You will have seen countless adverts across your TV channels announcing the launch of new products which promise you effortless and effective cleaning. However, they neglect to tell you the human health impact of the chemicals present in the products, not to mention the environmental impact when they are washed out of your household and into the natural environment.
Cleaning materials that stick around
The reality is that, unless you make a concerted effort to minimise or avoid them, chemicals from cleaning products will be present from the moment you rise from your bed to when you get back into it at night. On your bedding, in your shower, at your breakfast table, on your clothing, in your car, on your work keyboard, and so on. Despite being wiped or rinsed after use, chemicals from cleaning products will stick to the items they have ‘cleaned’, impacting you in all sorts of invisible ways via touch, inhalation, ingestion, and so on.
Three ways to create a safer space for yourself
While it's impossible to completely avoid chemicals in this day and age, it is possible to take measures to drastically reduce exposure to them by modifying your cleaning behaviour and investing in commercially available ecological cleaners or making your own. Here are three ways you can actively change your cleaning habits.
1. Behavioural steps; less is more
It is worth reflecting on your own cleaning rituals and whether they can be modified to reduce exposure to chemical products. Many people wash their clothes after a single wear for example, which is generally only needed in the case of underwear and sportswear. Items such as t-shirts, jumpers, trousers, jeans and towels can quite be washed far less frequently.
In terms of household cleaning, quick and frequent cleans can remove the need to use chemicals which are generally only needed for longer term stains and soiled surfaces and materials in areas like the kitchen, bathroom and so on.
2. Investing in commercially available eco friendly products
Green cleaning products have become increasingly popular, with some brands almost becoming household names, such as Ecover, whose products are plant based and available in several supermarket chains. Equally popular brands, Ecozone and Ecoleaf, are easily purchased online, and online shops like the Big Green Smile offer a wide variety of other green cleaning products.
3. Creating and using eco friendly DIY cleaning products
With a handful of readily available cheap ingredients, such as plain vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and citric acid, it's fairly straightforward to create your own natural cleaning products. Here are a few recipes to experiment with:
All purpose cleaner: To keep tiles, bathroom panels, mirrors, windows and bathroom and kitchen surfaces clean, mix together ½ cup of vinegar, ¼ cup bicarbonate of soda and 2 litres of water, and apply with a spray bottle.
Limescale remover: A solution of citric acid diluted 1 part to 10 in water is very effective at removing limescale from showers and taps. This mixture can be kept in a spray bottle and used any time.
Fabric softener: A cup of baking soda added to the washing machine wash cycle will soften fabrics.
To find other DIY natural cleaning product recipes, do a quick Google search for ideas or use these simple recipes from Friends of the Earth. Before you know it, these simple DIY mixtures will become firm favourites and you’ll wonder why you ever used commercial products in the first place.
Say goodbye to chemical cleaning products on World Environment Day
I hope you have found these tips useful, and that, on this Environment Day you consider saying goodbye to some of the chemicals in your life.
Anders Lorenzen is a writer, environmentalist and political activist. He’s the founding editor of A greener life, a greener world. He writes about environmental issues, climate change, energy and politics. He can be found tweeting at @alorenzen.