Environmental pollutants are everywhere, they tax the body and wear down its organs. Many of them are found in our homes. These include cleaning supplies, air fresheners, detergents and polishes. Switching to a natural cleaner alternative is best. This does not mean buying expensive cleaning products, so much as utilizing what you already have at home.
Chemical cleaners, whether sprayed or poured leave airborne and surface residue. After cleaning an area, volatile organic compounds remain in the air for upwards of 20 minutes affecting not only the individual who cleaned the space but also others who may enter the room. Through skin contact or by breathing them in they get into the body. Some of these chemicals can contain volatile organic compounds. These compounds can be carcinogenic or cancer-causing. They can also cause respiratory and skin irritation (Bello, A., et al., 2010).
Natural Cleaning Products
Cleaning surfaces is important for preventing the spread of disease, bacteria and possible infections. Pathogens found on surfaces in homes include Staphylococcus aureus, fecal coliforms and pseudomonas aeruginosa. Below are a few products that are effective in all-purpose cleaning products.
Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate is a common household item, used in baking, cleaning teeth and deodorizing. A 2018 Brazilian study looked into the effect of baking soda on a fungally contaminated keyboard. The keyboard had traces of Cladosporium cladosporioides, Curvularia lunata, Aspergillus niger among other bacterial strains. Baking soda was used to clean the keyboard and removed the contamination. It was found effective, however, it did leave behind residue (Nepomuceno, D.B., et al., 2018) (Rutala, W.A., et al., 2000).
The same study from 2018 that looked at baking soda, also looked into the disinfectant potential of vinegar. A 50% solution of vinegar disinfected fungal contamination of keyboards effectively. Unlike baking soda, it left no residue. Adding in some isopropyl alcohol, increased its effectiveness (Nepomuceno, D.B., et al., 2018). A 2000 study found that undistilled white vinegar provided a 99.9% reduction of salmonella and Ps. aeruginosa, but did not work as well against e.coli (Goodyear, N., et al., 2015) (Rutala, W.A., et al., 2000).
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is said to be antibacterial and antifungal. Its effectiveness as a surface cleaner is questionable. Studies have found that although it does eliminate some surface contamination, not enough (Goodyear, N., et al., 2015). It, however, can be a nice addition to an all-purpose cleaner that contains vinegar.
Essential oils are a wonderful addition to any natural cleaning product. There are a few essential oils that are beneficial at reducing surface contamination. These include wild thymbra, cinnamon, marjoram and thyme. They are best used in combination with vinegar, baking soda or castile soap when cleaning an area (Falco, I., et al., 2019) (Vidacs, A., et al., 2018).
DIY Natural Cleaning Products
Natural All-Purpose Spray
The main ingredient is vinegar. Distilled vinegar is an excellent disinfectant, you can simply use just that. You can also add a few drops of lemon, cinnamon or lavender essential oil along with a few drops of tea tree oil. These oils will give the solution a great fragrance and provide extra disinfectant power.
Homemade disinfectant spray does lose its strength over time, therefore, it is best to make it in small batches. When stored at room temperature for 24 hours a solution composed of vinegar, club soda, tea tree oil lost half of its disinfectant capability. Adding in a bit of isopropyl alcohol is a good idea for when cleaning surfaces that have come in contact with meat, or area of the home that get require extra cleaning (Goodyear, N., et al., 2015).
Vinegar and Essential Oil Deoderizer Cubes
Vinegar is an excellent deodorizer, making it perfect for getting rid of bad smells in the kitchen. The kitchen sink can become a smell place. Leftover food particles, cooking oils etc, can leave it smelling unpleasant. Vinegar is great for disinfecting the drain and removing the bad odour. A simple way to do this is to fill an ice cube tray with white vinegar if you would like to add a few drops of lemon, cinnamon or lavender essential oil add it in. Freeze it, keep it in a container in the freezer and use it at the end of the night to deodorize the sink.
Baking Soda and Lemon Juice
The magical combination that breaks down tough stuck-on grease. The acetic acid present in vinegar and lemon juice reacts when it comes in contact with sodium bicarbonate, resulting in the formation of sodium acetate. This chemical reaction is great for removing stuck-on food and grease found on stovetops, in sinks and within the microwave.
Personally find it best when cleaning out and deodorizing the kitchen sink and toilet. The lemon juice can be interchangeably used with vinegar which works as effectively and is more cost-effective.
Bello, A., Quinn, M.M., Perry, M.J., Milton, D.K. (2010). Quantitative assessment of airborne exposures generated during common cleaning tasks: a pilot study. Environmental Health. Volume 30, Issue 9 page 76.
Falco, I., Verdeguer, M., Aznar, R., Sanchez, G., Randazzo, W. (2019). Sanitizing food contact surfaces by use of essential oils. Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies. Volume 51, Pages 220-228.
Goodyear, N., Brouillette, N., Tenaglia, K., Gore, R., Marshall, J. (2015). The Effectiveness of three home products in cleaning and disinfection of Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli on home environmental surfaces. Journal of Applied Microbiology. Volume 119, Issue 5.
Nepomuceno, D.B., Lima, D.V., Silva, M.O., Porto, J.C.S., Mobin, M. (2018). Evaluation of disinfectants in order to eliminate fungal contamination in computer keyboards of an integrated health center in Piaui, Brazil. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment.
Rutala, W.A., Barbee, S.L., Aguiar, N.C., Sobsey, M.D., Weber, D.J. (2000). Antimicrobial activity of home disinfectants and natural products against potential human pathogens. Infection Control Hospital Epidemiology. Volume 21, Issue 1, pages 33-38.
Vidacs, A., Kereker, E., Rajko, R., Petkovits, T., Alharbi, N.S., Khaled, J.M., Vagvolgyi, C., Krisch, J. (2018). Optimization of essential oil-based natural disinfectants against Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli biofilms formed on polypropylene surfaces. Journal of Molecular Liquids. Volume 255, Pages 257-262.
Amanda Filipowicz is a certified nutritional practitioner (CNP) with a bachelor in environmental studies (BES) from York University. She also has certification in clinical detoxification, prenatal and postnatal care as well as nutrition for mental health. She has been working as a nutritionist since 2013 and is a lifelong proponent of eating healthy.