Your Nontoxic Cleanser Options

It's true there's no place home, especially when it comes to indoor pollution.

Many of the products we use on a daily or weekly basis contain dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals, some of which are linked to increased risk of cancer. For example, one study found that women who reported the highest use of certain household products had a significantly higher risk for breast cancer. Drain, toilet, and oven cleaners are the worst of the bunch.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, indoor air pollution is significantly higher than outside-even in the largest, most industrialized cities. Harmful gasses from cleaning and other products accumulate in our well-sealed homes. Since we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, we're continually exposed to toxins.

Karyn Siegel-Maier, author of The Naturally Clean Home, likens the home to a "toxic dump site." However, it's easier than you might expect to avoid many of these dangerous substances and still maintain a clean, healthy home. In fact, you can use many ingredients you already have in your pantry to create simple, effective cleaning solutions. And here are two added benefits: they're less costly than commercial products and many of them smell great.

Here are a few of the many safe products you can use to clean. Most are readily available in your grocery store.

  • Baking soda
  • Unscented liquid soap
  • Lemon juice (it's a natural degreaser and has antimicrobial properties)
  • Washing soda
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Cornstarch
  • TSP (Trisodium phosphate)
  • Borax
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Pumice stone
  • Zeolite
  • Castile soap

Siegel-Maier incorporates essential oils made from herbs, which usually have antibacterial and antifungal properties, into her extensive list of recipes for household cleaners. If you go this route, make sure you purchase pure, undiluted essential oils; the oils used for aromatherapy are diluted. You can purchase pure essential oils in health food stores or order them online.

Here are recipes for two simple cleaning solutions:

All purpose cleaner: Mix ½ cup vinegar and ¼ cup of baking soda (or 2 teaspoons of borax) into ½ gallon water (

Germs-be-gone toilet cleaner: Combine 2 cups water, ¼-cup castile soap, 1 tablespoon tea tree oil, and 10 drops of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil (The Naturally Clean Home)

Natural cleaning experts also offer a few additional tips:

  • Use cellulose sponges, which are biodegradable.
  • Avoid ammonia, chlorine, and petroleum-based products.
  • Open your windows regularly to allow fresh air into your home.

Zota, Ami R., Aschengrau, Ann, Rudel, Ruthann A., and Brody, Julia Green. "Self-reported chemicals exposure, beliefs about disease causation, and risk of breast cancer in the Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study: a case-control study." Environmental Health 9 (2010). Web. 20 July 2010.

Consumer Product Safety Commission and Environmental Protection Agency. "The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality." Web. "Non-Toxic Home Cleaning." Web.

Siegel-Maier, Karyn. The Naturally Clean Home. Massachusetts: Storey Publishing, 1999. Print.

Cancer Prevention Coalition. "Carcinogens at Home." Web.

Cancer Prevention Coalition. "Cancer Prevention Alert # 8: Hazardous Ingredients in Household Products." Web.