When it comes to living a holistic, green life, one often forgotten part of that lifestyle is the products that you use in your home to keep it clean and sanitary. Our bodies are designed to interact with our environment through our various senses. You have your five major senses – sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch – yet depending on how you count them, humans can have up to 20 or more unique senses. Taking that into consideration, we also know that there are highly toxic and carcinogenic substances for us humans. These substances can cause minor issues like rashes to major casualties from even the smallest exposure.
The FDA is responsible for approving anything related to food and drugs, but they don’t actually regulate cleaning products. The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, does set exposure limits to various chemicals and chemical compounds. Further, they only require companies to list any compound that are active disinfectants or has the potential to cause harm to humans. This leaves a lot of unknowns in that kitchen spray that you use to wipe off your counters and subsequently prepare your food on.
One of the first things I did when switching to a green living, holistic lifestyle was switch out my all-purpose cleaner.
There are many recipes available on the internet, but I really liked this one in particular. I did switch things up a little to reduce unfavorable reactions. Some recipes call for soap and others essential oils which negatively react with some of the other solutions and even the containers you mix the cleaner in. I’ll list out the ingredients and explain how each one works.
My all-purpose cleaner contains equal parts of:
- Isopropyl Alcohol
Water: Water in this case is used to dilute the solution in order to reduce the intensity of the other materials, making the cleaning solution safe for multiple surfaces.
Vinegar: Another name for vinegar is acetic acid. It is a great disinfectant, deodorizer, and can also cut through grease. Vinegar is capable of making its way through the cell membranes of bacteria causing them to release proteins that end with cell death. It’s particularly effective against gram-negative bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella that can cause pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections, and meningitis. Most commercial vinegar has about 5% acetic acid, which is more than enough to kill harmful pathogens. They do make “cleaning vinegar” that has 6% acetic acid, increasing the strength by 20%. For more details on vinegar’s cleaning properties check out this site.
Isopropyl Alcohol: Also known as rubbing alcohol, isopropyl alcohol (IPA) works in a similar fashion to ethanol. It breaks down the cell wall of both bacteria AND viruses by denaturing proteins and dissolving lipids. It evaporates quickly leaving no residue. The only caution when using isopropyl alcohol is to make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. I choose IPA over ethanol because it doubles as an antiseptic. For more information on ethanol and IPA check out this site.
I know it’s a popular thing to add essential oils to cleaners, but most people have plastic containers for their cleaning supplies and the essential oils will break that plastic down over time. If you want that “fresh scent” of your favorite essential oil, then pick up a diffuser and disperse the oils in that manner.
So that’s it! Three simple (and cheap!) ingredients added in equal parts and one spray bottle and you have a mean, green, cleaning machine that easily replaces many household cleaners with something that is safer and just as effective.