Updated: May 19
If you're just starting your toxin-free or low-tox journey, you've probably already realized there are many things that will get swapped out while transitioning to a less toxic home. Still, thankfully many products can be multi-purpose solutions.
I won’t lie, some of these transitions have not been a walk in the park. Between the number of products that were greenwashed and products that simply didn't work as advertised, it has been a lengthy transition. If greenwashing is a concern for you, I have a lengthy post discussing the truth about greenwashing, which lists dozens of ingredients I recommend avoiding.
In my home, we have tried many products (and DIYs) over the years; some work beautifully, while others just can’t pick up the grime of our beloved dog. Thankfully, we’ve done a lot of experimenting, so there’s not much guesswork left, and I’d love to share what I’ve learned over the years. So, whether you’re cleaning your baseboards the day before thanksgiving or are spring cleaning, this post has something for all the nooks and crannies in your home.
#1 Air Fresheners
We’ve all used air fresheners at least once in our lives. Sure, air fresheners make your home smell “fresh and clean,” but what exactly does clean smell like… the ocean breeze, cherry blossoms, vanilla, or is it a chemically-derived artificial scent linked to hormone disruption, reproductive problems, and even cancer?
Did you know air fresheners emit over 100 different chemicals? Some of these ingredients include volatile organic compounds (terpenes such as limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene; terpenoids such as linalool and alpha-terpineol; ethanol, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and xylene) and semi-volatile organic compounds (such as phthalates) (1).
As someone with suspected Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), this is another hard pass for my current home standards. Some of my all-natural alternatives include:
A homemade room spray consisting of 2 ounces of at least 95% ethanol alcohol mixed with 60 drops (5% dilution) of an essential oil for cleaning.
Diffusing essential oils (please practice essential oil safety).
Simmer pots can create a pleasurable aroma by adding sliced oranges, sliced apples, and cinnamon sticks to a pot of water to simmer on low for hours.
#2 All-Purpose Cleaner
Who doesn’t love an all-purpose cleaner? The convenience of one bottle of cleaner for several tasks is not only convenient but cost-effective too! But what happens when quality is compromised, and your disinfecting all-purpose cleaners have ingredients that compromise your overall health? Let’s take a look at some ingredients in a common all-purpose cleaner:
Alkyl (67% C12, 25% C14, 7% C16, 1% C8-C10-C18) Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride, Alkyl (50% C14, 40% C12, 10% C16) Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride, Water, Phenoxyisopropanol, Lauramine Oxide, Ethanolamine, Fragrance/Parfum, Trisodium Dicarboxymethyl Alaninate, Acid Yellow 23, Alcohols (C9-11, Ethoxylated), Citonellyl Nitrile, Dihydromyrcenol, Dipropylene Glycol, Terpinolene, Tetrahydrolinalool, and Tetrahydromyrcenol (2).
What even are these ingredients? Well, the last seven ingredients are fragrance components; this is why it is so important to understand the 3,100 or so stock chemical ingredients used by the fragrance industry, which we discussed in my post, The Truth About Fragrance.
Thankfully, there are natural solutions that you can use. My first all-natural, all-purpose cleaner was Earthley’s All-Purpose Spray, which can be used for cleaning, sanitizing, air freshener, and even deodorant! I used this until Earthley came out with their cleaning spray concentrate.
Let’s talk about Earthley's Cleaning Spray Concentrate; just one teaspoon (about the size of a small marble or blueberry) will make a 16 oz. cleaning spray, so a little bit will go a long way! Each 2-oz. jar makes 12 bottles of cleaning spray, making it cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
Many people think they need bleach to whiten their clothes or disinfect their homes, but this isn’t entirely true, not to mention the dangers of bleach. Bleach is corrosive, especially on metal surfaces. Many don’t know this, but bleach has a very short shelf life (three months); it is neutralized by dirt and other organic compounds making it minimally effective if the surface isn’t already clean (3).
Not to mention, bleach can cause significant skin, eye, and lung irritation, especially when used incorrectly with other chemicals/cleaning products. Bleach toxicity has been linked to ammonia toxicity, acute respiratory distress syndrome, smoke inhalation injury, and hydrogen sulfide inhalation (4).
