Housecleaning for a Greener Home
Your body is your temple, and most of us take great care in what we put into it and what it is exposed to. But there’s another temple that requires care to keep us healthy – our homes.
We spend a large part of our lives in these personal safe havens, investing time and effort every day into maintaining them.
Whether we’re washing up after dinner, purging our closets, or cleaning the bathroom – one thing is certain: housekeeping is an ongoing process. Unfortunately, some less than healthy housecleaning practices are often overlooked in many homes.
Cleaners for almost every purpose are heavily marketed for their power foam scrubbing/ germ killing/ whitening and brightening abilities – but what’s not mentioned is the potentially harmful effects some of their ingredients can have on our health and the environment.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but a few simple strategies can help get you started on keeping a clean and tidy house that also supports good health.
Get familiar with the “bad guys”
Countless cleaning products are formulated for everyday messes that inevitably happen around the home, with Canadians spending nearly $2.3 billion on household products each year.
So, do we really know what we’re getting when we buy some of these products? The labelling of cleaning products in Canada has been questioned, in terms of transparency and safety. But, one look at the list of unpronounceable ingredients and cautionary disclaimers on product labels points to the fact that many products could be toxic and are likely not good for us or our environment.
It’s important to remember that the products we choose leave residues on countertops, dishes and even in the air, exposing us to substances we didn’t intend to have much contact with that can potentially contribute to a variety of health issues.
There’s also the environment to consider. What goes down the drain, doesn’t just disappear, and your seemingly benign dishwashing soap is a notable example of this. Many contain prominent levels of phosphates, which damage aquatic ecosystems by promoting algal blooms that kill aquatic life.
The best way to avoid these potentially harmful toxic ingredients is to carefully read labels and opt for greener alternatives.
Makeover your cleaning closet
Get ready for a big purge when you are sorting the cleaning products of your home. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, the kitchen and bathroom are great places to focus on first. These spaces get constant, everyday use by the whole family and are where we clean our dishes and bodies – so our choices really matter.
Assemble all the questionable products (all-purpose cleaners, toilet bowl cleaner, oven cleaners, etc.) and check labels for the most common and harmful toxic chemicals. When looking to safely remove the products you no longer want to use from your home, check with your municipal waste authority for the best way to dispose of old solvents and cleaners.
The environmental working group provides a reference that examines the safety of thousands of common cleaning products to help you navigate the process, as well as suggestions for greener cleaners to use in the home. The David Suzuki Foundation also has a handy Sustainable Shopper’s Guide to Cleaners. When looking to replenish your supplies, you can visit your local CHFA member retailer for guidance and a wide selection of clean, environmentally conscience and effective cleaning supplies.
Natural products formulated for kitchen and bathroom-specific cleaning are fantastic replacements, but some simple household ingredients like vinegar and baking soda can be very effective in scrubbing bathtub rings and scaly tiles. You can even make your own custom household formulas with everything from glass cleaner to air fresheners! Check out some alternative DIY home-care recipes.
After you have greened-up your kitchen and bathroom, you can extend this green & clean housekeeping routine into every area of the home. Check out some ways to cultivate new and natural practices in the laundry room and then consider cleaning up the family’s personal care routines.
Less is best
You don’t need to limit your purge to cleaning products. The minimalism movement is on to something. Clearing the clutter in favor of space creates a more organized efficient home that promotes better airflow and less crowded crooks and crannies where dust and allergens can linger. Less “stuff” also allows better access to spaces that require regular monitoring like high-moisture areas, making periodic checks of caulking, tiles, walls and ceilings easier to ensure that there is no mold accumulating in hidden corners. If you’re evolving your cleaning regimen to a greener one, then clearing out the old is a no-cost way to help!
A few simple steps can help to make your home a clean, tidy and healthy place. It may be a process that takes some time, but any step taken to reduce toxins in your “other” temple is a step towards better health for you, your family and the environment.
- How Housework Can Make You Sick. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-housework-can-make-you-sick#1
- Dirt on Toxic Chemicals – David Suzuki. http://greencleanersassociation.ca/index.php/ct-menu-item-19/ct-menu-item-21/ct-menu-item-29
- Le phosphore dans les écosystèmes aquatiques. https://www.canada.ca/fr/environnement-changement-climatique/services/surveillance-qualite-eaux-douces/publications/phosphore-ecosystemes-aquatiques.html
- Cleaning Supplies: Secret Ingredients, Hidden Hazards. https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/weak_regulation
- Do you know what harmful chemicals are in your cleaners? In Canada, probably not. http.www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/thanks-to-lax-labelling-rules-canadians-dont-know-what-harmful-chemicals-lurk-in-household-cleaners/article28411743/
- How Your Housecleaning Products Can Be Bad for Your Lungs. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-your-housecleaning-products-can-be-bad-for-your-lungs#2
- David Suzuki Foundation Queen of Green’s Sustainable Shoppers Guide to Cleaners. https://davidsuzuki.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/queen-of-green-sustainable-shoppers-guide-cleaners.pdf
- Use household chemicals safely. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/home-safety/household-chemical-safety.html
- Canadian Retailers Sweep Up Nearly $2.3B in Household Product Sales Each Year. https://www.nielsen.com/ca/en/insights/article/2018/canadian-retailers-sweep-up-nearly-2-3b-in-household-product-sales/