Reports show that poisonings related to disinfectants and cleaners increased dramatically in the United States in 2020, with officials believing cleaning practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic have more people using toxic substances.
It sometimes seems to be a fine balance between protecting yourself and your family from harmful germs and bacteria while also protecting yourself from the toxicity that many cleaning agents and products today have. Data from the CDC suggests that the toxins and poisons in cleaners and disinfectants are contributing to additional adverse effects, and contributing much of that to the concerns about increased hygiene practices since COVID-19.
In the first quarter of 2020, 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. 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.
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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.
Now, more than ever, we need to find the best nontoxic cleaners that really work.
Non-Toxic Cleaners That Really Work: There IS A Better Way!
Best Overall Disinfectant
This cleaner combines the safe cleaning power of hydrogen peroxide and 30ppm colloidal silver to clean an protect surfaces for hours. It's a great disinfectant for kitchens and bathrooms, places where many turn to bleach for cleaning power. It's made from 99.99% pure silver rods and highly purified water with 100% lavender essential oil for a fresh scent. There's no harsh chemicals involved, and it's a cleaner and greener alternative to bleach or other toxins.
While the product itself has not made the claim as the FDA makes it hard for so many natural companies, a simple search on the CDC website about disinfectants will show you that the CDC does indeed deem commercially available 3% hydrogen peroxide solutions as effective disinfectants.
- Combines hydrogen peroxide and colloidal silver
- Protects surfaces for hours
- Great alternative to bleach in kitchens and bathrooms where virus and bacteria thrive
- Trigger-spray bottle makes it easy for daily use
- Made in USA
Best Daily Cleaning Wipes
Aunt Fannie's Vinegar Wipes
The reality is that we make messes every day, and if we're really honest, those 'disinfecting wipes,' leave all sorts of toxic chemicals on our countertops and our hands. Considering our skin is our body's largest organ, we need to be super careful about using chemicals.
That's why Aunt Fannie's Vinegar cleaning wipes are our top pick for daily cleaning. Founder Matt Franken says he didn't set out to be a health crusader but after combatting a health crisis safely, his life journey was changed forever. He wanted to find safe, eco-friendly nontoxic products to take care of those we love-our family, pets and planet. Aunt Fannie's Vinegar Wipes use no harsh chemicals-they just keep things sparkling clean with every use.
- Thick, sturdy wipes
- Plant-based and essential oil-scented
- Good for grimy and sticky messes
- Safe for pets and people
- Made in the United States
- No alcohol included
Best Nontoxic Laundry Detergent
Charlie's has long been a beloved cleaner for cloth diapering mamas and military families since they've been around. Their hypoallergenic nontoxic washing soda only uses four ingredients and there are no fragrances or artificial brighteners. For those who cloth diaper or wear military uniforms, this is important for helping maintain the integrity of the fabrics.
For the rest of us who simply wear clothes? It's great because it's a safer soap for the earth and our bodies. The eco-friendly formula takes oils, fats, greases and odors out but doesn't destroy the earth or septic tanks in the process.
The bags last forever, and there's no lingering taste in your lungs after you've opened the bag like some other 'natural' soap powders, and the best part is that Charlie's gets the job done with little fanfare but consistency like a workhorse.
- Cost-effective; a little goes a long way
- Minimal ingredients
- Cloth diaper and military uniform friendly
- Eco-friendly and EPA safer choice certified
- Septic Safe
Best Dish Washing Soap
Better Life Sulfate-Free
When two dad friends got together in 2008, they realized their tiny tots were crawling all over the floors and possibly being exposed to dangerous cleaning residues. They realized that they had to worry about toxins probably way more than they did dog hair or dust, and that got them to thinking about creating a nontoxic cleaner that was effective but didn't compromise safety. One of the dads was a formulation chemist in his day job, and together they created Better Life---a line of plant-derived, eco-friendly cleaners that would be the talk of the town.
Shark Tank thought so. The Better Life team wowed them by spraying one of their cleaners directly into their mouths, and the rest was history.
Better Life dish soap cuts grease and grime without sulfates, is hypoallergenic and even includes vitamin E and aloe to moisturize and soothe hands as you wash.
- Safe for whole family
- Small Business
Best Bathroom Cleaner
For 30 years, BioKleen has been combining live enzyme-producing cultures with essential oil and plant-based extracts to clean and deodorize bathrooms, as well as other rooms in your house. They use no harsh fumes or chemicals, and there's no toxic residue after the fact (good to know when your kiddo wants to play in the bathtub right after). There are no artificial fragrances or colors, so your skin is safe, and the viable bacillus cultures do a number on the bacteria and germs that love to live and thrive in bathrooms. Trusted and safe for decades, safe for septic and daily use.
- No toxic residue
- Trusted for decades
- Good to the earth
- Live enzyme culture cleaning power
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. We have to be careful to make sure that the products we use are both nontoxic and effective in the fight against germs, and not just brilliantly marketed to be so.
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.
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 Castile 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!
Mix the below products in a spray bottle:
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 5-6 drops lemon essential oil
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup hot water
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.
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