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Natural Cleaning Solutions

Updated: Jul 4, 2022

We are a society scared of all germs so it is standard to clean with bleach, 409, windex, clorox wipes, lysol spray until we live in a sterile environment or as close as we possibly can get to it. While germs are a whole other article topic, did you know complete sterilization of an environment actually can be detrimental to our companion’s health? (1) No, we don’t want them living in filth by any means but not all bacteria and micros are bad, in fact many are good and help to stimulate and mount a quality microbiome that promotes a healthy immune system so that we CAN fight off the bad bacteria (2). From mopping solution and window cleaner, to shampoos and laundry detergent, homes are filled with products that are actually considered indoor pollutants. How is this possible?! Aren’t they regulated? Aren’t they considered safe?


On a regular basis the average home contains almost 100 chemical ingredients that are known to affect breathing (3,4) promote cancer (5, 6), impair reproduction (7, 8, 9) and hormone function (10, 11, 12) among many other side effects. While exposure to these ingredients occasionally may not be as serious, effects are cumulative and when combined can spell trouble. Furthermore, if you are a clean freak or have a cattery like I and are required to clean on a daily basis, you expose yourself and your even more sensitive companion animals to very dangerous ingredients.

Some cleaning products and their ingredients can cause reactions that occur very quickly such as respiratory difficulties, chemical burns, headaches etc. Repeated exposure can cause toxicity to build up within the body’s tissues.

In addition to concerns in the chemicals in products and their side effects we must concern ourselves with the flammability and corrosiveness as well as volatile organic compounds these products contain.


Known side effects of many of these chemicals include: Reproductive concerns such as birth defects and reduced sperm count

Cancer Irritation of the eyes Lung/respiratory complications Provoke pre-existing conditions like asthma

Skin Irritation

MAIN OFFENDERS TO LOOK OUT FOR Note keep in mind some of these offenders may not be listed as is, some ingredients like phthalates is a category. There are over 20 different phthalates under various names. Phthalates

These are products that have a fragrance. Consumers may see the word “fragrance” labelled but due to proprietary regulations companies do not have to tell you what these fragrances are which includes not labelling phthalates on their product (13). Often health problems result from inhalation or absorption through the skin of these chemicals. Absorption can be very dangerous as the skin has no protective safeguards so once absorbed through the skin it can go right to the organs. Side effects of phthalates include:

Endocrine disruption

Reduced sperm count

Trigger breathing difficulties including asthma


Perchloroethylene or “PERC”

PERC is found in common spot removers as well as carpet and furniture cleaners. Exposure often is through inhalation.

This chemical is a neurotoxin and carcinogen stated by the EPA who also plan to remove its use by 2023 as set forth by various proposals made in California because of these health risks (15, 16).

Triclosan This chemical is a common antibacterial found in soap including hand soap and dishwashing soaps as well as hand sanitizer (17). Because of its antibacterial properties it is known to cause and provoke the growth of drug resistant bacteria. Furthermore Triclosan has been found in many water sources causing contamination (18). Side effects of this chemical include: Endocrine disruption (19) Carcinogenic (20) Quaternary Ammonium Compounds, or “QUATS” QUATS are common in fabric softeners and a lot of typical house cleaners that claim to be antibacterial. Just like the issues caused by Triclosan, the same apply to QUATS including drug resistant bacteria (21). Other side effects include being a skin irritant and a cause for respiratory distress (22). In addition on the more serious side “gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g., nausea and vomiting), coma, convulsions, hypotension and death” can also occur (23). 2-Butoxyethanol 2-Butoxyethanol is a solvent found primarily in multipurpose cleaners as well as window and kitchen cleaners. When inhaled it can cause throat irritation as well as: Narcosis Pulmonary edema Severe liver and kidney damage (24) Cancer (25, 26, 27)

Ammonia Ammonia is often found in glass cleaners (as well as metal polishers) and it can cause various respiratory difficulties (28). When combined with bleach, toxic fumes are produced so it is recommended to never mix the two. (29)

Chlorine Chlorine is often found in cleaners used for cleaning toilets, removing mildew, whitening laundry and even in tap water including drinking water and shower/bath water. Via the chemical’s fumes and direct contact with the skin it causes respiratory difficulties and is a known thyroid disruptor (30, 31). These are just some of them most prevalent offenders however there are unfortunately many more to consider when it comes to chemical exposure and indoor pollutants your companions can be exposed to such as candles, plug in air fresheners, incenses, cologne, perfume and much more.

