Simple Changes To Reduce Toxic Chemicals In Your Home

photo: Michael Till


Have you ever thought about how many chemicals you use in the course of the day? Scented soap, hair products, plant food, cleaning supplies, bug repellant – they all have different chemicals both for function and scent. Of course we don’t always know what chemicals we are rubbing on our skin or or spreading on our floors and counters, but it’s easy to assume that products on the market are reasonably safe.

In fact, I know many people who would argue that they’ve used certain products for years and their parents used the same ones, and everyone’s fine, so what’s the big deal? Well, I’ll tell you. The average household has about 20-25 gallons of toxic materials, most of which are in cleaners. Of all the chemicals typically found in homes, 150 have been linked to allergies, birth defects, cancer, asthma attacks, and psychological abnormalities. Isn’t that crazy?

And, the toxic chemicals in household cleaners are three times more likely to cause cancer than air pollution. So if you think everyone in your family has been fine despite using various chemical cleaners and such, think again – how many people do you know who have developed cancer from an unknown source or who suffer from allergies or asthma? It’s very likely that exposure to chemicals is what could have caused some of those ailments.

Just because a chemical is not banned does not mean it is smart to use it. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only a fraction of the more than 75,000 registered chemicals have gone through complete testing for human health concerns.

If you’re think you might want to take a few small steps to reduce the amount of chemicals in and around your home, I have some ideas for you.

Insect Repellants

In my article, Everyday Plants That Repel Pesky Bugs, I suggested you might plant catnip, citronella, and peppermint near and around the areas where you want to keep mosquitoes away. If you prefer something you can apply directly to your skin, try this mixture I used last summer:

Organic Mosquito Repellant

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup witch hazel

5 drops citronella or eucalyptus essential oil

Mix in a spray bottle and spray directly on skin.

Easy and inexpensive! The only drawback I found was that since it isn’t a lotion or oil, it will run down your arms or legs if you use too much at once. The good news is that a little goes a long way, and you can just set the spray nozzle to a light mist, and you’ll be fine. And you’ll smell good too!

Keeping Your House Clean

If you can get in the habit of immediately removing your shoes when you come in the house, you can greatly reduce the amount of pesticides, chemicals, and dirt in your household. Have you ever thought about all the places the bottoms of your shoes have been? Public restrooms, parking lots, restaurant floors – you can imagine all the stuff you are potentially bringing back to your own floors. If you have kids or pets who play on the floor, it’s especially important to leave your shoes at the door.

As for actual cleaning agents, consider ditching the products you buy and trying these instead:

  • Baking soda to clean sinks, tubs, and toilets
  • Vinegar and water to clean windows, mirrors, and chrome
  • Lemon to fight bacteria and reduce odors

If you want a general all-purpose cleaner, you can mix this up in a big batch:

All-Purpose Cleaner

1/2 cup vinegar

1/4 cup baking soda

1/2 gallon water

Mix together and store in a couple of labeled spray bottles.

There are tons of other non-toxic recipes for practically any cleaning job. has countless ideas for safer dishwasher soap, laundry soap, disinfectants, carpet stain removers, and more.

Controlling pests

Opportunistic insects and rodents may make their way into your home if they think they can find food there. Avoid the temptation to use a pest control service or other chemicals as a preventive measure. Instead, follow these steps to avoid the problem:

  • Keep your house clean, especially your kitchen floors and counters.
  • Take trash out regularly and make sure the trash cans in your house have tight-fitting lids.
  • Think like a bug (or mouse!) and consider their possible entrance sites to get in your house. Caulk windows, install door sweeps, and patch screen holes.

What if the pests have already arrived?

  • Avoid chemical pesticides like Raid or fly strips or any other products that will also release chemicals into the air in your house.
  • If you have ants coming in, you might like to know that they won’t cross a line of cinnamon. If you can block their entrance with a little cinnamon, they will turn around and go elsewhere! I will tell you we had mixed results with this technique this year, since we weren’t able to find their point of entrance. We went through a lot of cinnamon before we just decided to wait them out. Eventually, they left!
  • Ants also hate cucumber peels. Place a few in the spot where the ants are coming in, and consider it their Unwelcome Mat!
  • People in the south often have to deal with roaches, but did you know a mixture of equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar will kill them? Gross, I know. But if you’ve got a roach issues, just spread that mixture around the area where you see them, and they’ll soon be gone.
  • You can make your own fly paper by boiling water, sugar and corn syrup together, and then spreading the mixture on brown paper grocery bags.

There are natural solutions to practically any pest problem. You just have to dig around and do a bit of research to find your answers. It’s a good investment of your time and energy to create a healthier living environment for you and your family and also to protect your loved ones from contamination and potential diseases.

You’ve probably noticed by now that so many of these solutions are much cheaper than products you buy at the store. Easy changes that will  help you live healthier and save money? That’s a 2-for-1 deal you can’t pass up!

Posted on June 26, 2012, in Environmental Wellness and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the recipes Nisha! I'm trying to detox my house as I go, so these will come in very handy.

  2. Good list! We think it is really important to add, stopping the use of main-stream "cleaners". People are "cleaning" their homes with toxic chemicals, which are one of the main sources of in-door air pollution and are frankly making people and their children very sick – not to mention that many countries lack proper labeling laws which help consumers make informed choices when it comes to "cleaning" products. Best option? Make your own cleaning products! You'll actually get a clean house, not one full of toxins and you'll save a tun of money too. A few others would be, not using toxic body care products or pesticides on your lawn. Thanks for helping to educate people. Way to go!
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