Clean and Green Cleaning and Beauty

Common Ingredient to watch out for:

Caustics - Irritate skin and are still used in most soaps to break down tallow (animal fat), vegetable oils and waxes (used as a setting agent - non liquid).

Chlorine - Chlorine (most commonly known as bleach) destroys the living organisms (bacteria) required to biodegrade and break down cleaners in our soil and water.  Harmful to the respiratory system (try breathing in the fumes of bathroom cleaners in a closed room).   The World Health Organisation has called for a phase out and ban on chlorine in domestic products worldwide.

Petrochemicals   - Petroleum based chemicals exude synthetic estrogen which are called Xeno Estrogens.  These 'bad' estrogens are absorbed through the skin and accumulate in our organs.   They also affect our respiratory systems and can play havoc with the hormone balance in animals and humans.  Petrochemicals are used in artificial colours, plastic, polyester, foam rubber, cosmetics, perfumes, pesticides, alcohols, formaldehyde, cleaners, sprays, waxes, tars, printer’s inks, paints, solvents, toothpastes, mouthwashes, hair sprays, shampoos, lotions, gums, glues, drugs, and preservatives (that go in any number of products including foods, drugs, and cosmetics).

Theron Randolph, M.D., and Ralph M. Moss, Ph.D., pointed out as early as 1951 that petrochemicals, though seemingly harmless chemicals, were responsible for a wide variety of mental and physical problems even when they were present in tiny, supposedly non-toxic doses (T.G. Randolph, M.D., and R.W. Moss, Ph.D., An Alternative Approach to Allergies, New York: Bantam Books, 1951).

Phosphates - Phosphates are used in many different foods, eg: bread, cakes, etc. and are an important ingredient in fertilisers

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS & SLES) Are ingredients common in facial cleansers, shampoos, bubble bath, baby wash, body wash and toothpaste.  Health Hazards have been known about SLS and SLES for many years as stated in the Journal of American College of Toxicology (1983), they include tissue damage that could result in brain, liver, heart and lung damage in the long term; eye damage; degradation of the immune system; severe skin irritation; hair loss and eczema.  When absorbed through the skin SLS maintains residual body levels in the heart, liver, lungs and brain.   Further reference see Dangerous Beauty Cosmetic and Personal Care: Peter Dingle & Toni Brown 1999.

Coal Tar – often used in psoriasis treatments, shampoos, dyes and cosmetics.  Exposure can lead to increased risks of lung, scrotum and skin cancer.   Further reference see Dangerous Beauty Cosmetic and Personal Care: Peter Dingle & Toni Brown 1999.

Glycol – Used in many cosmetic preparations.  Used as an antifreeze and brake fluid in motor vehicles.  A petrochemical and lubricant.  No value to the skin but is used as a gliding agent to ensure the cream or lotion glides on to the skin easily.  Also used in rinse products in dishwashing machines.  We suggest using vinegar as a substitue to rinse aid products.

DMDM hydantoin – is a formaldehyde releasing agent.  (See Formaldehyde)

Formaldehyde – The chemical name is Formalin (usually the name used on labels in preference to formaldehyde)  Used as a preservative in shampoos, baby washes, mascara, creams, bubble bathgs, anti-dandruff shampoos and some deodorants.  Also a common ingredient in fabric softeners, glue preparations used in building and cabinet making (especially panel boards such as those used in caravans and melamine)  It is known to  cause eye, nose and throat ireritation, coughing, asthma attacks, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, skin rashes, nose bleeds, headaches, dizziness and a is suspected human carcinogen.  It is known to cause serious weakening of the immune system.  Be sure to open doors and windows for air flow and avoid products containing this toxic ingredient.

Propylene Glycol – is used as a skin conditioning agent, a solvent and a humectant.  It is readily absorbed through the skin and scalp and affects the liver and kidneys, where it is suspected of causing abnormalities.

Fluoride – an ingredient often in toothpaste, it is a poison to humans when ingested over long periods, as it accumulates in body tissues.  “Fluoride is a known carcinogen and teratogen,  decreases fertility in women and is not approved by the FDA in the United States ”  “ Fluoride has been removed from various animal feeds because it was causing birth defects in the offspring.  The growing scientific consensus is that fluoride provides no benefit to teeth but does cause damage to the bones and organs in the body.”  P. Dingle.  Cosmetics and Personal Care, Dangerous Beauty.  1999.  Pp17

Non Toxic House Cleaners

One shelf of simple and relatively safe ingredients can be used to perform most home cleaning chores. All that's needed is a knowledge of how they work and how different ingredients should be combined to get the cleaning power needed for a specific job.

