I recently began working at Sprout San Francisco, an organic and natural children’s boutique in Chicago. The experience thus far has been wonderful in expanding my baby knowledge and furthering my career path as a maternity concierge. The gist of Sprout is all about going back to basics. What did our grandmothers and great grandmothers use when they were raising children? Clearly, they were doing something right. Back then infants and children had a lot to fear with a simple flu or worse polio, but even with all our advances in medicine and technology our current generations are seeing alarming increases in asthma, allergies, autism and cancers. There is no way to 100% pinpoint a cause, but we have all these nasty chemicals in our lives that our bodies are just not equipped for. It is very important for everyone to be aware that the majority of our household products are truly harmful, and it is especially imperative that pregnant women know this and make the appropriate changes while gestating. Clearing out the cleaning cabinet and starting fresh is a great way to improve you and your children’s well being. In this article, I am going to discuss simple recipes for “green cleaning”. Most of my information comes from a highly respected book called, Healthy Child, Healthy World; Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home by Christopher Gavigan.
Making the Change
Converting to a “chemical light” cleaning routine can help your wallet and your family’s health. Listing all the different chemicals might make your head spin, but knowing a few of the big ones will educate you on what to look out for. Some of the most common ones are:
Ammonia: a staple in kitchen and bathroom cleaners. It is a known VOC (volatile organic chemical) that contributes to respiratory issues.
Chlorine: The number one household chemical linked to poisoning and can create a harmful chemical reaction when mixed with other substances.
Phosphates: Found in many dishwashing and cleaning formulas, yet was band from water softeners do to the damaging effects on water supply and fish.
Lye: A chemical used in drain and oven cleaners, detergents, pool cleaners, metal polishers, and soap. It can irritate skin and eyes and fumes from it can corrode respiratory passages.
Antibacterial and disinfectants have attained a power status in the average American home. However, these cleaners often contain triclosan which has been linked to “a range of adverse health and environmental effects, from skin irritation, allergy susceptibility, bacterial, endocrine disruption and compounded antibiotic resistant, tainted water, and dioxin contamination to destruction of fragile aquatic ecosystems.” (beyongpesticides.org) These products are also killing the good bacteria our bodies need to build a strong immune system. This is especially important in children. A current theory, the hygiene hypothesis, asserts that our efforts to live in an ultra clean environment have contributed to the alarming rise in asthma and allergies.
275 = number of active ingredients in antibacterial products classified as pesticides (EPA 2007)
200 = average number of chemicals and pollutants found in newborns’ umbilical cord blood (Environmental Working Group 2005)
2-5 times = how much worse the air in your home can be to outside air (EPA)
I find the above information to be unacceptable, and what’s even more unacceptable is that our US government has all this research yet still allows these harsh chemicals to be sold on selves. Instead of buying into the system, save yourself the money and risk by trying these simple recipes.
All Purpose nontoxic cleaner
Distilled white vinegar
Vegetable oil-based mopping liquid
Liquid dishwashing soap/detergent (natural and non toxic)
Total: about $25
All Purpose Cleaner:
½ teaspoons washing soda or 2 ½ borax
½ teaspoon liquid castile soap
2 cups hot water
16 oz spray bottle
*use on countertops, cupboards, or any surface
Basic Vinegar Rinse:
Equal parts distilled vinegar and water, shake
Add 15-20 drops of pure peppermint or tree oil for a fresher scent
Vinegar smell does fade quickly if no oils are added
*great for soap scum, floors, walls, windows
Homemade Soft Scrub:
½ cup baking soda
Liquid soap or detergent
5-10 drops pure antibacterial essential oil (ex: lavender or thyme)
Quarter cup vegetable oil-based soap
½ cup distilled vinegar
2 gallons hot water
*for wood floors substitute a teaspoon glycerin for the vinegar
Carpet Spot Cleaning:
Fruit/Wine: blot with a towel and add cold water, continuing to blot. For red, use salt or club soda
Grease: use boiling water followed by dry baking soda
Blood: cold water or hydrogen peroxide or try a past of cornstarch or corn meal with water. Allow to dry and brush away
Rust: Saturate with lemon juice and rub with salt
Now, I know Glad and Febreze make some amazing smelling air fresheners, but they are nothing but a fog of VOC’s. If you want clean, fresh air in your home, simply grow some houseplants or open the windows more often. If you’re a stickler for scents, add citrus peel, cinnamon, cloves, or any herb or flower petals to a pot of water and simmer on the stove. Allow the aroma to fill your home.
There are many things to worry about when bringing a life into the world. You cannot protect your baby from every pollutant or chemical, but green cleaning your home will help make it the safest place for him or her to grow.