Chemercial and Natural Cleaning Products
Years ago when I was on maternity leave with my first baby, I remember hearing a story on the
local news about a baby just a few months older than mine, who died suddenly while crawling
around in her kitchen.
Her mom had just cleaned the floor. The baby had a severe reaction to the chemicals in the floor
cleaner and died instantly. It was a common household product still widely used today.
When I started researching reactions to household cleaners, I was horrified to learn that many
people and pets are very sensitive to these toxic concoctions that we all use. While rarely causing
sudden death, they are most definitely toxic to anyone with ongoing exposure to them. They get in
our lungs, through our skin, and into our bloodstream and tissues. And our bodies store them up.
Unfortunately, they're legal and commonly used, and both the manufacturing and use of them are
harmful to the earth and our health. Floor cleaners can be particularly hazardous to babies and pets
because they are inhaling the fumes much closer to the floor level.
Many people seem to assume that our governments regulate these products to make sure they are
safe for us. But this is just not the case. It seems incredible to me that stricter actions are taken in
censoring books than controlling the manufacturing and use of known carcinogens and toxins.
In short, if a label says, Harmful if swallowed, Do not allow contact with skin, Use in a well-
ventilated room, or other similar warnings, you do not want it in your home. Just think about the way
the cleaning product isle in the grocery store reeks. When you can smell it so strongly, you know
it's getting right into us. I avoid that section of the store like the plague. And there are other ways to
The incident with the crawling baby occurred before the advent of the Internet and the only ideas for
alternative cleaning products I could find in those days involved vinegar, baking soda, washing
soda, lemon juice, and salt. And twenty years later, that's still what I use.
I thought of this recently when we watched the documentary Chemercial
and I got some more ideas to improve our choices.
Chemercial follows one family as they first remove toxic cleaning products
from their home and then kick it up a notch to also remove toxic health and
beauty products. The change does not come easily as they are very
attached to the tried-and-true store-bought cleaners and can't believe things like hair gel and lipstick
could also be detrimental to their health.
I got excited when they suggested making Homemade Laundry Soap. I always buy phosphate-
free laundry and dish washing products because phosphates are really detrimental for to our water
supply (and environment), causing excessive growth of algae, which in turn causes a whole host of
other problems. I buy products like this because I know it helps, but these particular items are also
often higher-priced than the more harmful, mainstream equivalents and I hate to feel like I'm
overpaying for anything. Or being greenwashed when there is a better, less expensive way to deal
with the problem. I hate the fact that we've created a culture where we think store bought products
are always the superior answer to whatever problems we may have. It's blind faith, really.
During the documentary I turned to Manley and said, We are so totally kicking things up another
notch here: homemade phosphate-free laundry soap, here I come!
I've now gathered all my ingredients and I'm going to be mixing my first batch as soon as my current
store-bought laundry product is almost used up. Besides the fact that it will be a much better choice
for our dear old earth, it will also be considerably less expensive (approximately $2.50 for 100
loads). I actually made some years ago and found no difference in the cleanliness of my laundry so
I am confident the results will be the same this time as well.
Here's some recipes:
Liquid Laundry Soap
approximately 100 loads
1 bar of pure soap (grated or finely chopped)
4 cups of hot water
11 litres/ 2.5 gallons of water (this is not rocket science: mix amounts that work with the container
1 cup of washing soda
1 cup of borax
Dissolve the soap in the hot water.
Add to 11 litres of water and stir in remaining ingredients. It will turn to a gel-like consistency after
about 24 hours. Store with a lid and use as needed.
That should give you enough laundry soap for 100 loads.
(See the bottom of this post for hints on where to find these ingredients.)
Powder Laundry Soap
1 cup Ivory soap (grated or very finely chopped)
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
Combine ingredients and store in container with lid.
Use 1 tablespoon for light loads; 2 tablespoons for heavy loads.
Basic Supply List for Cleaning Your Home
4 cups tap water
¼ cup washing soda
10 ml(approx.)/ 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice
Gradually dissolve washing soda in water, then add lemon juice.
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax)
1/2 gallon (2 liters) water.
Combine ingredients. Store in spray bottle.
Works on mirrors, counters, chrome, shower walls....
For varnished wood: warm water with a few drops of lemon oil
Unvarnished wood: two teaspoons of olive oil plus two teaspoons of lemon juice.
Mix 3/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup salt and 1/4cup water to make a thick paste.
Cover the area. Avoid bare metal and any openings) Let sit overnight. Remove with spatula and
wipe clean. Rub gently with fine steel wool for stubborn spots.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Baking soda and vinegar (they will bubble up when combined, releasing CO2).
or Two parts Borax and 1 part lemon juice.
Scrub with brush and rinse.
Tub and Tile Cleaner
For simple cleaning, rub in baking soda with a damp sponge and rinse with fresh water.
For tougher jobs, wipe surfaces with vinegar first and follow with baking soda as a scouring powder.
(Note: Vinegar can break down tile grout.)
Coarse salt cleans copper pans and ceramic baking dishes.
There's oodles more recipes online and they all use the same basic ingredients. I don't measure
when I mix mine, I just guess the proportions and it all works fine.
I saw Chemercial on tv. There are also some public screenings and it is available on DVD. You
could ask your local library to order a copy. [source] [review]
detoxifying your home, room by room
[pdf file of room by room instructions]
Look up any beauty product (makeup, moisturizers, etc.) and see how it rates for harmful chemicals
I'll let you know how the laundry soap works out.
Update: Where to Find the Homemade Laundry Soap Ingredients
A few people asked where I found the ingredients for the laundry soap. I found everything at my
local grocery store, clustered together at the very end of the toxic/cleaning product isle.
The three ingredients are :
-Borax is sold in a box as a laundry additive.
-Washing soda: make sure it is not baking soda. Arm & Hammer is a popular brand. It's sold in a
box like other powder laundry or dishwasher detergents.
-Pure soap - I found a few choices in the cleaning section and the beauty/drug store section. Look
for 99% (or greater) pure. It's bar soap for washing. Apparently you can also buy pure soap flakes
which would save having to chop up or grate the bars, but I just went with bar soap. Cheap and