Baking Soda - is sodium bicarbonate and is made from soda ash and is slightly alkaline (its pH is around 8.1; 7 is neutral). It neutralizes acid-based odors in water and adsorbs odors from the air. Sprinkled on a damp sponge or cloth, baking soda can be used as a gentle, nonabrasive cleanser for kitchen countertops, sinks, bathtubs, ovens, and fiberglass. It will eliminate perspiration odors and even neutralize the smell of many chemicals if you add up to a cup per load to the laundry. It is also a useful air freshener and a fine carpet and fridge deodorizer. It can clean and polish aluminum, chrome, jewelry, plastic, porcelain, silver, stainless steel, and tin. It also softens fabrics and removes certain stains. Baking soda can soften hard water and makes a relaxing bath time soak, it can be used as an underarm deodorant and as a toothpaste

Washing Soda or SAL Soda - A chemical neighbor of baking soda, washing soda (sodium carbonate) is much more strongly alkaline, with a pH around 11. It releases no harmful fumes and is far safer than a commercial solvent formula, but you should wear gloves when using it because it is caustic It can cut stubborn grease on grills, broiler pans, and ovens. It cleans petroleum oil, removes wax or lipstick, and neutralizes odors in the same way as baking soda. Don't use it on fiberglass, aluminum, or waxed floors, unless you intend to remove the wax. Washing soda is found in the laundry section of most supermarkets. It can be used with soda instead of laundry detergent, and it softens hard water.

Borax - is a naturally occurring mineral (Hydrated sodium borate, Na 2B 4O 7 -10H 2O), soluble in water. Borax can deodorize, inhibit the growth of mildew and mold, boost the cleaning power of soap or detergent, remove stains, and can be used with attractants such as sugar to kill cockroaches.

Cornstarch , derived from corn, can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs, and starch clothes.

Isopropyl Alcohol is an excellent disinfectant and cleaning agent but it must be used in a well-ventilated space with adequate protection for the hands and skin.

Lemon Juice, which contains citric acid, is a deodorant and can be used to clean glass and remove stains from aluminum, clothes, and porcelain. It is a mild lightener or bleach if used with sunlight.

Mineral Oil, derived from seeds, is an ingredient in several furniture polish and floor wax recipes.

Soap (NOT detergent) is made in several ways. Castille soap can be used as a shampoo or as a body soap. Olive-oil based soap is gentlest to the skin. An all-purpose liquid soap can be made by simple dissolving the old ends of bar soap (or grated slivers of bar soap) in warm water. Many people are confused about the difference between soaps and detergents. Both are surfactants, or surface active agents, which basically means they are washing compounds that mix with grease and water. But soaps are made of materials found in nature, and detergents are synthetic (although some of the ingredients are natural); they were developed during World War II, when oils to make soap were scarce. There is little doubt that soap is better for your health and the environment than detergents. Detergents are very toxic to fish and wildlife. Washing with soap has a big drawback, however--the minerals in water react with those in soap, leaving an insoluble film. This can turn clothes grayish, and the film can leave a residue (such as is found on shower stalls, for example

Steel Wool is an abrasive strong enough to remove rust and stubborn food residues and to scour barbeque grills.

TSP ( trisodium phosphate), a mixture of soda ash and phosphoric acid. TSP is toxic if swallowed, but it can be used on many jobs, such as cleaning drains or removing old paint, that would normally require much more caustic and poisonous chemicals and it does not create any fumes.

Vinegar is made from soured apple juice, grain, or wine. It contains about 5 percent acetic acid, which makes it a mild acid. Vinegar can dissolve mineral deposits, grease, remove traces of soap, remove mildew or wax buildup, polish some metals, and deodorize. Vinegar can clean brick or stone, and is an ingredient in some natural carpet cleaning recipes. Use vinegar to clean out the metallic taste in coffeepots and to shine windows without streaking. Vinegar it kills bacteria, mold, and germs. It is also the opposite of baking and washing soda; it is acidic and therefore neutralizes alkaline or caustic substances. If your tap water is hard and you have trouble with mineral buildup (which looks like a corroded dirty powder), soak a cloth in vinegar and rest it on the problem area for a few hours. The acid will break down the minerals and they can be wiped away. Acids dissolve gummy buildup and eat away tarnish. Vinegar is particularly good for removing dirt from wood surfaces.

Heinz company spokesperson Michael Mullen references numerous studies to show that a straight 5 percent solution of vinegar kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses). Heinz's packaging cannot claim that vinegar is a disinfectant, since the company has not registered it as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); however, it seems to be common knowledge in the industry that vinegar is powerfully antibacterial. (The CBS news show 48 Hours aired a special report on tests from the Good Housekeeping Institute showing this.) Use white distilled vinegar, since apple cider vinegar can leave stains.

For General Use

  • Use White vinegar instead of bleach.
  • Bi-carbonate of Soda instead of Ajax
  • Scouring powder can be made from baking soda or dry table salt.
  • To wash clothes sunlight soap soaked in water till it goes squishy thrown into the washing machine is excellent.

Freshen air by opening windows and doors for a short period; distribute partially filled dishes of vinegar around the kitchen to combat unpleasant cooking odors; boil cinnamon and cloves in a pan of water to scent the air, sprinkle 1/2 cup borax in the bottom of garbage pails or diaper pails to inhibit mold and bacteria growth that can cause odors, rub vinegar on hands before and after slicing onions to remove the smell, use bowls of potpourri to give inside air a pleasant scent.

