingredients on the bottle anymore, no matter if they call themselves natural or organic.

Elizabeth D.