Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cleaning products, friend or foe?

A friend spurred my blog entry today.  She contacted me about the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, because using it causes her to feel faint and lightheaded for hours.  She was wondering what the ingredients might be.  Here are just a few details about this seemingly harmless product...

"Warnings: Caution: Keep out of reach of children. Keep out of reach of toddlers and pets to avoid accidental ingestion. If using for dish washing, rinse dishes thoroughly. Do not use with chlorine bleach." (I find this last statement interesting, since most people probably use it while they are cleaning bathrooms with bleach, no?)

Chemical ingredients from the MSDS label - Formaldehyde-Melamine-Sodium bisulfite copolymer.

I find this statement interesting...

THIS is why we are seeing all kinds of nasty things in our water, because I highly DOUBT anyone does anything other than toss their little shriveled up piece of Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser right into the trash, where it gets "recycled" into our world for our kids to clean up.

So to recreate the power of Mr. Clean Magic Erasing poison, without the poison, just make a paste of baking soda and water.  Works on walls just as well!  If you need to work on a tougher job, add some borax or alternative natural oxygen bleach like OxyBoost, let it sit a little and voila!

And another of my many hot buttons, cleaning where our kids bathe.  Let me put it to you this way.  Why do you think drug manufacturers use patches to administer medicine?  Because the skin is a completely reliable way to allow something to enter the bloodstream.  And think about the size of the patch, it's an itty bitty square that is capable of administering a steady stream of meds, like with the weekly birth control patch.  Now picture your kids in their nice hot soapy bath.  Anything you are cleaning your tub with is being readily deposited into their bloodstream, via open pores!  Do you think it's time to reconsider what you clean your tub with now?  If not, you might as well pour cleaning solution right into your child's open mouth.  Yes, it's THAT bad!!

So here are a few easy-to-make cleaning solutions that can be made right into a clean HDPE (#2) spray bottle.  This will SAVE YOU MONEY and save you from nasty chemicals!  So yes, it takes you a few minutes, did you read that, MINUTES, to throw the ingredients together, but you are only going to do this each time you run out of your supply, not every time you clean.  On board yet?

General cleaner (your all around spray for counter tops, cabinets, the stove, toys, anything, oh and even your veggies! I like to add 20 drops of GSE for our veggie cleaner)  Keep this one by your sink!
  • 1 ounce baking soda
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 24 ounces water
  • 5 drops of tea tree oil (or any other essence oil that disinfects like lemon, cinnamon, etc)
Believe it or not, cinnamon oil is very potent and has been tested and proven to work on bacterias such as e.coli, staph, klebsiella, salmonella, MRSA!  Check out the study information here.

Bathroom cleaner
  • 2 teaspoons Borax
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup peroxide
  • 1/4 teaspoon castile soap like Dr. Bronners
  • 24 ounces hot water
  • 5 drops of essential oil of choice

Glass cleaner
  • 1 ounce baking soda
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 24 ounces water
Wood cleaner
  • 50/50 mix of vinegar and olive oil with lemon essential oil
A little tip for making the solutions - I use mini funnels to add everything to the bottles and notice that the dry ingredients are listed before the wet ingredients.  This is so that they don't stick to the funnels from pouring them into a wet funnel.

Laundry detergent - This recipe makes our clothes SO soft!
  • 1 quart water (boiling)
  • 2 cups Bar soap grated (I chose not to use the bar soap, because I have read that it is harsh, so I chose to use Dr. Bronner's castile liquid soap, although you can also use Dr. Bronner's bar soap grated)
  • 2 cups Borax
  • 2 cups Washing Soda
  • 15-20 drops of essential oils of choice - you can make yummy scent mixtures like tea tree oil and lemon, citrus, or what I like in mine is sweet basil and geranium.  Health food stores have plenty of essential oil options.
    • Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low heat until soap is melted.
    • Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
    • Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.
    • Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry. Stir the soap each time you use it (will gel).
My liquid version of this using the Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap did turn into a bit of a gel, but it's still fairly thin so I poured it into an old vinegar bottle for easy dispensing.  Some recipes add white vinegar to the mix too, but I like to add vinegar to our rinse cycle anyway, in place of fabric softener.   Without the bar soap, the detergent doesn't sud up, but I assure you, it's still cleaning!  If you are unsure of how your feel about non-sudsing soaps, add a little vinegar for extra cleaning power.

Powdered laundry detergents - I have not tried either of these so they are attempt-at-your-own risk recipes, lol.
  • 12 cups Borax
  • 8 cups Baking Soda
  • 8 cups Washing Soda
  • 8 cups Bar soap (grated)
    • Mix all ingredients well and store in a sealed tub.
    • Use 1/8 cup of powder per full load.

