Request a Quote ARCSI Join Our Team

Everything you need to know to clean your home naturally – (the lungs you save may just be your own)

By: Susan Gonzalez, RN

We all want clean happy homes.  But sometimes in wanting “clean” we get “chemically-induced-smells-like-it’s” clean.   And the chemicals that “clean” sometime do so at a cost to you and those living in your house.  Most were formulated for industrial use and are totally unnecessary for day to day cleaning in a home.

I fear that we, as consumers, have been scared into believing that sickness comes from dirt and have all bought into the “anti-microbial” propaganda that conditions our brain to think we need toxic chemicals to rid our homes of bacteria, viruses, and odor when inexpensive ingredients (that we probably have around the house anyway) will do just as good a job.

With hundreds of cleaners on the market all over the world, it is impossible to list them all.  However, here is a list of noted ingredients that you should avoid. You may want to note that companies are not required to list all ingredients on a label.  For example “fragrance” may contain phthalates a known endocrine disruptor (the US EPA is trying to limit phthalates overall) and sometimes you have to go the company’s website to get a complete list of ingredients as only the “active ingredient” is listed.

organic cleaners

The great offenders:

chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) wait…bleach is in pretty much EVERYTHING I use! Yes, that’s right. Because we have been conditioned to believe that bleach does everything and it is GOOD…from getting your clothes white to killing 99.9% of germs on any surface.  Manufacturers know if they have “contains bleach” on the label people will buy it.  In reality, bleach is a corrosive chemical that can cause liver damage with low level exposure.  The “white” you see when you bleach you clothes is the bleach acting on the fibers to optically make things look whiter, but that doesn’t mean it’s cleaner.  Bleach mixed with the following chemicals will produce a toxic gas that can be fatal and can overcome victims in minutes:

phosphoric acid (found in toilet bowl cleaners, mildew and lime removers, bathroom cleaners and dishwashing detergents)

sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate (found in toilet bowl cleaners, deodorizers, dishwashing detergents)

ammonia (found in many various cleaning products and floor cleaners)

vinegar

–Aerosol products: anything that is sprayed from a can needs a “propellant” to make it airborne.  Airborne particles are very small and are easily inhaled deep into the lungs.  Two common propellants are formaldehyde and methylene chloride. Both are known carcinogens.   Other propellants are propane (fuel) and nitrous oxide (laughing gas used as anesthesia at the dentist).   Aerosol products are used by those seeking a quick “high”, but often lead to death instead.  Pump spray dispensers do not use propellants.

--DEA (diethanolamine)  listed as a suspected carcinogen by the state of California you can find this in many many cleaning products. Can be absorbed through skin, and lungs. (also known as TEA lauryl sulfate) “DEA” at the end of anything contains it (even if the word “coconut” appears before it).

Fragrence: “fresh breeze”…”mountain rain”…”field of flowers”…sounds nice, but these added fragrances contain toluene (mthylbenzene) a known reproductive toxin which can damage a developing fetus.  It also is found in breast milk.  US EPA found almost 100% of perfumes contained toluene. Fragrances can also contain phthalates which are endocrine disruptors.  Exposures to phthalates in the workplace showed increased incidence of male breast cancer, testicular cancer, and genital abnormalities in baby boys when mothers were exposed during pregnancy. (reference here) (FYI..phthalates are found widely used in nail polish)

2-butoxyethanol:  a powerful solvent found in window cleaners.  The EPA sets exposure standards for this kidney and liver damager.  But if you are using this cleaner in a poorly ventilated room, you are getting a higher exposure than what the EPA sets.

These are just the biggies.  There are plenty more.  See a complete list of household chemicals here.
organic  safe cleaners


Everything you need to clean your house is probably in your house already

If you have these ingredients, you can make natural cleaners and deodorizers for every corner of your house and save an amazing amount of money.  You can also pat yourself on the back that you are not exposing you or your family to harmful chemicals.  And reusing your containers means you by-pass the recycle bin.