Thankfully, there are effective natural alternatives to bleach; here are a few of my favorites:
1 cup of distilled white vinegar mixed with 1 gallon of hot water
1 cup of aluminum-free baking soda mixed with 1 gallon of boiling water
½ cup of lemon juice mixed with 1 gallon of hot water
½ cup of Borax mixed with 1 gallon of hot water
#4 Carpet Powder
Carpets and I have a love-hate relationship. As someone with a formaldehyde allergy, the off-gas of carpet glues and adhesives, which often contain formaldehyde, can affect me in ways I may not even be aware of. According to the American Lung Association, carpets may trap pollutants and allergens like dust mites, pet dander, cockroach allergens, particle pollution, lead, mold spores, pesticides, dirt, and dust. Toxic gasses in the air can stick to small particles that settle into carpets (5).
Let’s face it, if you have carpet in your home, chances are you’ve used those carpet powders from the store with ingredients like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), hydrated silica, polyoxyethylene tallow ethylmonium ethosulfate, and fragrances. As a dog owner, those ingredients are unsafe for humans, let alone my beloved pet.
Although I have never used Aunt Fannie's Carpet Refresher, it is a decent alternative (although I am not a fan of silica ingredients). Still, even if silica wasn’t an ingredient, I cannot bring myself to spend $12.99 for a carpet cleaner when I can make it myself for a fraction of the cost. My DIY Carpet Powder is a straightforward and inexpensive swap that anyone can do.
#5 Dish Soap
I don’t know about you, but it seems the dishes are always piling up, and we are always cleaning a pot or pan that didn’t fit in the dishwasher. For the longest, we used a mainstream dish soap with harmful ingredients.
Water, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, C10-16 Alkyldime-Thylamine Oxide, Alcohol Denat, PPG-26, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, PEI-14 Peg-24/PPG-16 Copolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrances, Methylisothiazo-Linone, Colorants (Blue 1, Yellow 5, Red 33), C9-11 Pareth-8, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Chloroxylenol, Phenoxy-Isopropanol, Glycerin, Sodium Cumene-Sulfonate, Propylene Glycol, And Terpineol (6).
I still cannot believe I was using this to clean my dishes. There are only two ingredients on this list I would use today – water and glycerin. I mean, let’s be real, I can’t pronounce most of these ingredients; they’re obviously chemicals that, of course, will leach into my food. It’s a hard pass for me.
Thankfully, there is an all-natural, toxin-free alternative I trust – Earthley’s Dish Soap Bar. The directions are simple, apply a small amount to a sponge or dish brush (rub against the bar) and use it to clean dishes. Keep the soap bar on a wooden soap dish where it can dry thoroughly between uses to prolong the bar’s life.
#6 Dish Detergent
We all eat, so chances are, we all have dishes to clean. I used to be one of those people who absolutely refused to use a dishwasher; I would handwash everything, but eventually, life got busy, and I had to compromise. One thing I wasn’t willing to compromise on was the ingredients. There was no way I was using a product with ingredients such as:
Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Citrate, C12-15 Alcohols Ethoxylated Propoxylated, Sodium Percarbonate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Polyacrylic Acid Sodium Bisulfite Terminated, Taed, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Ethylene/Propylene Oxide Copolymer, Alcohol Polyglycolether, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Protease Enzyme, Amylase Enzyme, Manganese Catalyst, Colorants, and Fragrance (7).
Absolutely not! Think about how many times you’ve opened the dishwasher, and there is visible soap scum still on your dishes. Now think about all the times you may not see soap scum; those ingredients end up in your food and can cause detrimental health consequences.
Thankfully, there is one product I trust to clean my dishes without compromising quality – Earthley’s Dishwasher Detergent. Although the directions state to add one tablespoon per load along with white vinegar for rinse aid, I have found two tablespoons per load works flawlessly. Recently I have been making my own Homemade Dishwashing Tablets, and I have been loving that.
Although I have never used them, I have heard good things about Molly's Suds Dishwasher Pods. Their pods are powered by earth and plant-derived ingredients to naturally cut through grease and stuck-on food stains to leave dishes sparking with zero residue, streaks, or another mineral build-up.
#7 Laundry Detergent
Have you ever looked at mainstream laundry detergent? Have you ever noticed the ingredients aren’t on the bottle? Ironically, laundry detergent companies are not required to list the ingredients on their product. When I was researching to write The Truth About Mainstream Laundry Detergent, I quickly learned most companies didn’t list their ingredients on their websites either; I had to use a third-party website to gather the information.