LAWS Unfortunately, according to United States laws and regulations manufacturers are not required to list all ingredients in a product (32, 33, 34, 35). In fact, even products labelled as “green” or “natural” can include harmful ingredients (36). Rebecca Sutton, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), explains, “In terms of household cleaners, neither ingredients nor products must meet any sort of safety standard, nor is any testing data or notification required before bringing a product to market.” Federal regulations actually do not require safety tests nor set legally defined and enforceable upper limits for the toxic ingredients in products either. In addition there are no long term health studies of these ingredients (37, 38). Unfortunately most “authorities” such as The Consumer Product Safety Commission primarily focus on making sure their packages are child-safe as well as preventing chemical based accidents (37). This is of course important but it doesn’t address the actual ingredients and problems occurring from them when it comes to humans and our companions. While government authorities and research facilities have done a lot of research on these ingredients in connection with cancer, little has been done on their effect on the brain, nervous system, hormone or organ function (37). At the end of the day it is impossible to completely avoid these chemicals however we can think carefully about the products we use and replace them with safer options to reduce our exposure to them.

NATURAL CLEANING INGREDIENTS Distilled White Vinegar DWV a natural solvent containing about 5% acetic acid (39). It is a natural deodorizer, fabric softener and kills most mold (40), mildew, bacteria (41) (42) and viruses (43). It can be used as a multi surface cleaner, in the laundry, in the dishwasher and more (44). White Distilled Vinegar kills 99% of bacteria, 80% of viruses and germs and 82% of molds (45). Citrus Fruit and Rind All citrus fruits lemon, limes, oranges, grapefruit etc including their rinds contain limonene with antibacterial properties (46) (47). It is a great degreaser, multipurpose cleaner, removes scum and rust, can be used as a fabric and surface whitener and more. It also adds a nice natural scent. Lemon has a low pH and antibacterial properties. Oranges have antibacterial properties. Limes have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Grapefruit have low pH and are antimicrobial. (48) Herbs Many herbs surprisingly have numerous cleaning properties perfect for adding to your cleaning arsenal. Lavender has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It also is a great deodorizer (49). Rosemary is an antifungal, antibacterial and antiseptic (50). Thyme is an antibacterial (51). Borax Borax is a great addition to the laundry, prevents bugs and pests (52, 53), can be used as a dishwashing aid, can unclog drains, clean furniture and more! When mixed with water it turns to hydrogen peroxide (54) so it naturally is fairly safe. It is great for getting rid of odor and can get rid of mildew as well as mold and pests. It can also be used as a window and toilet cleaner! WARNING: Borax can be very poisonous to cats (55, 56, 57) so keep away from your feline friends and make sure it is highly diluted in water if used. Hydrogen Peroxide This natural product is non toxic because it simply dissipates into oxygen and water. It makes a great disinfectant. It can also be used for cleaning counters, sanitizing sponges, cleaning toilets, removing stains, cleaning toys and more! Baking Soda Baking soda has so many uses all over the home not only for crafts and baking but cleaning as well. Sodium bicarbonate is a natural product that has a slight abrasion so it's great for getting up caked on dirt and grim. It is also useful for deodorizing, Baking soda is also an anti fungal and antibacterial (58). OUR RECIPES

Our world is full of toxic chemicals and ingredients many of which we think are safe to use on a regular basis. Unfortunately labeling laws and long term research studies are lacking and us humans and our companions take the brunt when it comes to acute and chronic side effects that can cause lifelong problems. While it may seem like a lost cause there is so much we can do to reduce toxic cleaning products and ingredients in our homes and replacing them with not only inexpensive but effective and natural ingredients.


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