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In terms of leading a healthy lifestyle, there’s no question that we place emphasis on the food we eat, the movement we commit to, and how we care for our mental health. But are we giving the same attention to how we’re cleaning our homes?
Regularly cleaning with chemicals could be as bad for your lungs as smoking a pack a day, according to a recent study. And with women statistically doing more of the cleaning (yes, it is a hard truth to accept), the repercussions of toxic chemical use has become a female health issue that could last 10-20 years even after eliminating the use of harmful products.
But how do we make the switch to cleaning green? For most, when they hear “natural cleaning products” they immediately think “they don’t work,” but that’s not what experts are saying.
“I was noticing that I was having difficulty breathing comfortably and I was also coughing quite a bit with so much exposure to cleaning products,” says Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and founder of Clean My Space. Within weeks of starting her cleaning business in 2006, Melissa made the switch to clean green and now helps her 1.7 million YouTube subscribers do the same through her helpful cleaning tips and DIY natural cleaning tutorials.
And you don’t need to purchase anything fancy to get started. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. “Get familiar with cleaning basics like dish soap, baking soda, and vinegar and learn how to use them around your home,” she advises those looking to make the switch. “You will probably be very impressed with how well they work, and they're cost effective as well.”
But if DIYing your cleaning products seems a bit out of your league, you have choices. In fact, global cleaning products on the shelves accounted for 3.9 billion dollars in 2019, and is estimated to be 11.6 billion by 2029. One of those choices is Better Basics, a female-founded sustainable cleaning product company dedicated to making eco-living simple.
“I think we've been used to cleaning with bleach and ammonia for so long that we think we need that strong chemical smell for something to be clean,” says Better Basics co-founder Samantha Rayner. “It's actually not great to kill all of the bacteria in your home; there are lots of good bacteria that help our immune systems and gut health.”
After both of her parents were diagnosed with different types of cancers six years ago, Samantha was told by doctors to eliminate everyday products that contain a lot of carcinogenic and toxic ingredients (many of which are, you guessed it, in cleaning products).
“I thought to myself, if it's not good for those with fragile immune systems, it certainly can't be good for me either,” says Samantha. “Since I started using natural products, I’ve noticed more resiliency in my health. Now when I’m around strong or harsh chemicals, they have a stronger effect on me including a headache or stomachache.”
Clean Up Your Act
Since the onset of the pandemic, there has been a serious uptick in the sales of harsh cleaning products—even those who had previously been committed to cleaning green admit returning to buying harsh disinfectants believing they work better. Despite the CDC encouraging a two-step process to cleaning (cleaning followed by disinfecting), often the latter holds too much weight and leads to the overuse of products with claims such as “Kills 99.9% of bacteria.”
Regularly cleaning high-use items in your home, like your electronics and yoga mat, is the key to reducing the need for disinfectants or harsh chemicals. And if you aren’t already taking the time to wipe down your mat after each workout, maybe this will inspire you: Untreated yoga mats have 100,000 bacteria per cubic centimeter (and this multiplies!). A couple spritzes of a natural cleaner, such as the Yoga Mat Cleanser by TAURAH, could mean the difference between thriving or coping next flu season.
As of right now, neither Health Canada nor the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires companies to list all the ingredients in their cleaning products, leaving consumers even more in the dark. To protect your health, start cleaning with the most gentle products and only increase strength if needed.
The bottom line: Don’t get washed away with fancy marketing. When it comes to choosing the right cleaning products for your health, look beyond the label. The EPA’s Safer Choice list is a great place to start when looking for greener brands. The EWG’s label decoder can also be a helpful tool if you’re stuck while in the cleaning aisle.