One of my best mates is an Oncologist (cancer doctor). One day a while back, he came over to our house just after I finished cleaning. With the smell of bleach in the air and a smile on my face, he proceeded to tell me that I shouldn’t be inhaling the fumes of the bleach and that I should consider finding other cleaning solutions.
It is important to note at this point that, as a nurse previously and the daughter of a nurse, keeping things clean is always front of mind. And to get things clean my motto is, “if it ain’t bleached, it ain’t clean.” When probed on alternative cleaning methods, my oncologist friend of course couldn’t give me any specifics (because he’s a boy and doesn’t clean joking… sort of). Anyway, the seed was planted and as it grew I dabbled with introducing more natural ways of cleaning into my life.
Thankfully that little seed kept growing and I did some research. I quickly realized that my friend paid me a big favour by making that comment. In particular, I found a lot of information on household cleaners and personal hygiene products that seriously concerned me.
There are many cleaning products that are low in toxicity, but contain ingredients responsible for more long term health effects such as cancer or hormone disruption. Some of these ingredients include:
- diethanolamine (DEA)
- triethanolamine (TEA)
- alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs)
- APE, p-nonylphenol
If any of the products you use contain any of these, I recommend tossing them in the bin. These ‘hormone disruptors’ can interfere with the body’s natural chemical messages either by blocking or mimicking the actions of the hormones. As an example, the APEs used in some detergents and cleaners mimic the hormone oestrogen.
Oestrogen is a very important hormone and rises and falls with a natural menstrual cycle; but when levels are continuously high, women may experience weight gain, menstrual changes and worsening of PMS symptoms. Cysts in the breasts and fibroids in the uterus can also happen and estrogen plays a well-known role in breast cancer. Men with too much oestrogen may grow breasts and have poor erections – need I say more?
We spend our days watching what we eat, training hard and getting a good night rest only for our hormones to be thrown out of whack by cleaning the house! Whhhhaaaatttttt?!
I also found that the fragrances added to many cleaners may cause acute effects such as respiratory irritation, headache, sneezing, and watery eyes in sensitive individuals or allergy and asthma sufferers. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has found that one-third of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic; however, because the chemical formulas of fragrances are considered trade secrets, companies aren’t required to list their ingredients. Labeling them as containing “fragrance” is sufficient.
PERSONAL HYGIENE PRODUCTS
Not to be outdone by the cleaning products, the daily ritual of smelling nice is actually doing more harm than good!
A common ingredient in antiperspirants is Aluminum, which acts as a ‘plug’ in your sweat ducts to reduce sweating. When used consistently over a long period of time, the Aluminum can interfere with estrogen receptors in the breast and increase ones risk of the development of cancer cells.
In 2013, researchers found increased levels of aluminum in nipple aspirate fluid from women with breast cancer compared to women without the disease. They also detected increased levels of inflammation and oxidative stress, noting:
” … [O]ur results support the possible involvement of aluminum ions in oxidative and inflammatory status perturbations of breast cancer microenvironment, suggesting aluminum accumulation in breast microenvironment as a possible risk factor for oxidative/inflammatory phenotype of breast cells.”
Aluminum is also one of the nasty chemicals often present in beauty creams. Other chemicals such as BHA/BHT, Parabens, Fragrances, Phthalates, Retinols and Oxybenzones are harmful to you in so many ways if I listed them all you wouldn’t sleep tonight.
Instead of scaring you with detailed health effects I plan on giving you fabulous alternatives! Your skin is your largest organ and can often be the first indication for people when assessing your health. If people are saying to you “your skin is glowing today” then you know your insides are as well.
Let’s make some easy changes that will enhance our body’s natural functioning processes, not inhibit them.
With statistics being what they are (1 in 2 Australian men and 1 in 3 Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85), let’s try and be pro-active!
REPLACING MY BLEACH (and other products)
My first step toward “cleaner cleaning” was switching to bleach tablets for my toilet that can be put directly in the toilet bowl. It dissolves and does the job without you doing anything! This at least eliminated the scrubbing, cleaning, and inhaling while still getting the toilet cleaned.
More recently, I moved out of a rental property and was dreading the exit clean – particularly the oven as many of the available cleaning products contain ammonia. I have only ever used chemicals for this job and thought it was going to be inevitable that I would need to resort back to them, but I tried the natural way first. All I can say is that I will never use chemical cleaners again. This method not only worked but it worked even better than the times I have cleaned with chemicals.
Here was the process I used:
- Using a paintbrush, I painted over the entire oven (not the racks) a paste that was a mixture of bicarb of soda, lavender essential oil and water. You only need enough water to create a paste. I ended up using about half a box of bicarb.
- Allow to sit overnight.
- Next day, fill a bottle with equal parts of water and vinegar. Spray over the entire area and wipe off.
- If necessary, repeat from step 3 (with the vinegar) until clean.
So Simple and you’ll be surprised how well it comes up! I was able to stick my head in the oven and scrub away as i wasn’t inhaling all the potent fumes.
My new friend is the Chux Magic Sponge Eraser. This little chemical free gem cleaned marks off the walls that I couldn’t get off with traditional cleaning products. It even cleaned the glass on the shower and doors amazingly!! All you do is use water! There are no chemicals in the sponge, all you do is put it in water and use it. Best invention EVER.
My favorite concoction for cleaning bathrooms is mixing eucalyptus and tea tree oil with water. You do need to add a small amount of methylated spirits to allow it to blend in the water, but it only needs a dash. You’ll love this blend to wipe benches and clean bathrooms as it has natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties in it.
Cleaning yucky tile grout is a chemical-free breeze with the Vinegar and Water solution you mixed for the oven. Spray it on, leave it 10 minutes, and then use a brush to clean the grout. This cleaning solution even cleans my tiled floor better than when I used bleach. It always remained dark and dirty until I cleaned with vinegar! Shock waves people – I really hope you try it.
CHEM-FREE PERSONAL PRODUCTS
In general, a guideline to follow is, “if you can eat it, then it is safe to use on your body.” The skin of the human body is the largest organ – anything that gets put on the skin is absorbed into the body and impacts us very similarly to ingesting things orally. Specifically, makeup and fake tans sprays are a great starting point for reconsideration. There are gorgeous products on the market now that you could safely eat if you wanted. I purchase my products from ’Beautiful Because’ website and when they get delivered you get samples of other things to try!
Going chemical free is not an excuse to smell; there are ways to make sure you are still a cool human to hang around. I tossed my toxic antiperspirant and have been using Black Chicken Axilla Deodorant Paste for ages now. It is hands down the best one I’ve found. Both guys and girls can use it as it has a gorgeous essential oil base to it, but most importantly it actually works. Many of the aluminum free ones I’ve tried actually gave me bad odour.
As another alternative, when I run out of the deodorant I use I simply add a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil into coconut oil and rub under my arms – it’s actually a great natural deodorant.
As a daily moisturizer I have been using a blend I found at Wellness Mama. I make a big batch of it and it lasts me for months. It is great for scars and stretch marks and really gorgeous on your skin after a wax.
SMALL STEPS BETTER THAN NO STEPS
This is by no means a comprehensive list. I’m just sharing a few steps that I’ve taken. I am not in any way getting a kick back for posting these products. I just know they work, they are healthy alternatives for you to use, and most importantly I have tried and tested them. I am happy to say now with brands like Eco which are stocked in supermarkets, having a chemical free cleaning cupboard is easy.
Well if you’ve read this far I think your ready to make small changes to being a better functioning human.
I love hearing from you guys and sharing your thoughts on my blogs so leave me comments on any cleaning solutions or body products you recommend for us to try!