Clean House, Clear Conscience

Mar 22, 2021

History of Chemicals and Pollutants:

  • Most of our chemicals are made from non-renewable petroleum byproducts.
  • Few of these chemicals have been tested.
  • Most tests are biased and are carried out by the product manufacturers.
  • The government does little testing and has problems agreeing on definitions of toxicity or on the standards for toxic chemicals.
  • Industry recognizes few of the government standards that are set.
  • For example, many products do not contain ingredient lists or neglect to indicate warnings about possible health problems caused by their ingredients.

Toxic Chemicals, Their Aliases and Their Definitions

Toxicity: There are different types of toxicity. Acute toxicity results from one time use of a large amount of a chemical. Chronic toxicity refers to illnesses that result from repeated exposures to a small amount of a chemical over an extended period of time. This is the type of toxicity that usually affects human beings and other living organisms as a result of household cleaners and chemicals.

  • Volatile Organic Compounds: Quick drying compounds that aid drying but leave the air filled with toxins
  • Natural Organic Chemicals: Naturally occurring combinations of atoms including carbon.
  • Synthetic Organic Chemicals: Man-made occurring combinations of atoms including carbon.

Biodegradation and Bioaccumulation:

If chemicals are not biodegradable they will accumulate in the tissues of plants and animals. Their concentration will increase as they move from one organism to another up the food chain.

Environmental Illnesses and Environmental Degradation

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: This disease is characterized by multisystem response to low level chemical exposures commonly encountered in the ambient environment. Many symptoms may be experienced and may be misdiagnosed as allergies or other diseases. Some chemicals act to depress the immune or nervous systems or mimic hormones causing major body imbalances.



  • Epstein, Samuel S. and David Steinman. The Safe Shopper’s Bible
  • Steinman, David and Michael R. Wisner. Living Healthy in a Toxic World
  • Dadd, Brenda Lynn. Home Safe Home: Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Everyday Toxics and Harmful Household Products
  • Brower, Michael and Warren Leon. The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choice
  • Colburn, Theo, Dianne Dumanoski and John Peterson Myers. Our Stolen Future
  • Harte, John, Cheryl Holdren, Richard Schneider and Christine Shirley. Toxics A-Z: A Guide to Everyday Pollution Hazards
  • Fagin, Dan, Marianne Lavelle, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Toxic Deception: How the Chemical Industry Manipulates Science, Bends the Law and Endangers Your Health.


The Seventh Generation Guide to a Toxic-Free Home

Toxic Areas in the Home:


Chlorine bleach: 

  • causes toxic fumes when combined with ammonia or vinegar
  • non chlorine bleach is better but still can contain artificial fragrance 

Safe Solutions:    

  • sodium hexametaphosphate
  • Borax
  • Vinegar

Detergents vs. soap

  • Detergents were developed especially to clean synthetic fabrics. They are formulated from petrochemicals and may contain bleaches, synthetic whiteners and artificial fragrances. Soap is made from natural minerals and fats.
  • Baking soda, vinegar, or Borax (1 cup per load) will remove odor and dispel dirt and can replace soap altogether if stains are not an issue.

Spray starch:

  • may contain formaldehyde and other phenols.

Safe Solution:  

  • 1 tbsp cornstarch in one pint cold water and shake spray bottle before using


Furnace, Humidifier, Filters and Ducts

Silver and Brass -these are composed of ammonia and petroleum distillates

Safe Solutions:

  • place aluminum and salt into boiling water with silver wear and magnetize the tarnish away (use cold water for jewelry)
  • use lemon juice to clean brass or copper or combine lemon juice and salt or lemon juice and baking soda


Most window cleaners are ammonia and blue dye

Safe Solution:

  • vinegar and water (50/50)


Usually contain ammonia, detergents, aerosol pollutants and fragrances

Safe solutions:

  • baking soda
  • turtle wax

Floors and Furniture polishes

Formulations including phenol and nitrobenzene – both of these are extremely toxic and are absorbed through skin. These products continue to give off residual fumes after they have been applied.

Safe Solution:

  • mineral oil is still a petrochemical so it is better to use natural oils like olive oil or beeswax

Dry cleaning

Involves solvents and detergents including benzene, formaldehyde, naphthalene and chlorine. Try to find a drycleaner that does not use these harsh chemicals


More than 150 carcinogenic chemicals may be found in paints

Safe Solution:

  • use non toxic paints or milk paints to colour your indoor space.

Dishwashers and Handsoap

Detergent with dye and sometimes ammonia

Safe Solution:

  • castile soap

Steamcleaning and Carpet cleaners

Commonly made with perchloroethylene, ammonia, detergents, and ethanol – these leave residue behind.

Safe Solution:

  • baking soda sitting overnight on carpet before vacuuming

Household Insects

Safe Solutions:

  • powdered Chrysanthemum cinerarifolium mixed with alcohol
  • ants: red chili pepper, peppermint or Borax
  • flies: cloves citrus oil or fly paper

Packaging and Containers

Using vinegar or baking soda allows you to purchase bulk amounts of cleaning products and reuse smaller spray bottles. Other aerosol or toxic cans etc. should be deposited at a fire station rather than into your garbage bins.


Handsoap: Place a ½ - deep layer of Borax in a 2 litre container and fill with water. Shake and let settle. Pour off the clear part and use it as a soap concentrate.

Flypaper: Boil equal parts sugar, corn syrup and water. Paint onto a piece of brown paper.


Insect repellent:

  • Ants: sprinkle chili pepper, peppermint around ant colonies or the base of the house
  • Flies: hang clusters of cloves in the room or heat a tiny bit of citrus oil on the stove or hang a satchel of fresh orange rind in a room
  • Moths: cedar blocks placed with clothing or a sachet combining ½lb rosemary, ½lb mint, ¼lb tansy, ¼lb thyme and 2 tbsp cloves

Window Cleaner: Place equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle and apply.

Silver Polish: In a sink full of hot water, combine a handful of salt and a sheet of aluminum foil. Let the silver soak in this mixture for 2-3 minutes and then wipe dry. For silverware, use salt, aluminum and baking soda. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the silverware, boil for 2-3 minutes, rinse and then dry. When using this method for jewelry, combine the aluminum and 1 tbsp of salt in 4 cups cold water and submerge the jewelry for a few minutes, rinse and dry.

Brass Polish: Make a paste of lemon juice and salt or lemon juice and baking soda. Rub on, rinse and dry. You can also substitute other household ingredients for the lemon such as vinegar or tomato juice.

Bleach Replacement: Sodium Hexametaphosphate or food grade hydrogen peroxide.

Laundry Soap: 1 cup of Borax, baking soda or white vinegar per load of clothing.

Grease Cleanser:

½ tsp washing soda

2 tbsp white vinegar

¼ liquid soap

2 cups water

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and apply.

Drain Cleaner: Combine baking soda and boiling water and pour down drains once per week.

Hardwood Floor Cleaner:

¼ cup soap

½ cup- 1 cup distilled white vinegar

2 gallons warm water

Combine ingredients and apply.

Dusting and Polishing Formula: 1 tsp oil to 1 cup white vinegar. Combine and apply with a rag.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:

¼ cup vinegar

1 cup Borax

several drops of pine oil or oregano oil

Combine and let sit in toilet overnight before flushing or cleaning.


1 tsp Borax

2 tbsp white vinegar

¼ cup liquid soap

2 cups hot water

Disinfecting Essential Oils: Oil of Oregano added to any cleaning solution, handsoap, toothbrushes, toilet bowls or dishrags and sponges.

  • Bergamot
  • Clove
  • Clary Sage
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme

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