You might also think about investing in microfiber cloths for cleaning. I find that I don’t even need to use anything but water when I use these because the fibers are made to clean grease and oil.  They work great on windows.  You wash these in the washing machine and they come out great. (wash them separately because they tend to collect fiber and lint). Here are the one’s I have, but you can find these anywhere.

Just buy these cheap items the next time you’re out:

  • white vinegar – only white as others might stain. Yes, there is a vinegar smell when it’s wet, but when it dries there is none. For most recipes a bit of lemon juice will cut the smell.
  • lemon juice – fresh is best, but reconstituted in a bottle will do.
  • borax – where has this stuff been all my life!!? I love this stuff! You can do pretty much all your cleaning with just borax.  It’s been around for over 100 years.  Borax has just one safe ingredient (sodium tetraborate decahydrate.  I know it doesn’t sound safe but it is)   The only caution is not to inhale the powder when you’re using it.  My laundry has never smelled so clean!
  • baking soda – you can clean with it, deodorize with it, and even drink it for an upset stomach.  Costco sells it in 13.5 pound bags.  We buy it by the case.
  • liquid castille soap – “castile” soap means it is derived from plant oils and fats. You can purchase this already made (in nice scents like peppermint) and some grocery chains carry it. Or you can make your own.
  • hydrogen peroxide – you can get this at any drug store in the first aid aisle
  • olive oil – low grade cheap will do for cleaning
  • scented essential oils if you wish: lemongrass, cinnamon, lavender, or tea tree – these can be purchased at any health food store.  Make sure you buy essential oil and not “fragrance oil” as essential oils are pure. I get mine here.
  • Coke  - yes, as long as you don’t drink it, this unhealthy American drink has a purpose!

Kitchen

All purpose cleaner: 2 cups water, 1 cup hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup lemon juice. Mix well in a spray bottle. Use on any surface like you would any spray cleaner.

Dishwashing detergent:  Mix equal parts borax and baking soda (slightly more baking soda if you have hard water) and store in a tightly sealed container.  Use 2 tBs per load.  Put vinegar in the rinse dispenser. You may add 1 tsp of lemon juice to the detergent for greasy dishes.

Disinfectant:  1/8 cup borax to 1 liter warm water (one hospital used this formula and it satisfied the hospital’s germicidal requirements) Another solution is: 2 tsp borax 4 tBs vinegar, to 3 cups hot water. Wipe on with damp cloth or use in non-aeresol spray bottle.  You can add 1/4 tsp castile soap if desired.

Drain opener:  Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar and cover drain if possible. Let sit for 5 minutes, then pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain. (don’t use if you have used a chemical drain opener and it’s still in the drain.)  You can use this weekly to prevent clogs.  Throw a piece of lemon peel in the garbage disposal every week to keep it smelling fresh.

Floor cleaner: for all floors including wood: 1 cup of vinegar to a pail (1 1/2 gallons) warm water.  For wood floors, you can also add 1/4 cup castile soap.

Stainless and chrome cleaner:  Dip cloth in undiluted vinegar. Wipe surface.

Scouring powder: 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup borax, 1 cup regular salt. Combine and keep in a tightly sealed container. Use on sinks and tubs.

For burnt-on pans: Pour Coke into pan and boil on stove. The stuck on mess should soften and be easy to clean

home made bathroom natural cleanersNatural toilet cleaners would even work on this guy’s bowl (hmmm I wonder what his urinal looks like?)

Bathroom

Disinfectant: see above

Lime and mineral deposit remover: Soak a rag in vinegar and apply to lime deposits around faucets. Wait 1 hour. deposits will be soft and easily removed.

Shower heads:  Place 1/2 cup undiluted vinegar in a plastic bag and secure bag to shower head with rubber band (I used a large plastic bag and secured it with a zip tie leaving enough room to cut the tie. I found I needed more “bag” on top to keep the shower head immersed without sagging)

Tub and tile cleaner: 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup white vinegar.

