Detox Your Home

Twenty years ago the word “detox” meant a trip to the drug rehabilitation center. Today it defines the conscious act of cleaning up our insides down to the cellular level. Preservatives, pesticides, chemicals and radiation treatments spur the health-conscious to detoxify their bodies while making life-long changes that will help keep their cells clear of harmful substances. In today’s health-conscious home you are likely to find plenty of fruits and vegetables, raw dairy, grains and legumes – all preservative, pesticide and GMO free – but if you look under the kitchen sink you are also likely to find enough chemicals to wipe out the entire family.
The average American household has 3 – 10 gallons of hazardous, toxic chemicals, most of them sitting in colorful bottles right beneath our sinks. Many common products contain chlorine, alcohol, ammonia, bleach, formaldehyde, and lye. These toxic chemicals can cause allergies, birth defects, nausea, inflammation and burning of the entire respiratory system, confusion, headaches, symptoms of mental illness, and are linked to neurological, liver and kidney damage, blindness, asthma and cancer.
No health-conscious individual wants to consume pesticides, but we ingest them daily through skin contact as well as breathing them directly into our lungs by using commercial products in the home. Approximately 1,400 pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are found in consumer products – many of which are under the kitchen sink.
Checking labels doesn’t help. Not only are companies exempt from listing all the ingredients in their bottles of chemical voodoo, but the New York Poison Control center found that 85% of product warning labels inadequately informs consumers of potential dangers, like the deadly respiratory irritant chloramine, which is made by mixing chlorine with ammonia. The Seattle Poison Center alone receives 70,000 calls per year regarding spillage or swallowing of harmful substances in the home, and 1 in 10 children under the age of 6 ends up in the emergency room due to accidental exposure to household products.
Think about it: mopping, spraying, and wiping our homes with toxic chemicals make our attempts at detoxifying our bodies much like trying to punch a hole in water- it doesn’t work. A carefully watered and fed plant, for example, will still get sick if its surroundings are contaminated. Why should we be any different?
Luckily, detoxing the home is easy. All you need to do is get rid of the commercial cleansers underneath the kitchen sink and replace them with vinegar, baking soda and castile soap. That’s it. Age-old, tried and true, these are the ingredients for a healthy, chemical-free home.
Vinegar cuts grease, dissolves mineral deposits, removes mildew, soap or wax buildup, deodorizes, cleans windows and mirrors, is a wonderful fabric softener and hair conditioner - and tastes great in salads.
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a useful all purpose cleaner. It can be used as a scouring powder without scratching surfaces; it neutralizes acids, deodorizes, softens water, and polishes metals, jewelry, porcelain and plastic. Baking soda softens fabrics and removes stains and can also be used as a non-toxic underarm deodorant and toothpaste.
Castile soap is a vegetable oil-based soap. Olive oil castile soap works well without drying the skin. Castile soap can be used in place of laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, automatic dishwasher detergent, and as a mild, general cleanser and body soap.
With 2.1 million human poisonings reported to the U.S. poison control centers in 1999 and more than 50% involving children under the age of five, it’s no wonder that the numbers are growing in favor of non-toxic homemade cleaners. After all, when was the last time you saw a warning label or poison control number slapped on a bottle of vinegar?
But can these simple ingredients really keep harmful bacteria and germs under control?
Vinegar is a powerful disinfectant. Undiluted vinegar kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold and 80% of viruses according to Heinz company spokesperson Michael Mullen. The only reason vinegar is not labeled as a disinfectant is because it would first have to be registered as a pesticide with the EPA - probably not good for sales in the salad section.
We may not be able to protect ourselves from all the harmful substances contaminating our planet, but we do have the power to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals we come into contact with on a daily basis.
The concept of becoming healthy begins in the mind. Once the concept becomes conscious it can expand into action, usually by a change toward a healthier diet. More consciousness will lead the health-wise to detoxify their bodies of accumulated harmful substances. Healthy steps in the right direction. But why stop there? Perhaps when our homes are free of dangerous toxic chemicals we will be ready to take the next step - the vital step toward detoxifying our planet.
Each “detox” needs to be adjusted to the individual. In the same way, each home has different needs, so experiment with the recipes below to find out what works best for you.
Air Freshener: Air out your home daily. There is no air freshener like outdoor oxygen – even in Manhattan or L.A. You can also place small bowls of baking soda and/or vinegar around the home to catch unpleasant odors. Simmering your favorite aromatic herb in water will give a nice, overall scent to your home. You can also use essential oils for the same purpose. Use Lavender to relax and ease headaches.
All-purpose cleaner: Every morning I fill my kitchen sink with hot water, a handful of castile soap flakes and a tablespoon or two of baking soda. I use this to wipe down surfaces as well as a pre-wash for the dishes in the dishwasher. A more basic cleaner is simply baking soda in water. The proportions depend on the task at hand.
Oven cleaner: Make a thick paste of baking soda and water. First wipe down the oven with the hot water, soap and baking soda mixture, then scrub out any burnt spots, and after that apply the paste. Let stand for a few minutes before washing off.
Disinfectant: Plain white vinegar, undiluted. You can also use a couple of drops of tea-tree essential oil in hot soapy water.
Drain Cleaner: Pour ½ cup baking soda down the drain, then ½ cup of vinegar to follow. Cover the drain immediately so that the vinegar can react with the baking soda. Then run hot water to flush the drain out.
Floors: A few spoonfuls of vinegar added to the water in the mop bucket will clean all floor surfaces. For linoleum, add a few drops of olive oil, and to buff the old wood floors use equal amounts of olive oil and vinegar and rub in.
Brass and copper: Use lemon juice with a bit of salt. Either rub a lemon slice directly on the metal, or simply rub the mixture in with a soft cloth. If you are not pleased with the results, try a mixture of vinegar and salt instead.
Silver: Aluminum foil sprinkled with salt and baking soda in a bowl of water cleans silver beautifully. Submerge silver in the bowl. Let sit a few minutes, or until the tarnish has gravitated to the aluminum foil then dry and buff.
Laundry: Replace hazardous laundry detergents with pure castile soap. Adding a ½ cup of baking soda to the wash will help whiten whites and brighten colors. The baking soda also acts as a water softener, therefore boosting the effectiveness of the soap. Add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle as fabric softener. The vinegar also strips away any residual soap left on the clothes. Don’t worry, your clothes will not smell like a bowl of salad. Vinegar leaves no odor once dry. Still, I like to add a few sprigs of lavender to the dryer in a small cotton pouch if I don’t hang up the clothes to dry outside. You could also add a few drops of essential oil like ylang-ylang with the vinegar rinse if you wish. If you need bleach, try hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine.
Automatic dishwashing liquid: Dilute castile soap in water (if using flakes). Add any citrus essential oil or combination of oils. Lemon, orange, bergamot and lavender are nice. Store liquid in a bottle and place a tablespoon in the automatic dispenser of your dishwasher. For very dirty dishes, add ½ cup of vinegar to the cycle to cut grease and shine the glassware. I often simply fill the dishwasher dispenser with vinegar and wash at a higher temperature.
Toilet bowl cleaner: Use baking soda as a scouring powder on the inside of the bowl.
Window cleaner: ½ cup of vinegar in a spray bottle filled with water. Use newspaper instead of paper towels for streak-free windows and mirrors.
Marble surfaces: Marble is the only surface where vinegar is not recommended due to its acidic nature. Baking soda sprinkled on marble, then washed up with a wet sponge works well, or you could make a castile soap and baking soda solution as well.
Litter box: add a generous layer of baking soda on the bottom of the litter box to help keep odors at bay. Also spread baking soda on the bottom of the garbage can.
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