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Why are we still buying store-bought cleaners? Seriously, why! They are expensive and dangerous. Not to mention most of the time they simply are not necessary. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) many cleaners, even some labeled green or natural, have the potential to inflict serious harm on users.  They also present a severe (stop and reread that single word please) risk to children who may ingest them, spill them, or breathe the fumes. We should know, without question, our children are the most susceptible to the toxins in these products due to their developing bodies and weight.

When it comes to cleaning products many people believe there is government oversight of the industry. However, it remains largely unregulated. It is important to be an informed consumer, so let’s take a minute to look at a few terms that can be present on mass-produced cleaners and see exactly what they mean. This is a condensed version of an article prepared by the EWG. You will find the full post here.

Know Your Labels:

Antibacterial – the product contains pesticides that kill bacteria, viruses or molds. Pesticides are listed as “active ingredients” on the label. Avoid these cleaners, they are hazardous. They do not clean any better than plain soap and water nor do they provide extra protection against illness. What exactly do they do? They wash down the drain where they are often toxic to aquatic algae, fish, and wildlife. The overuse of products containing pesticides has also helped lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.

Biodegradable – these ingredients break down in the environment once they enter wastewater treatment plants, rivers and streams or landfills. Some ingredients do biodegrade quickly into harmless substances. Others linger in the environment for years or decompose into harmful contaminants.

Chlorine-free/Bleach alternative – does not contain chlorine bleach, but may contain oxygen bleach instead. Both are irritating or corrosive and must be handled with care. Chlorine bleach can release traces of harmful chlorine gas. Frequent users of chlorine bleach are at increased risk of developing asthma and other respiratory problems. EWG recommends avoiding chlorine bleach and using chlorine-free alternatives when necessary.

Corrosive/Caustic – can cause serious chemical burns to the skin, eyes or lungs. Bleach, oven cleaners and drain openers are primary offenders. Avoid these products at home, and keep them far from children’s reach.

Enzymes – these proteins are added to cleaners to help break down and remove soils and stains. Do not assume that enzymes are safe simply because they are natural. Also, be aware that boric acid, a chemical toxic to the reproductive system, is often added to stabilize enzymes in cleaning supplies.

DIY Orange Vinegar:

So, are you ready to make the switch? You probably have everything you need to effectively clean your home in your pantry so let’s get started. Today’s DIY is Orange Vinegar. Use it and love it!

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Start with orange peels (you can use any citrus peels: lime, lemon, grapefruit, a blend). Remove all of the white junk you can and add them to a mason jar.

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You can add essential oils (where to buy) now or after your vinegar has set. I add mine in the beginning. I don’t know that there is a right or wrong, if you do please let me know. Choose any combo you’d like. I added Mel A (tea tree), Thieves, and Lavender. (Tip: Plant a garden and get creative this summer by adding sprigs of rosemary, mint, or basil. It is fantastic and you won’t miss those fancy cleaners one bit I promise).

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Now, fill your mason jar to the top with vinegar. I don’t get fancy with vinegar, so use what you have and don’t stress. Now, put your lid on and give it a good shake.

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Now it is time for patience my dear friends. Place this beauty on the counter and let it set for two-three weeks. The longer it sets the more potent it will become. Pick up the jar and give it a good swirl daily.

*** I will update this in two weeks so you can see the finished product, but you will then strain your vinegar to remove the sediment and peels. Place strained vinegar back into jar and your cleaner is ready! I use a 1:1 mix of water and orange vinegar for tough cleaning jobs and a 2:1 mix of water and orange vinegar for everyday cleaning.

This is such a fun project and it shows just how easy it is to naturally and effectively clean. Have fun with it and say goodbye to those toxic cleaners!

Update 4/3/15:

Oh friends, our patience has paid off and will now be rewarded! It has been almost three weeks since I started my orange vinegar and it is now officially ready to deep clean my house. 

  

Your jar will contain peels and sediment.

  

Grab a strainer and bowl to separate peels and orange vinegar.

  

Pour into strainer, discard sediment and peels.

  

Return orange vinegar to jar and use as described above. You can also add additional essential oils at this point. Happy cleaning. This little secret will be your new best friend!

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References:

Environmental Working Group (2012). Hall of shame. Retrieved from: http://www.ewg.org/cleaners/hallofshame/

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