Toilet bowl cleaner:  Pour 1 cup borax and 1/4 cup vinegar in bowl and let sit overnight. Scrub with brush in the morning, or  pour 1 can Coke in toilet.  Let sit for a 1 hour and flush. (This is where Coke belongs :)

Laundry   

Whitening: 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide in bleach dispenser or 1/2 cup borax in with the detergent. (adding borax will also soften clothes)

Fabric softener: 1/2 cup white vinegar, baking soda or borax in the rinse cycle, add a small ball of aluminum foil in the dryer with the clothes to reduce static cling.

Stain remover: 1/4 cup borax, 1/4 cup baking soda in 2 cups cold water.  Soak for 10 minutes or so before laundering. For severe grease stains add 1 can of Coke to washer with your detergent.   Full strength hydrogen peroxide will remove blood stains.   Full strength lemon juice will remove ink spots.

Starch: 2 – 3 tsp cornstarch in 1 pint of water. (you way need to dissolve the cornstarch in a small amount of warm water first, then add that to more water to make 1 pint) Use in refillable spray bottle.

Shoe shine: rub shoes with the inside of a banana peel  or olive oil and buff with paper towel.

House 

Air fresheners:   Mix 1 oz vodka or witchhazel with 20 – 40 drops of essential oil (lemongrass, lavender etc.) and mix that with 6 oz filtered or distilled water.  Put in a spray bottle and spray as often as needed.  Or,  simmer cinnamon or cloves in a saucepan with water on the stove.  Zeolite   is a mineral that safely and naturally absorbs odors and can be purchased commercially.  Most air is stale because of poor ventilation…open windows and run fans to circulate air. (Caveat: Wait till you’re done cleaning to drink the remaining vodka)

Windows and mirrors:  Use plain water and microfiber cloth.  Consumer Reports (1992) found that plain water worked as well as half of the products tested. In addition, the most effective cleaner for oily fingerprints was lemon juice and water.  2 tBs of lemon juice in 1 quart (1 liter) water or 1/2 water 1/2 vinegar poured into a spray bottle.

Carpet deodorizer: Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and leave overnight. Vacuum in the morning.

Dusting:  dust with microfiber cloths or mix 1 tsp olive oil with 1/4 cup vinegar and apply with soft cloth.

General cleaning tips when using cleaners:  These tips are important whether you use chemicals or naturals.

  • Always wear thick gloves.  The skin that you rely on to absorb your favorite hand lotion is the same skin that will absorb phthalates and chemical fragrance in hand soaps.  Most bathroom cleaners are extremely irritating to skin and bay cause chemical burns.    Even if you’re cleaning with alternative cleaners like vinegar, too much exposure can cause skin redness.
  • Never mix cleaners.  Ever hear of chloramine gas?  That’s what you get when you mix ammonia and bleach or bleach.  The gas can overcome you in minutes and do permanent harm to your lungs and eyes.  The gas can render you unconscious in minutes.  (see “bleach” above) Even if the surface was cleaned with one product, the chemical will remain and should not be cleaned with another right on top or gasses may be produced.
  • Always ventilate.  You can never be sure of what will happen or how you will react to a cleaner.  If you are spraying, the particles are in the air that you are breathing.  Make sure you open windows and turn on fans when cleaning.  In most of the reported injuries from gas formation, inadequate ventilation was the reason for poisoning.
  • Rinse everything away.  Never clean without rinsing all the cleaners away from the surfaces that will touch your skin (feet, butt, you get the idea) Don’t ever clean and let dry.

Which brings me to another reason to use naturals:  the water system.  How long can we continue to pour these toxins  down the drains and into the water system and expect clean water to drink and swim in?

So there’s no excuses.  Here’s everything you need to have a TRULY “clean” home.

Disclaimer: Always test a small amount of cleaner on the surface you want to clean to see if it will react.  Always keep cleaning products, natural or otherwise away from children and pets.

A very well written article by The Savvy Sister. Click here to visit her website for more healthy living articles.

 

The Better Alternative: Chemical Free Products

By: The Chemical Free Cleaning Network

Scientific technical innovation is moving above and past “green” or “organic” products with progress in technologies that clean without the using of any synthetic chemicals.

Around the earth businesses and individuals are investing in a range of equipment and products that allow non chemical cleaning emerging and inventive methods.