All-purpose cleaner

Can be made from a vinegar and salt mixture or from 4 tablespoons baking soda dissolved in 600ml warm water.


means anything that will reduce the number of harmful bacteria on a surface. Practically no surface treatment will completely eliminate bacteria. Try regular cleaning with soap and hot water. Or mix 1/2 cup borax into 1 gallon of hot water to disinfect and deodorize. Isopropyl alcohol is an excellent disinfectant, but use gloves and keep it away from children.

Drain cleaner

try a plunger first, though not after using any commercial drain opener. To open clogs, pour 1/2 cup baking soda down drain, add 1/2 cup white vinegar, and cover the drain. The resulting chemical reaction can break fatty acids down into the soap and glycerine, allowing the clog to wash down the drain. Again, do not use this method after trying a commercial drain opener--the vinegar can react with the drain opener to create dangerous fumes.

Creamy Soft Scrubber
½ cup baking soda
liquid detergent
Pour the baking soda into a bowl and add enough liquid detergent to give the mixture the texture of frosting. Scoop it onto a sponge to wash surfaces. This is the perfect recipe for cleaning the bathtub, because it rinses easily and doesn't leave grit.

Window Cleaner
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups water
Put all the ingredients in a spray bottle, shake it, and use as you would a commercial brand. The detergent in this recipe is important--it cuts the wax residue left by products you might have used in the past.

Oven Cleaner
1 cup or more baking soda
squirt or two of liquid detergent
Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with enough baking soda that the surface is totally white. Sprinkle more water over the top. Let the mixture set overnight. You can easily wipe up the grease the next morning because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge and wash the remaining residue from the oven. Note: If this recipe doesn't work, you probably didn't use enough baking soda and/or water.

All-Purpose Spray Cleaner
1/2 teaspoon washing soda
dab of liquid soap
2 cups hot tap water
Combine the ingredients in a spray bottle and shake until the washing soda has dissolved. Apply and wipe off with a sponge or rag.

Furniture Polish
1/2 teaspoon oil, such as olive (or jojoba, a liquid wax)
1/4 cup vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Mix the ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe wood surfaces. Cover the glass jar and store indefinitely.

Metal cleaners and polishes are different for each metal -- just as in commercial cleaners.

  • Clean aluminum with a solution of cream of tartar and water.
  • Brass may be polished with a soft cloth dipped in lemon-and baking-soda solution, or vinegar- and-salt solution.
  • Polish chrome with baby oil, vinegar, or aluminum foil shiny side out.
  • Clean tarnished copper by boiling the article in a pot of water with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 cup white vinegar, or try differing mixtures of salt, vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and cream of tartar.
  • Clean gold with toothpaste.
  • Clean pewter with a paste of salt, vinegar, and flour.
  • Silver can be polished by boiling it in a pan lined with aluminum foil and filled with water to which a teaspoon each of baking soda and salt have been added.
  • Stainless steel can be cleaned with undiluted white vinegar.

Vinegar Deodorizer
Keep clean spray bottles filled with straight 5 percent vinegar in your kitchen near your cutting board and in your bathroom, and use them for cleaning. I often apply the vinegar to my cutting board before going to bed and let it set overnight. The smell of vinegar goes away within a few hours. Straight vinegar is also great for cleaning the toilet rim. Just spray it on and wipe off.

Mold Killer 1: Tea Tree Treasure
2 teaspoons tea tree oil
2 cups water
Nothing natural works as well as this spray for mold and mildew. I've used it successfully on a moldy ceiling and shower curtain, and a musty bureau and rug. Tea tree oil is expensive, but a little goes a very long way. It also has a very strong odor, but that dissipates in a few days. Combine tea tree oil and water in a spray bottle, shake to blend, and apply to problem areas. Do not rinse. Leave in the bottle-it has a long shelf life.

Mold Killer 2: Citrus Seed Extract
20 drops citrus seed extract
2 cups water
The advantage of using citrus seed extract instead of tea tree oil for killing mold is that it is odorless. Combine the citrus seed extract and water in a spray bottle, shake to blend, and apply to problem areas. Do not rinse. Leave in bottle-it also has a long shelf life.

Mold Killer 3: Vinegar Spray
Straight vinegar reportedly kills 82 percent of mold. Pour some white distilled vinegar into a spray bottle and apply to moldy areas. Let set without rinsing, if you can put up with the smell, which will subside in a few hours.

Bower, Lynn Marie. The Healthy Household. Healthy House Institute, 1995.
Dadd, Debra Lynn. Home Safe Home. Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1997.
Steinman, David and Samuel S. Epstein. The Safe Shopper's Bible. Macmillan, 1995.
Hundreds of everyday solutions for a healthy lifestyle.
Free monthly e-mails from the Children's Environmental Health Coalition, offering simple steps to keep your baby in a healthy home. Also offers the video Not Under My Roof! Protecting Your Baby from Toxins at Home with Olivia Newton-John and Kelly Preston.
This Environmental Defense website is an excellent resource for information about specific chemicals found in household products. Enter the name of a chemical in the search box, and you will be told about its toxicity and what regulatory lists it is on.



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