Alternative powdered laundry recipe

  • 1 cup Vinegar (white)
  • 1 cup Baking Soda
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1/4 cup liquid castile soap
    • Mix well and store in sealed container.
    • It is easiest to pour the liquid soap into the bowl first, stirred in the washing soda, then baking soda, then added the vinegar in small batches at a time (the recipe foams up at first). The mixture is a thick paste at first that will break down into a heavy powdered detergent, just keep stirring. There may be some hard lumps, try to break them down when stirring (it really helps to make sure the baking soda isn’t clumpy when first adding).  1/2 cup per full load offers great results.
Thanks to, I found this great dishwashing soap recipe as well!

Liquid castile soap uses
While bar castile soap is pretty amazing stuff, in a liquid form it's even more versatile.

- Liquid castile soap can be used for a shaving lather
- It can be used as a pet shampoo
- Great for washing clothes and diapers
- General cleaning, diluted and used in a spray bottle
- Heavy duty de-greasing
- I've heard that pure liquid castile soap can even be used for brushing your teeth! But of course, don't swallow the stuff. I don't think it would kill you in small doses but I'm sure it would taste pretty yuk.
- It can also be used in place of dishwashing detergent and even in your automatic dishwasher! "Green" automatic dishwasher detergents are hard to come by, but a Green Living Tips reader, Kathy Stevens, contributed this recipe:

  • 1/2 cup liquid castile soap
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 drops tea tree oil
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
Stir all ingredients together until blended. Store in a squirt top bottle. Use 2 tablespoons per load of dishes, shake well before use. 

    While we are discussing natural cleaners and disinfecting essential oils, I will add my home made hand sanitizer ingredients below as well.  We keep a spray bottle of this in our diaper bag and in my purse for regular use.  See my past blog on hand sanitizer here.

    • 2 parts aloe gel (NOT juice)
    • 1 part distilled water (NOT tap)
    • 1 part grain alcohol-vodka (NOT isopropyl, we used Ciroc grape-distilled vodka to avoid the grain-allergen issues)
    • 4-5 drops essential oil of choice (NOT fragrance oils). Hint: tea tree is a great antibacterial and one of the best essential oils to add to a hand sanitizer recipe. I also added a few drops of oil of oregano which is an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial...among SO many other things.
    Essential oils, to date, have not been shown to allow microbes to develop resistance.
    Mix all ingredients in glass bowl (preferably) with a plastic spoon. I don't use metal dishes or utensils because of potential reactions with the essential oils.  Pour your hand sanitizer into your containers. You can add less water if you prefer a thicker product.

    So there you have it, one my hot buttons!


    Amy in Idaho said...

    I'll admit I have a "magic eraser" under my sink which I pull out occasionally for the stove top and stubborn stains on the linoleum. Looks like I need to throw those suckers out! For about 4 years I've used 50/50 vinegar and water for cleaning and I love it! It's cheap too!!!

    My kiddo had EXTREME environmental toxicity (doctors data test) so I gathered up all of our cleaners to give them away. I tucked them away in an extra room in the house with the door closed until the charity I was giving them to opened (it was the middle of winter and the products would have frozen in the garage). After about 24 hours I opened the door to the room to move the cleaners to the car and the smell from the off-gassing alone was overwhelming. Never again will I have those products in my house.

    Now when I'm cleaning or cooking I ask myself "what would grandma do?" - WWGD! Thanks for doing the extra research and spreading the good word!

    Jessica said...

    It's funny how even when we realize that we want to use all natural cleaners, we still have this deep down need to hold onto a few things, "just in case we need them for a tough job". We are really THAT brainwashed by advertising and I too am just as guilty of holding onto these toxic things, just in case, lol. I can confidently say, after going AGES without ever needing to touch even one of those nasty chemicals, it's time to toss them all!

    Thanks for your input, Amy!

    Anonymous said...

    Jess - Thanks for the info. We already use homemade laundry soap, but I have been looking for a dishwashing det. recipe. I am going to try it without the lemon juice though - I've heard that it can turn rancid pretty quickly. I'll let you know how it works!


    Jessica said...

    Thanks Cam, I look forward to your review! ;)

    Denise said...

    Hi Jessica,
    What about "green" cleaners from health food stores, like Seventh Generation and Method? Are these safe alternatives?

    Jessica said...

    We've been known to use a few "commercial" brands of cleaners, but I prefer companies like Tropical Traditions, who uses coconut products to clean. Method is not a favorite, I have seen ingredients I don't like in their products. I hope I didn't just burst your bubble... = ( I feel like it's just as easy to make a cleaner as it is to go online and order one, hahaha.

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