A new report showed that poisonings related to disinfectants and cleaners have increased dramatically in the United States in the last month, with officials believing cleaning practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic have more people using toxic substances.
We’ve said it again and again and again…toxic ingredients in our foods, our personal products and our cleaning supplies are dangerous to our families and to us. Now, new data from the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the toxins and poisons in cleaners and disinfectants are contributing to additional COVID-19 side effects.
The data showed that calls related to disinfectants and cleaners made to local and state poison control centers increased by 20% in the first quarter of this year. The CDC noted 45,550 people made calls complaining about symptoms that included shortness of breath from inhalation, vomiting from ingestion and dizziness. According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, calls to poison centers rose sharply at the beginning of March 2020 and were related to exposures to cleaners and disinfectants. This time period coincides with when many of the United States’ stay-at-home orders were being put in place, as well as global panic about keeping everything we could as germ-free as possible. The report showed that the increase in poison calls affected all ages, but for children under the age of 5, the calls were disproportionately higher and showed a bigger impact.
One of the calls described in the report noted a woman filled her sink with a 10% bleach solution and combined that with vinegar and hot water to soak her produce. She had an ambulance ride to her local emergency room after noxious odors from the solution forced her to get treated with bronchodilators and oxygen. She recovered a few hours later.
Another case in the report detailed a preschool-aged child who swallowed ethanol-based hand sanitizer. The amount she swallowed was unknown. She became dizzy, fell, hit her head and threw up on the way to the emergency room. When she arrived, her blood-alcohol level was over three times the legal driving limit in most states. She had to stay in the hospital for two days, but she did recover.
The report suggests that when using cleaners and disinfectants, users should always read and follow directions on the labels. They suggest only using room temperature water for dilution, unless a product specifically states to do otherwise. It’s also suggested that there is NO mixing of chemical products, and you should wear skin and eye protection when using the cleaners and disinfectants. Additionally, it’s important to make sure there is adequate ventilation when being used and that all chemicals are stored away from the reach of children.
Greenwashing Is A Non-Toxic Cleaner Nightmare
The reality is that the non-toxic and natural products industry is BOOMING. That’s a great thing for us mamas who have been natural-minded since, oh, at least back in 1976 when Mothering started! It means that our money and our advocacy are doing some powerful things, and that companies are taking notice.
But what it also means, as we see all too often, is that companies are trying to get on the ‘green’ bandwagon and market to us as if they’re safe for our families when they’re not necessarily so.
Greenwashing is when a company makes itself out to be environmentally friendly or non-toxic, using deceptive marketing to do so. In 1986, environmentalist Jay Westerveld coined the term, as he noticed the irony of a ‘save the towel’ movement in hotels. He was vacationing and he saw a card that invited hotel guests to ‘save our planet’ by saving water in the form of not having towels that are only used once to be washed daily. Westerveld thought the ‘towel on the rack,’ concept of preventing the waste of millions of gallons of water as a sort of ironic trick in that hotels were notorious for wasting resources in so many different ways–this one seemed to be a corporate money-saving one as less laundry meant less money spent.
For Westerveld, the issue of whether or not less laundry does indeed save water was not in question. Sure, it does, but it also saved boatloads of money for a company that seemed to excessively waste in other areas. He identified the irony of a company putting more money into marketing how environmentally friendly they were as opposed to actually minimizing their environmental impact as misleading, and the term Greenwashing was born.
We’ve seen it time and time again through the years. In the mid-1980s, oil company Chevron was purposely and actively violating the Clean Air Act as they also ran expensive print and television ads to prove how committed to protecting the environment they were. As well, they were violating the Clean Water Act repeatedly as they spilled oil into wildlife refuges.
And in 1991, chemical company DuPont was the largest corporate polluter in the United States, yet, you’d think they were as green and clean as they could be with ads showing marine animals literally leaping with joy at their ‘commitment to protecting the environment.’
Dr. Christian Gonzalez is a Naturopathic Doctor with a specialty in Integrative Oncology. He is also the podcast host of the popular Heal Thyself, where he talks about holistic healing. He says that greenwashing isn’t just an issue because it’s not eco-friendly, but because unethical marketing takes advantage of our health too. Dr. Gonzalez says that greenwashing is big because it allows companies to sell the cheapest products at high prices, playing on a consumer’s desire for ‘healthier’ options but not necessarily knowing how to avoid the trap of what greenwashing looks like. He advises us to know what labels mean, and empowers consumers on his podcast. Knowledge is definitely power when it comes to finding non-toxic cleaners that really work.
Greenwashing has been around for a while now, and as the natural products industry continues to grow, more and more companies spend more and more money to prove how they’re ‘good’ for you as opposed to really being good for you.
