What are safe household products? No doubt, you wouldn’t consciously expose yourself to harmful chemicals. But, you may not know the number of ‘nasty chemicals’ in everyday products that are normal household items. The good news is that there are safer alternatives. Here’s a list of nine safer options for home and personal care that I’ve tested.
What to Avoid in Household Products?
There are truckloads of evidence from decades of research that says we need to seriously rethink what we apply on our skins, what we ingest, and what we inhale. Avoiding products with ‘nasty’ chemicals will not only contribute to your wellness but will also save you dollars.
As well as what we spread in our surrounds – if we want to keep this planet great – we need to seriously rethink what we ingest and apply.
Cleaning products, foods, and beauty and cleansing formulas, including shampoos and toothpaste, are included. There are a number of chemicals that are added to everyday products that can affect our health and that of the wild around us. According to the David Suzuki Foundation, 82,000 ingredients are used in personal-care products and 1-in-8 are industrial chemicals.
The 12 nasties to watch are the dirty dozen. These are triclosan, parabens, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, parfum, BHA and BHT, dibutyl phthalate, coal tar dyes, PEG compounds, petrolatum, sodium laureth sulfate, siloxanes, and DEA-related ingredients. They include known carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, and hormone disruptors, and in some instances plasticizers, degreasers, and surfactants.
9 Safer Options for Home and Personal Care
#1. Use Vinegar, Lemon, Clove oil to Clean
I rarely buy commercial cleaning products. Instead, I use lemons, bicarb soda, salt, vinegar, eucalyptus oil, hydrogen peroxide, and clove oil.
- Vinegar is an all-round cleaner. Use in a spray bottle for surfaces.
- Lemon is great for cleaning stainless steel sinks and making them sparkle. I also use lemon oil to deter insects such as spiders and their cobwebs.
- Bicarbonate is an all-rounder. It’s great for absorbing odors in the refrigerator or bathroom.
- Eucalyptus oil is ideal for removing ink marks or sticky residue from labels. I use it for cleaning around door handles and light switches also. It is a natural antimicrobial.
- Hydrogen peroxide can be used in place of household chlorine bleach. It is H2O2 and simply breaks down into water and oxygen compared to chlorine bleach which forms more toxic by-products, such as dioxins and furans.
- A spray of a few drops of clove oil in water is a great mold inhibitor. I quite like its spicy earth smell as well. You can get more awesome tips like this from Shannon Lush.
A note up front — Lemon, salt, vinegar and others can be drying to the skin. So when cleaning, take the usual necessary precautions, like wearing gloves and washing hands afterward.
Bathroom Cleaner Recipe for Sparkling Shower Screens:
Mix equal parts white vinegar and dishwashing detergent. Use a handy cleaning cloth — tip: old pantyhose make great cleaning cloths. I find this especially so for cleaning insect screens. This was something I discovered from the ideas of Shannon Lush.
For limescale, I make up a past of bicarb soda with 3% hydrogen peroxide and apply to taps (faucets) and this will remove stubborn water stains.
#2. A Homemade Personal Insect Repellent
I live in at the coast in the tropics, so mosquitoes, flies, sandflies, and midges are common annoyances.
I no longer use commercial bug spray.
Instead, I use a recipe given to me some time ago by an army reserve volunteer and it works superbly.
My friends even remark how well this works compared to commercial brands, particular against sandflies.
The original recipe is equal parts Dettol and baby oil (which is typically mineral oil).
You can substitute another light oil base, like grapeseed oil, if you have concerns about using baby oil because it is mineral based.
Overall, I try to limit my exposure to biting insects, but physical avoidance is not always practical.
I’d much prefer this recipe to being bitten or to commercial insect repellants that contain what seems to be much nastier stuff.
#3. DIY Eye Care Solution
I no longer buy over the counter eye drops. When I suffer from dry eyes or an eye infection, I use cooled boiled water with salt added to bath my eyes (twice daily till cleared).
Works really well. I find my eye infection clears within two to three days of twice daily bathing. When traveling, a couple of saline ampoules are handy for this reason.
