Tag Archives: natural air fresheners

4 Toxic Household Cleaning Supplies and Their Alternatives

Many of the classic household cleaning supplies that were used by our parents and their parents before them are fairly toxic. These days we’re more aware of the hazards, but not always sure of how to avoid them. These are some of the problem cleaning supplies and how you can replace them. It’s often surprisingly simple.

1. Bleach

Bleach is certainly powerful as a cleaner, and there are times when you have little other choice for getting rid of mildew. But for routine cleaning it’s really more power than you need.

Bleach is an irritant. If you’ve used it, you know this already. The fumes are uncomfortable to breathe. They aren’t good for you or for your children. On top of that, the labels even warn you about too much contact with bleach.

Replace with: Lemon juice. For many purposes, lemon juice does a very good job. Natural sunlight is also great at bleaching out certain stains. They aren’t as strong, but for most purposes they’re quite good enough.

2. Ammonia

Ammonia is often used in glass cleaners as well as other surface cleaners. Just as with bleach, the fumes are rather unpleasant, and if you read the label you can see that it’s hazardous.

Replace with: Vinegar. It’s not the most appealing of smells, but the scent dissipates as it dries, and it does a fair job of taking other scents with it. Vinegar works great on glass and other hard surfaces, and can be combined with baking soda for many cleaning chores.

3. Air Fresheners

You may love the way air fresheners smell, but their ingredient list may be enough to drive you out of the house. They may contain chemicals such as 1,4 dichlorobenzene, formaldehyde, naphthalene and other VOCs that can cause respiratory effects. These can be a problem if anyone in the house has asthma or other breathing issues.

Beyond that, they don’t usually actually freshen air. They often deaden your ability to smell or simply cover up one smell with another.

Replace with: Open windows are ideal, weather permitting. If not, boil some favorite herbs or some apple peels on the stove, or spray vinegar in the air. Any of these will help with household odors.

4. Toilet Bowl Cleaners

Toilet bowls can get pretty awful looking, and that squeeze bottle is an awfully easy way to clean them, but it’s not the best for the environment. The chemicals in toilet bowl cleaners are very strong, not the kind of thing you want around your family, especially small children.

Replace with: Baking soda plus scrubbing for basic stains, borax plus vinegar, time and scrubbing for worse stains. Or buy a reputable eco friendly brand of toilet bowl cleaner. Seventh Generation makes a toilet bowl cleaner, for example.

Since many products don’t list ingredients, your best bet is to avoid cleaning products that say “Caution.” “Danger” or “Warning” on them. These will have some sort of hazardous chemical you should try to keep out of your house as much as possible.

Products with specific environmental benefits listed are better than ones claiming to be green with no claimed benefits at all. If it says biodegradable, does it say how soon? Are there no phosphates in it? If there’s a clear statement of the benefit, there’s more likely to be something to it. “Natural” and “eco-friendly” don’t mean a thing on their own.

How Do You Make Your Home Smell Fresh Without Using Air Fresheners?

If there’s one home care product that falls consistently on my least favorite list, it has to be air fresheners. Most do nothing more than add a scent to the air, usually created by some chemicals that if you really thought about it, you wouldn’t be spraying in the air you breathe.

They’re usually unhealthy, minimally to poorly effective, and frankly there are better ways to handle the smells that build up inside a home. For people with conditions such as asthma, it can be vital to avoid many of the usual commercial air fresheners.

Remove the Source

You won’t always be able to do this, but if you can get the source of the smell out of your home, that’s the best way to get the smell to dissipate. That could be taking out the trash, cleaning the cat litter, and so forth.

Open the Windows

Weather permitting, opening the windows is the simplest way to make a home smell fresh. It lets the air circulate. The smells floating in the air in your home have a way to get out rather than continuing to build up.

It’s important to open your windows in your home when you can. Indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air, especially if you use a lot of conventional cleaning supplies.

Use Natural Air Fresheners

Natural air fresheners may not work as quickly as the ones you buy at the store and spray around, but they’re better for you and I think they smell better.

Baking soda is a classic odor absorber. Place bowls of it out where smells are an issue. Sprinkle it on carpets that are having odor problems and let it sit for a little or even overnight before vacuuming it up. It doesn’t have a pretty scent, but that’s not the point of using baking soda.

Vinegar isn’t a favorite scent for most people, but it does help to control odors. Put a bowl of it out or spray it into the air. As it dissipates, the vinegar smell and the problem smell will go away. Add in a drop or two of a favorite essential oil if you want to cover the vinegar smell right from the start.

Different herbs can help make a room smell nice too. Sprigs of rosemary or lavender are good choices, especially if you grow them fresh yourself. If not, dried versions smell good as well.

Boiling herbs and spices works also. Many people like the scent of cinnamon boiled in water. Boiling a sliced lemon or lemon juice is another good smell. Vanilla, orange, peppermint, cloves and nutmeg also smell good when boiled.

Your favorite essential oils can be used on their own to make a room smell good. Drop a little on a cotton ball and place it in the room. You can use a drop each from a couple different types of essential oils if you like.

Growing plants indoors also helps with air quality. Different plants clean air in different ways, but they’re generally good at what they do. Don’t overwater any plants or you may have scent issues relating to standing water or overly wet soil.