How To Avoid Being Greenwashed When Buying Non-Toxic Cleaners and Products
The most important thing we can stress when looking at non-toxic cleaners and products is that you have so much power! You have the power to read the labels and investigate ingredients. You have the power to use your dollars on companies that make the effort to put your family and the earth first, and to withhold your dollars from companies that spend money to convince you they’re something they are not.
How do you do that? Here are some things to watch out for:
- Green products that come from pollutive processes. It’s important to investigate and support companies with missions to make the earth better. As more and more ‘big’ companies realize there is money to be made in natural products, they’re buying up smaller, eco-conscious and clean businesses. Be careful–we’re not saying stop buying from a company because it’s been bought out by a bigger, less green company. We’re just suggesting you look to support companies who focus solely on taking care of you and the planet first, if you can.
- Transparency. If a company isn’t willing to share ingredients? You have to wonder why. Look elsewhere. There’s plenty of alternatives!
- Uncertifiable language. Just because something says it’s eco-friendly or non-toxic or green or natural or even organic, that doesn’t make it so. You must be careful and investigate labels and ingredients. And one definition of eco-friendly could be very different from another.
- Certifications. In that–if something says it’s organic but you can’t see any certification? Be wary. Be very wary. Also, look into certifications a product has. Just about anything is certifiable these days, but that doesn’t mean the certification is worth anything. There are so many made-up third-party endorsements out there…be careful.
- Proof. If a product claims something conclusively, look into how it can. Where is the research? Who funded the research? Be sure they can back up what they claim.
- Imagery. So often you’ll see a beautifully and eco-friendly packaged product and think it’s good for you or the earth. And then you read the labels and find it’s a ruse. Watch out.
What About What Grandma Used?
So, what did we use before all these chemicals and greenwashed products came to be necessities? What was used before My Big Fat Greek Wedding made Windex a must-have for everything? Were we dirtier? Less protected against grease and grime?
Here are a few remedies ‘of old’ that still pack a punch to this very day!
Vinegar: Vinegar is used by so many people for so many different things. You can use vinegar, alcohol and water to make a streak-free window cleaner your grandma would beam about. You can use white vinegar to clean the microwave–just put 1/4 cup in the microwave and let it boil. It makes all the caked-on stuff come off with just a simple swipe! You can use vinegar as a weed killer–chemical free but good for the green. And while that’s wild, did you know that if you add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar to a couple of tablespoons of sugar, it’s a natural flower food that increases their bloom time and longevity! People use vinegar and essential oils for daily cleaners (with lint-free cloth wipes) and some add Castille soap, vinegar and essential oils to a spray bottle and use that for just about anything that needs cleaning. Throw some vinegar and baking soda together in the oven and VOILA! Chemical-free oven cleaner!
Baking Soda: Speaking of baking soda, how much do we love it as a toxin-free cleaner? As we said, you can use baking soda and vinegar to take off all that icky, baked-on junk in your oven. Just think of how much fun those volcano science fair projects are–that’s essentially what happens in your oven when you put some vinegar on a bit of baking soda!
You can also soak pans with burnt-on anything overnight with baking soda as it is an incredible replacement for commercial chemical degreasers too. Mamas in our forum use baking soda to get that ring around the tub off, with a little vinegar and a water rinse after. It’s perfect for scouring sinks, freshening carpets, brushing teeth…it’s pretty much a superhero of natural cleaners!
Lemon Juice: There’s power in those rinds (and the juice!) and that’s why you hear about the ‘cleaning power’ of lemon so often. Want to whiten dingy socks and shirts naturally? Lemon juice. Cloth diapers spots? Lemon juice! Polish your furniture? Some quality olive oil and lemon juice! Yep, lemon juice is great for wood cutting boards, tea kettles, toilet or bathtub scum and even cleaning your windows if you don’t love the smell of vinegar! It’s natural power you can harness as has been done for centuries!
Hydrogen Peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide doesn’t hurt the environment, doesn’t cause pollution, doesn’t disrupt any body systems and is a powerful disinfectant. You can use it to clean things your pets and children touch and they’re going to be germ-free with no chemicals. It’s a great whitener, and if you want to know about the power of hydrogen peroxide? Ask your local hospital if they use hydrogen peroxide to clean or if they use bleach? With a chemical makeup giving it one more oxygen atom than regular water (H2O2 vs. H2O), it’s as strong as bleach but breaks down in the environment harmlessly and doesn’t cause the breathing problems that a chlorine bleach will.
One of our all-time favorite recipes is from our friends at Bragg Apple Cider. Here’s an all-natural cleaner you can make and you most likely have the products on-hand right now!
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 5-6 drops lemon essential oil
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup hot water
Non-Toxic Cleaners That Really Work: There Has To Be A Better Way?
So many mamas fear never finding non-toxic cleaners that really work. That’s because we’ve been duped into believing that if it’s not a highly marketed chemical, it can’t possibly be effective. That’s just a big, fat greenwashing lie so many have been sold and it’s near sinful because of the damage done to our bodies in the process of believing the claims.