You’d think these companies would be proud of their products, but when you look at the ingredient lists, you will understand why they don’t disclose their ingredients directly on the packaging. Some alarming ingredients include formaldehyde, fragrances, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate/sodium lauryl ether sulfate, and phosphates, to name a few.
Thankfully there are a few effective, natural alternatives you can choose from; here are some of my favorites:
Earthley’s Laundry Detergent (this product can also be used in carpet cleaner machines)
#8 Oven Cleaner
Did you know it’s recommended to deep clean your oven at least every three months? Me either! Honestly, you’re lucky if I get to that once a year. Thankfully, I predominantly cook in my air fryer, which also doesn’t get cleaned frequently enough. Why? Well, who wants to clean the surface their food touches with ingredients like:
Water, Butane, Sodium Hydroxide, Dipropylene Glycol Propyl Ether, Ethanolamine, Benzyl Alcohol, Smectite Clay, Paraffin Wax, Fragrance/Parfum, Butylphenyl Ethylpropional, Dipropylene Glycol, Eugenol, Propylene Glycol, and Triethanolamine (8).
Again, it’s a no from me. No worries, though; this brand was sure to advertise that its formula is aluminum-free.
Thankfully we can all count on Earthley to create a quality multi-purpose product that provides a pure clean for extra dirty areas that need a thorough scrubbing. Made with natural soap and baking soda, Earthley’s Cleaning Paste can easily clean sinks, tubs, tiles, and more. I highly recommend using their paste alongside their cleaning/dish brush.
#9 Stain Remover
Stains are inevitable, no matter how careful we are. Although it doesn't work very well, optical brighteners/UV brighteners are what mainstream laundry detergent companies use to treat stains. Instead of removing stains, this ingredient reflects visible light, so you can't see the stain, making it more of a bandaid for the problem than an actual solution. This ingredient has been linked to eye, skin, and lung irritation and is a potent toxin for aquatic life (9).
I don’t know about you, but I am the type of person who doesn’t own white clothing because I will stain them before I even put them on. Seriously, the number of shirts I own with tincture and oil stains is ridiculous, but I have a solution. Now I just need time to utilize the solution on dozens of articles of clothing, but who has the time?
Whether you’re removing stains from clothing, carpet, or car seats, one of these solutions can help.
Rub aluminum-free baking soda into the stain and leave for a few days before washing normally. This works great for most oil-based stains.
Rub Earthley’s Cleaning Paste into the stain and leave for at least a few hours before washing normally. I have successfully used this on stains from a bloody nose.
#10 Toilet Bowl Cleaner
I swear, my husband spends more time in the bathroom than in any other room of our home. Let’s be realistic; let’s say he poops once daily for 10 minutes (he’s in there more frequently and much longer than that); that’s 3,650 minutes or roughly 61 hours per year. The average life expectancy is 76 years old, so multiply 61 hours by 76 years to get 4,636 hours. No wonder we are supposed to clean our toilets weekly.
So what do you do when you don’t want to clean your toilet with ingredients like Sodium Hypochlorite, Hydrochloric Acid, Peg-2 Hydrogenated Tallow Amine, Peg-8 Tallow Amine, Alcohol Ethoxylates (C12-15), Methyl Salicylate, Benzenesulfonic Acid, ((4-(Bis(4-((Sulfophenyl)Amino)Phenyl)Methylene)-2,5-Cyclohexadien-1-, Alcohol Ethoxylates (C12-16), and Water (10)?
Well, you grab Earthley's Cleaning Spray Concentrate or Cleaning Paste. When I am cleaning my toilets, I spray the toilet down completely with the cleaning spray concentrate, and I add a small dollop of the cleaning paste to warm water to dissolve before adding it to the toilet bowl to soak while I clean the rest of the bathrooms.
I hope these cleaning swaps were beneficial. If you’re interested in continuing to educate yourself on toxin-free cleaning, I also highly encourage you to check out Earthley’s guide, The Clean Home Project. This downloadable guide teaches you how easy and affordable it is to ditch toxic cleaning products and switch to natural cleaning. We’ll discuss the harmful chemicals in many mainstream cleaning products, how harmful they are to your health, and natural alternatives that are just as effective and truly safe for your home and family.