Natural Alternatives for Cleaning Products

Harsh chemicals used ubiquitously today pose a lot of problems for our environmental and personal health. A lot of cleaning products on the market contain bleach, preservatives such as parabens, antibacterials such as triclosan, and synthetic fragrances and colorants. These can be toxic for our health, disrupting hormones and in some cases acting as carcinogens. In addition, they are released into the environment and linger in the air, contributing to pollution and airborne inhalation. Especially dangerous are the aerosolized sprays, which use chemical solvents in order to distribute the disinfectant evenly in each of the particles released into the mist. Most solvents are organic compounds that are used to dissolve solid substances and help them enter the liquid phase and be used in sprays. Whether or not these are chemical or natural, they are toxic and have been documented to disrupt a variety of organs in the body and cause birth defects. The link has been established in observational studies and case reports, and has been known for a while. For example, see the detailed report by a Safety Officer in New York from 1995.

It is common knowledge that pregnant women should avoid toxic chemicals that can be inhaled such as paint thinners and paints, so why would the rest of the public still be using them? To top it off, some hairsprays and personal care products also contain the same harmful solvents and propellants. These products are still on the market because there is a demand to purchase them. They are advertised to a public that has been conditioned to think that cleaner is better, and the more harsh the means is to get clean, the better. We are bombarded by advertisements and have gotten a bit obsessive-compulsive about cleanliness as a nation. In truth, we need to train our bodies to be able to handle a bit of dirt. By completely removing bacteria from our environment, we are taking away the capability of our immune system to learn how to function properly. Allergies are not so widespread because our immune system has been disrupted due to modern use of chemicals, and now fails to recognize proper pathogens (organisms that can cause disease); in fact our collective immunity has become over-reactive to non-pathogenic triggers.

Furthermore, killing both harmful and beneficial bacteria may leads to resistance to the same treatment when colonization of pathogenic bacteria occurs. Overuse of antibiotics in the medical field is faced with a similar problem of antibiotic-resistant strains. Currently antibiotic stewardships are conducted to examine the overuse of antibiotics in institutions and implement antibiotic-sparing protocols.

In short, it won’t kill us to get a little dirty sometimes and train our immune systems to function properly and do it’s job at building up defenses. It is good to get out into nature, and, to put it plainly, play with dirt. Exposing ourselves to nature as our ancestors did will do us good. However, using and inhaling chemicals that are man-made and toxic will never serve us. Not only does it not build up immunity, but can cause long-lasting harm or permanent damage to our bodies and environment, and even affect future generations.

Don’t worry, I won’t end this article without giving some simple solutions to implement in our cleansing routines. There are a number of natural products on the market that are safe and effective for personal and household cleansing (for example this Dr. Bronners cleaner) and even laundry! The superstar ingredients often include vinegar, baking or washing soda, castile soap and/or natural essential oils. And there are a ton of super easy and cheap DIY alternatives that can be fun home projects for families to do together. 

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