by MONICA MARCU
Many of us have developed lately all sort of allergies and intolerance to a variety of known or unknown substances and foods. Its a polluted world! Indeed, over the last 50 years or so, over 70,000 (some say 100,000!) various chemicals have been introduced into our world through industrial processes and products such as foods, cleaners, plastics, electronics and others. We also know that numerous clinical studies showed a significant proportion of diseases, including cancer, is directly related to chemical contamination. Therefore we should consider as an urgent matter reducing the amount of chemicals and pollutants in our own homes to a minimum. Some of the most dangerous examples are house cleaners, mothballs, which contain paradichloro-benzene, (known to cause cancer in animals) or naphthalene (which can damage the red blood cells), air fresheners and cleaning solutions which release toxic pollutants. Ethylene-based glycol ethers and terpenes are toxic substances found in most such solutions. It seems that one of the worst ingredients is butyl cellosolve, commonly found in window and all-purpose cleaners. This substance is believed to cause cancer and damage the nervous system and liver.
It might be tempting and easy to use whatever the industry offers for cleaning and house/yard maintaining, but it is much safer to make our own cleaners, thus avoiding harmful chemicals. Children, above all, should be carefully protected against most commercial cleaners.
I personally use mostly home-made, safe and all-natural cleaners. Let me share with you some of these simple ingredients. Castile liquid soap (half a cup) in hot water (a gallon) works miracles. Add some essential oil (thyme, mint, tea tree) and you obtain a fragrant, pleasant all-purpose cleaning solution. In the absence of castile soap use common soap or home-made soap. Most essential oils are potent antibacterial, so they add to the power of the cleaner. A particularly powerful antibiotic is the oregano oil. This can not only be added to external but also for internal use solutions.
For scrubbing try baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). This wonder salt can also deodorize, whiten and refresh carpets and fabrics. You can also prepare a general scrub by mixing two cups of baking soda with a half cup of liquid castile soap and half a cup water. Refresh your fridge from time to time with baking soda powder on a plate. Leave it until the smell is gone. Coffee grounds can also absorb unpleasant odors from the freezer or refrigerator. Another interesting use of coffee grounds is to dampen the ashes dust – sprinkle it on the ashes before cleaning the fireplace. For stubbornly dirty dishes mix coffee grounds with your dish soap when scrubbing.
For laundry soaps the industry uses a common surfactant – nonylphenol ethoxylate- which is so harmful that is banned in Europe. Avoid common laundry detergents! Use either eco-safe, green-clean, non-allergenic detergents AND rinse multiple times (use cold water for another washing cycle without any detergent) to reduce to a minimum the traces of detergent inevitably remaining on the clothes. Even better, make your own efficient and safe detergent with soap granules (1 cup), borax (1/2 cup), washing soda (1/2 cup) in 6 l water. Mix the ingredients until dissolved, use or store for months. Make sure you label the soap properly and keep away from children and animals. Of course, being a soap, it is harmful if ingested. Borax is a natural alkaline mineral salt, also used against pests, insects. It should not be ingested. If you prefer a fragrant detergent (I do not) you can add various essential oils, which are natural, extracted from plants. Use vinegar in the last wash cycle to prevent fabrics from fading. For whitening clothes, hydrogen peroxide is safer to use than chlorine bleach, while lemon juice is also a natural whitener. Hydrogen peroxide 3 % (as found in pharmacies for disinfecting) can also be used to whiten your teeth at home, safely. Just wash your mouth and teeth daily for 1-2 minutes, do not swallow. Smile!
An efficient glass or bathroom cleaner and disinfectant is the white vinegar. One cup mixed with one cup of water is all you need to prepare a good window cleaner. Vinegar has antibacterial properties as well. A bubbly combination is made of baking soda and apple cider vinegar, and this can be used as a drain cleaner. Sprinkle baking soda down the drain, add apple cider vinegar and let it bubble for 20 minutes, then rinse with hot water. This solution can also clean the bath tub.
Whatever you use to clean your house, for the sake of your hands – use gloves anyway!
Dr. Monica Marcu is a pharmacologist, writer and artist, but above all, a student of nature. She has written numerous scientific and lay articles on modern and complementary medicine. She lives close to McBride, where she enjoys growing trees and German Shepherds, when not roaming the mountains.