#4. Reusable Food Wraps
No more food wrap for me, I’ve made a couple of sets of beeswax wraps and I just love them. You can make them yourself. There are a number of ways of doing the wraps, including using a sandwich toaster and oven.
If you don’t have the time or the inclination to make these yourself, you can buy the beeswax wraps ready-made at reasonable prices. They also make unique gift ideas for the environmentally conscious.
In Australia? Then, Check Out the Range at Biome
#5. Natural Hair Moisturizing Treatment
For hair that is soft and lustrous, virgin olive oil from the pantry is what I use the most among the homemade natural hair moisturizing ideas.
Pour enough to coat your hair (about a tablespoon or two) and let it soak in. Leave for a few hours, or overnight. Wash as normal.
In the final rinse, use cool or cold water to close the cuticle and seal in moisture. This simple action amazingly helps and will save you lots of dollars at the hairdressers or on commercial products.
#6. A DIY Ant Repellant
Do you find ants annoying? Ants can sneak through the tiniest of gaps, like the seal of the honey jar in the pantry – Tip: try sitting the jar in a container and place a layer of cornflour around it.
Generally, I don’t worry about ants as they tend to move inside only when there is lots of rain on the way and usually they move again when the weather settles. But when the invasion gets too much or they are the type that bite, the recipe we use that works fabulously for our ant problem is a mixture of half borax and half treacle (or molasses). We place the mixture in a container drilled with holes so the ants can access it. Warning: keep it out of reach of pets and children. Borax is a natural mineral and has no known hazard issues, though it is advised to limit its exposure to children (learn more here).
The ants take to it. The scouts taking it back to the nest. Because the colony gets sick on the borax, the Queen ant directs the scouts elsewhere. No joking.
#7. Vinegar as a Fabric Softener
To keep towels soft, just add vinegar to the final rinse.
Not only is it a green option, but also a much cheaper version than using commercial fabric softeners. It is also a safer option for you and the environment.
#8. Oil Pulling for Dental Health
I don’t use the conventional toothpaste, which contains triclosan, SLS, and other nasties. I use alternatives and also practice oil pulling.
I started oil pulling with sesame oil every day when I discovered I had gingivitis. It helped me regain healthy gums. I now practice oil pulling every few weeks for maintenance. I find doing this is far cheaper than a trip to the dentist and having healthy teeth and gums is vital for our overall health. (In between times I use clay toothpaste or other alternatives that are free of SLS, paraben, and fluoride.)
There is much written about oil pulling that goes beyond dental care in regards to wellness.
I found it works wonders. Threatened with the expense of spending 1000s of dollars with a periodontist, I took up oil pulling for six weeks. The next oral hygienist visit saw me clear of any periodontal issues. So I can’t recommend it enough.
You can use coconut oil for this, but I much prefer to use cold pressed virgin sesame oil, similar to this one. There is also this Ayurvedic blend of coconut, sesame, sunflower, and peppermint oils that has a refreshing taste that you might like to try when starting out, see it here.
#9. Vinegar as a Dishwasher Rinse Aid
Once again, vinegar is a cheap rinse aid used by many people in their dishwashers. Though, there are concerns with using vinegar in some dishwashers. So I suggest doing your research.
It worries me to think of the effect of these on my health long-term, not to mention the impact on the environment. So below, I list the types of commercial products I’ve ditched to lessen my exposure to potentially toxic chemicals and have added options considered less toxic to us and the environment.
What are Your Favorite Alternatives for Everyday Use?
I’ve shared a few safer ideas for personal care and cleaning that work for me. I consider these better for my family’s health and for the environment, but at the same time, they help our budget. What are your favorite alternatives for everyday use?
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Hi, this is Mary-Anne. I have a PhD in Earth Sciences and a whole heap of other life experiences. I am a believer in wellness through wildness. This is about connecting with the nature within and the nature around to keep fit and healthy in body, mind, and spirit. I enjoy researching and writing about natural things that support our wellbeing and then sharing the benefits I discover.