From applying electric current to common water, to using the power of sunshine: new advances in cleaning technologies and strategies are making it simpler to clean chemical free.

A number of the technologies such as Sealed HEPA filtered vacuum cleaners, and hand applicators for liquid ozone and electrolyzed water are cost effective when considering the long term savings on synthetic chemical products.

Adopting a Chemical Free Cleaning plan in your house does not mean the outlay of thousands of dollars in using the latest alternative Chemical Free technologies.

Time-proven cleaning practices have been brought down through the generations could, in many cases, also provide effective cleaning results in the household.

The use of daily attention and natural, organic, chemical free materials located in each household could be mixed, combined, and blended in many ways to accomplish cleaning equivalent to the level of synthetic chemical cleaning liquids. However, keep in mind the even organic, green or natural products are not consistently synthetic chemical free.

There are many ways to help you in your move towards chemical free cleaning in your household.

Begin with reducing the total number of in-house synthetic chemical pollutants, and then check in the back of your kitchen pantry to select which daily products you want to keep for cleaning your home.

Get rid of synthetic chemical cleaners (but make sure that you get rid of them safely and securely).

You could help the environment, save cash and streamline your cleaning chore by changing your current artificial chemical cleaners with a few of the products discussed in this section.

 

The Chemical Free Cleaning Network was established by industry visionary Vince Elliott, B.S., M.H.S., who in his nearly four decades of professional experience in developing innovative cleaning strategies for commercial and industrial applications. He has strived to bring these disparate technologies and strategies under one connected organization to benefit building proprietors, janitorial service managers, homeowners, and our ecosystem as a whole.

The Activeion EXP – How It Works In Our Cleaning Service

Surprise! Five Things You Shouldn’t Recycle


Most of us feel less guilty when we toss something in the bin headed for the recycling plant rather than the landfill. Turns out, though, wishful thinking may do more harm than good. If you include some items that aren’t recyclable, you run the risk of your entire batch being shipped off to the nearest dump.

The best thing you can do is educate yourself about local recycling rules. In the meantime here’s the short list of common items that don’t belong in the recycling bin, no matter what your zip code:

*Pizza boxes. The oil from pizza can contaminate cardboard boxes, making it impossible to process them into clean paper.

*Napkins and paper towels. It’s not the paper goods themselves that present a problem, but the fact that they’re typically used to wipe up food, cleaning products, and other “hazardous waste.”

*Sticky notes. Their size, color, and the adhesive strip make them a better bet for the trash bin.

*Plastic caps. Curbside programs won’t recycle them, but Aveda collects them and turns them into packaging for new products.

*Wet paper. Paper fibers that have been exposed to water are shorter and therefore less valuable to paper mills, making it unprofitable to collect and recycle.

Figuring out which plastics you can recycle is often confusing. It’s generally well known that most curbside programs only take plastics labeled #1 and #2 on the bottom, but many people are shocked to hear that shape sometimes plays a role. For example, many communities don’t accept tubs (mouth wider than base), but will take bottles (base wider than mouth) even if the numbers are the same because these plastics are manufactured differently, says Darby Hoover of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Check in with your local waste or sanitation department to find out what the specific rules are in your area. You can also log onto http://www.earth911.org/ for a wealth of recycling information from helpful articles to its extensive database where you can type in your zip code for a listing of local resources.

Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green’s users.

This Is YOUR Job!

JOIN OUR AWARD WINNING CLEANING COMPANY

PART-TIME POSITIONS AVAILABLE 


A Zing Zap Cleaning Service, a chemical-free cleaning company, is currently looking to hire new members who are high energy with a positive attitude for our award winning cleaning company. Only the best need apply! All applicants will be thoroughly screened and employees will undergo on-the-job training. Applicants must have a valid Florida driver’s license, insured auto, and no arrest record. We offer superior hourly pay, a professional team atmosphere, easy dress code, and career development in management and sales. This is a job you can take pride in. Click here to complete your application now.

 

 

The ARCSI Tech Corner: Green Cleaners

Q: I hear multiple terms used to describe ‘green’ cleaning agents. So I have to wonder, is organic better than natural? How about sustainable? I’m confused.