There ARE non-toxic cleaners that really work, and we went to industry leaders and cleaning experts to find them! Ilya Ornatove is the founder of NW Maids Cleaning Service in Seattle, Washington. She cautions against a lot of commercial cleaning products as they are actually EPA registered pesticides!
So check THIS out! Force of Nature is an EPA-registered disinfectant that kills 99.9% of germs–Staph, MRSA, Norovirus, Salmonella, Listeria, Influenza A…and it does it using Salt, Water and vinegar. Oh, and did we mention that the EPA also confirms it battles SARS CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) effectively?
Founder Matt Franken says he never set out to be a health crusader; he just wanted to combat a health crisis safely and that journey changed his life forever. Aunt Fannie vinegar wipes are easy to use, clean like a dream and Aunt Fannie’s takes care of those we love–our family, pets and planet!
We know, we know–there’s nothing like soap and water for 20-40 seconds to kill all the germs, but in pinches during world pandemics (or other times too) hand sanitizer is helpful. We were able to talk with Jennifer Parnell, the co-founder of Humble Suds, about what makes their hand sanitizer different. One of the BIGGEST factors is the use of glass bottles, as sadly, the concern for COVID-19 and hand sanitizer has brought about the dumping of millions of plastic bottles and this is devastating for the earth. Humble Suds makes their hand sanitizer of 70% non-GMO, gluten-free, non-denatured plant-derived 190-proof ethanol. It also comes in an amber glass spray bottle that can be reused. It’s great for high traffic areas with small surfaces!
We also love this spray that is perfect for covering those things you often forget about but are typically covered with germs: cell phones, remote controls, light switches, doorknobs and the like. It uses the power of essential oils and hydrogen peroxide for fabulous cleaning power.
We love this plant-based, reverse osmosis water concentrate that is multipurpose for all your cleaning needs. From laundry to the kitchen sink, it’s clean and non-toxic and it works
We asked the owners and managers of green cleaning companies across the country to see what they recommended. Abe Navas is the General Manager of Emily’s Maids in Dallas, Texas. Abe says that they love JAWS for non-toxic cleaning in an eco-friendly way. We love that JAWS refuses to ship WATER, and uses eco-friendly practices for reusable products and cost!
Another waterless cleaning system that was recommended was BlueLand’s Bathroom Cleaner. It’s made without any parabens, phosphates, ammonia, triclosan or VOCs and it’s Leaping Bunny and USDA Biobased certified. It’s an EPA Safer Choice and also meets requirements for Cradle to Cradle Platinum status.
This environmentally-friendly and completely non-toxic scrubber is a great way to get rid of the hard water, soap scum, rust, mineral build-ups, mildew and mold you find in bathrooms (and other places) and it won’t hold any bacteria or virus like a sponge or a scrubber! President Tony Cronk says that with his background in chemical engineering, he’s focused on how to develop cleaning products that are highly effective but gentle on the environment. He considers this critical when we’re not only battling a pandemic but battling to save the planet too. He believes you don’t have to choose products that keep you and your family safe or protect the planet; you can, and he believes we must, do both!
Okay, okay, we admit this is a hack, but we LOVE it. Sneaker LAB wipes use good bacteria that biodegrades organic waste combined with some biotechnology to create a formula that cleans sneakers at hyper speed, but also cleans devices, countertops, toys, hands, cars interiors and even clothing in the same way. In a world where it’s hard to find non-toxic cleaners that really work, we sometimes have to be creative. Sneaker Lab is Green Tag certified too, so you can trust it!
So, we are LOVING that more pets than ever are getting adopted during the COVID pandemic, but we know that may mean more fur than ever for many families. That’s why the FurZapper is a great way to get rid of pet hair (or dust, lint, debris, etc.) in a super-easy way and guess what? Your kids LOVE using it! Grab a ton!
Okay, so it’s a pretty toxic world we live in, right? But negativity doesn’t help, and so we sort of dig this Clean Sweep Spray to get rid of negativity and the negative vibes we certainly don’t need any more of in our lives! It’s an all-natural and water-based spray that doesn’t have chemicals or fragrances. It was originally created to be used in clean lab settings and now it’s available for home use too! Check the science out here.
Justin Carpenter is the owner of Modern maids, a cleaning service in Dallas, Texas. He says his company specializes in green cleaning and they love a couple of non-toxic products. One is a product many MLM-lovers know well, an essential-oil based cleaner named after robbers, hint, hint. The other? Bon Ami, which is an old-school but amazing non-toxic alternative for Comet or Ajax. It’s made of feldspar, limestone, baking soda, water, citric acid, corn alcohol, Epsom salts, xanthan gum and essential oils, and it totally works
There’s a lot of greenwashing out in the world, yes, but fortunately, there are a lot of companies making some incredible non-toxic cleaners that really work and that you can trust with your family. What are some of your favorites?
We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.