Reposted with permission from Dr. Mercola
Before we get to the article, here is a little history on who Dr. Mercola is:
Dr. Mercola finished his family practice residency in 1985 but was trained by the conventional model. In his first years of private practice, he treated many symptoms with prescription drugs and was actually a paid speaker for the drug companies.
But as he began to experience the failures of this model in his practice, he embraced natural medicine and has had an opportunity over the last thirty years to apply these time tested approaches successfully with thousands of patients in his clinic.
Over 15 years ago, he founded Mercola.com to share his experiences with others. The site is the most visited natural health site in the world for the last seven years with nearly two million subscribers. He’s also written two NY Times bestselling books, and has had frequent appearances on national media including the Dr. Oz show and major news channels.
BY DR. MERCOLA:
A clean, decluttered home provides a much-needed sanctuary from the daily grind. It’s hard to fully decompress if your home is dirty or untidy, and the average American worker spends nearly one hour on housework daily in an attempt to keep a clean house.1 But there’s a misconception that in order to truly clean your home, you’ve got to don rubber gloves and spray harsh chemicals to do it.
In fact, one of the primary reasons for cleaning your home regularly is to clear out the many toxic chemicals that have accumulated in your household dust. Flame-retardant chemicals and phthalates are among them (along with thousands of species of bacteria and fungi).2
However, if you clean your home with commercial sprays, wipes, scrubs and polishes, you’re putting toxins into your home environment instead of removing them. The same goes for most laundry detergents, dryer sheets and air fresheners. Even those strong-smelling lemon and pine scents — the ones many people believe are the epitome of a clean home — are created by toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
You needn’t expose yourself or your family to these toxins any longer, as it’s simple to clean your home with nontoxic cleaners. You can even recreate the same “clean” scents you love using essential oils, and your home will smell much better for it while offering you therapeutic benefits at the same time. As an added bonus, by creating your own nontoxic cleaners, you’ll probably save money too, compared to buying commercial cleaning products.
Scented Products Emit an Average of 17 VOCs
Have you ever felt nauseous, dizzy or gotten a headache after cleaning your home with typical cleaning supplies or using an air freshener? It’s probably because of the VOCs. Eye, nose and throat irritation is also common at the time of use and over the longer term these chemicals can damage your liver, kidneys and central nervous system and even cause cancer.3
Research by Anne Steinemann, formerly with the University of Washington and currently a professor of civil engineering at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues tested 25 household products, including air fresheners and all-purpose cleaners, many of them “top sellers” in their category. The team found the average number of VOCs emitted was 17. They wrote in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives:4
“A single fragrance in a product can contain a mixture of hundreds of chemicals, some of which (e.g., limonene, a citrus scent) react with ozone in ambient air to form dangerous secondary pollutants, including formaldehyde. The researchers detected 133 different VOCs. Most commonly detected were limonene, α- and β-pinene (pine scents), and ethanol and acetone (often used as carriers for fragrance chemicals).
Each product emitted 1–8 toxic or hazardous chemicals, and close to half (44 percent) generated at least 1 of 24 carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants, such as acetaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde or methylene chloride. These hazardous air pollutants have no safe exposure level, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
You can’t tell what types of toxic chemicals might be lurking in your favorite cleaning supplies because such labeling is not required. Steinemann’s research even found that products labeled green, natural and organic emitted hazardous air pollutants.5
Fragranced products (which most commercial cleaning products could be classified as) are particularly problematic, with another of Steinemann’s studies revealing that nearly 35 percent of Americans reported health problems, such as migraine headaches and respiratory difficulties, when exposed to them.6
That being said, a typical professional cleaning product contains more than 132 different chemicals, fragrances among them, but also glycol ethers, surfactants, solvents, phosphates, detergents and more. “Cleaning products potentially give rise to simultaneous exposures to different chemical substances,” researchers wrote in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health,7 which is why you’re far better off cleaning the truly natural way.
Essential Oils for Household Cleaning and Diffusing
Essential oils deserve a category of their own, as their uses for household cleaning are only limited by your imagination. Many essential oils have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activity and can be added as a boost to your homemade cleaners. For instance, to make a homemade cleaning scrub with antibacterial activity, simply add a few drops of lavender oil to baking soda.
Some of the most popular essential oils for cleaning include lemon, peppermint and tea tree, with the latter showing antiviral activity against viruses like influenza A.11
Sweet orange is another option, which has been shown to work against E. coli and salmonella.12 In addition to adding them to your cleaning supplies, essential oils can be diffused around your home for a natural, therapeutic air freshener. Ditch the toxic sprays, candles and plug-ins for an essential oil diffuser instead. They not only smell wonderful but can have beneficial effects on your mood and stress levels.
And unlike synthetic fragrances, which pollute your air, essential oils may help to improve indoor air quality. In the case of fungi and mold, for instance, essential oils from heartwood, marjoram, cinnamon, lemon basil, caraway, bay tree, fir, peppermint, pine, cedar leaf and tea tree are known to have antifungal potential.13
In addition, you can easily freshen your laundry without risking your family’s health simply by spritzing your wet laundry with a mix of water and a few drops of essential oil before placing it in the dryer. Alternatively, add a dozen or so drops to an old wool sock, and put it in the dryer with your laundry.
Cleaning Your Home Naturally: The Sky’s the Limit
Once you dip your toe into the world of natural cleaning, you’ll realize the possibilities are endless. There’s virtually no reason to resort to toxic chemical sprays. You can reach a superior level of clean and sanctity using simple ingredients. And feel free to be creative, as some of the best combinations may surprise you.
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