A: You have every right to be confused. Marketers use words that sound warm and fuzzy but often have no real meaning. Let’s take a look at just a few of the terms in use.

GREEN: Ideally, ‘green’ means that a product has less negative impact on the environment or on people’s health or hopefully both, than similar, traditional products in the marketplace. Some products are self-certified, i.e. a manufacturer says this product is greener than their regular line. Others are certified by a third party. The three most recognized third party certifiers are Green Seal, EPA’s Design for the Environment (DFE) and Canada’s EcoLogo. Each has slightly different criteria for certification.

NATURAL: This normally means that the chemicals used to make this product exist in nature in the form used. It can also refer to natural substances that are altered through what are considered natural processes. An example would be apple juice fermented into vinegar. It is very important not to confuse natural with safe. Remember that curare is a natural toxin used by certain indigenous peoples to create poison-tip arrows, giving the hunter using that substance a surer kill. Natural can be quite unsafe.

ORGANIC: The term organic has taken on a connotation of ‘healthful’ from the food industry. However, it has a different meaning in chemistry. Organic chemicals are simply chemicals containing carbon. These chemicals often originated in life forms but may have changed significantly since. Thus vinegar is an organic chemical, or more accurately, a combination of organic chemicals, but so is oil, gasoline, etc. To say our cleaning agents use organic ingredients sourced from nature may sound good, but is not particularly meaningful.

SUSTAINABLE: At its most basic, ‘sustainable’ means that the cleaning agents are from renewable sources such as plants that can be grown, harvested and re-grown. The term ‘sustainable’ is evolving in some cases to reflect more extensive environmental and social issues.

So if you’re confused, join the club. It truly can be a jungle out there. It’s up to you to check out the claims, sort through the verbiage and find the best resources for your operation.

Here’s to your success and prosperity!

Bruce Vance is a 20-year veteran of the industry and holds the IICRC Master Textile Cleaner certification. He also holds industry certifications in Stone and Tile care, Hard Floor care, and Applied Microbial Remediation. He is the current chairperson of a national cleaning industry’s Technical Advisory Committee. The opinions expressed above are those of Mr. Vance and not those of ARCSI.

Oprah Introduces Cleaning For A Reason During Evening News

October 2009. Oprah returned to Texas and the news station where she once reported the news. A Zing Zap Cleaning Service is a proud Partner helping women undergoing cancer treatment with 4 free monthly professional cleans. It is important to us to give back to our community. It’s why we do what we do, everyday.

Back-to-School Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Prevent waste and save money this school shopping season.

August 6, 2011

As some households gear up for back-to-school, they might be thinking of the three Rs as reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. For this August, I ask that we re-frame the back-to-school mindset with the three Rs of reduce, reuse and recycle.

For families with children going to school, or adults taking classes, getting prepared and buying supplies (sometimes WAY too many supplies) is part of the routine in August. Please take a moment to examine the following tips for a more earth-friendly approach.

Step 1: Take inventory of what you actually possess. Often, the supplies we have can be used again. Is there still life in that backpack, pencil case, or lunch bag? Did you only use 1/3 of that notebook last year? Do you have enough pens/pencils/crayons/glue or do you really need to buy more? If you do need more, is it necessary to get the package of 50 disposable pens or can you switch to three pens with re-fillable ink?

Step 2: Make a list of those items that you really need to get, i.e., the things you can’t start class without. You can always supplement later as you identify needs.

Step 3: Buy only what you need and be mindful about what you are putting in your cart. When possible, purchase items made from recycled materials—preferably post-consumer recycled. By buying recycled products, you are sending a message that you care about what the products are made of. The more people that buy recycled-product items, the greater the demand is and the more items companies will make from recycled materials! Even big-box stores sell paper, pencils, notebooks, binders and more made from recycled content if you look. Of course, remember to bring your re-usable shopping bag into the store!

The summer is a great time to get supplies for bringing your own lunch, whether to school or work. Don’t “brown bag” it! If you’re bringing your lunch, invest in a high-quality insulated lunch bag that you will want to bring with you. Insulated lunch bags come in many fun and interesting styles and designs these days.

If you’re using disposable plastic bags, now is the time to get reusable containers (metal, glass, or BPA-free plastic) or reusable bags. My family uses reusable sandwich and snack bags by brands such as Reuseit, LunchSkins, SnackTAXI, and Waste Not Saks. They are easy to wash and have proven to be incredibly durable after years of use.

Finally, if you do have any supplies that can’t be re-used, do your best to recycle them! By being mindful about your back-to-school shopping, you can do your little part to help the environment.

Submitted by Nadine Kadell Sapirman

How To Clean A Teenagers Room Without Calling a HAZMAT Crew

We all know that the easiest way to avoid cleaning your teenagers room is to simply keep the door shut, put a “caution do not enter” sign on their door, and walk away. I know that getting your teenager to do it themselves is a never ending battle of rants: “I LIKE MY ROOM LIKE THIS!” and our passed down from generations reply: “IF YOU DON’T DO IT, I’LL DO IT FOR YOU!” Well, from my own personal experience my Dad DID clean my room for me, but in a not so pleasantly accepted way…let’s just say the front of my house looked like someone got evicted by the local Sheriffs, and that someone was me! But my room was clean! In this day and age our only possible saving grace is to wait until that inevitable day when they move out! College, a great job offer, rooming with their friends, whatever the occasion for them to fly out of the nest and test their independence has arrived, and now you remove the caution sign from their door and prepare to enter a room that would make Oscar Madison look like Mr. Clean.

How to start the “Decon”:

First off, be prepared to wear thick rubber gloves, old shoes that you don’t care if they get ruined, old work clothes, plastic eye protection and an inexpensive dust mask. There is most probably going to be layers of thick dust, cobwebs, and science experiments growing a muck, so it does pay to be ready for anything. Be sure to bring PLENTY of 30 gallon trash bags, large plastic storage bins, and have your all natural cleaning solutions pre- mixed and ready for battle.

1) OPEN the windows and air out the room. It’s best if weather permits to leave the windows open during the cleaning process if you can, but you can leave them open for at least 15 minutes if it’s cold outside.

2) Take everything that’s not nailed down from the room and put it in one location, if weather permits outside on a back porch or your garage. Remove everything from drawers, the closet, under the bed, the desk, the floor and walls. The only thing that should remain in the room is the actual furniture, but if the room is becoming your new office or a “man cave” then remove that too.

3) Set up your storage containers by labeling as follows: “keep,” “donate” and “mystery.” Trash anything that’s broken, give away anything in fairly good condition that they don’t use or aren’t likely to use, keep things they may want to keep, and put anything that you’re unsure about in the “mystery” box. This should make the process go faster, and decisions should be the responsibility of your teenager when they come back home for their first visit. After that the “mystery” box becomes a “donate” box.

4) Clean the room while most everything is out of the way. Look under the bed, in the closet and dresser drawers for dirty dishes, empty food wrappers and rotting and dried food that may be causing unpleasant odors so you can throw them away. Dust, wash down the walls and the furniture, clean the fixtures, windows, baseboards, and always vacuum last. If the carpets are stained beyond recognition you might want to save that for the professionals and have it steam cleaned, but do that only after you have patched and repainted the walls.

What to do with the “new” space

The realization is that you most probably will not do anything to their room until you know for sure that your young adult will not be coming back home permanently. When you know this for certain, then you need to make the decision as to what you can do with this new space. A guest room? Media room? Home office? Ultimately the decision will be yours to make, so enjoy it!

Article credit: Teresa Ward, President of Teresa’s Family Cleaning and New York State’s Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year, is often considered Long Island’s foremost authority on cleaning homes and businesses to create a cleaner and healthier environment for all. Her highly sought after, award winning weekly newsletter provides timely cleaning tips and other important Long Island information and charitable events for homeowners, businesses and not-for-profits. Click here to sign up and receive your copy today!

The Truth about Phosphates in Household Cleansers

GoodHouskeeping discusses the benefits of phosphates–as well as the legislation to remove them from household cleansers