The ability to keep dangerous toxins out of your home is perhaps the most compelling reason to use green cleaners. Many household cleaners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde and harsh acids, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
We’re spraying, wiping, washing and sanitizing everything these days. So, how can we make sure we keep our bodies safe around all of these chemical cocktails? We’ve pulled together some resources and favorites for safer ways to combat germs.
As always, start small. You don’t have to overhaul everything all at once. Start with hand soap or hand sanitizer and then move on from there. One thing at a time, mama!
Germ Removal vs. Disinfecting/Sanitizing
I know, we’re in the middle of a crazy viral outbreak, don’t we want to KILL the germs? Sure. If someone in your house is sick, or you are exposed to germs, we definitely want to KILL some germs. Before you start wiping everything down with bleach, make sure you clean the surface first. A dirty surface won’t allow the sanitization to be as effective.
And instead of bleach, there are some different ways to effectively sanitize surfaces, which we will discuss in this blog.
Wash Your Hands!
Haven’t we heard that enough for the last however many months? BUT if you can, choose good ‘ol fashioned soap and water to scrub your hands versus an alcohol-based sanitizer. The CDC itself recommends this as soap and water together, combined with proper hand washing techniques, remove more germs.
“Using soap to wash hands is more effective than using water alone because the surfactants in soap lift soil and microbes from skin, and people tend to scrub hands more thoroughly when using soap, which further removes germs.”
Sanitizers are great but often are not as effective on greasy or dirty hands. You can read more about the science here: Show Me the Science. If using a sanitizer, make sure it’s at least 60% alcohol – those are proven to be the most effective.
Ingredients to Avoid
I’m definitely that girl standing in the aisle reading all the labels. High five if you do it, too! I know it can be overwhelming, so we’ve narrowed down some ingredients to avoid if at all possible. I know this isn’t always possible, and that’s okay, we’re here to help you take baby steps. If possible, avoid these ingredients when shopping for hand soaps, sanitizers and cleaners.
- Triclosan: Chemical with antibacterial properties, deemed not safe for daily use over long periods of time.
- Fragrance: Some fragrances are listed as “essential oils”, I’m usually okay with those.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: Can be an irritant to some with sensitivities.
- Benzalkonium chloride: Surfactant, can be a respiratory irritant to those with sensitivities.
- Methanol: toxic alcohol that can cause damage when absorbed into skin
If you’re lost in the labels, which to be honest, I get lost a lot of times, too! The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has an amazing website with lots of sources to help you decode ingredients and find the safest products for your family.
Our Favorite Ways to Combat Germs
If you’re feeling lost, we’ve got some of favorite safer ways to combat germs compiled right here. We included a couple of brands we haven’t tried but have heard great things about. This isn’t an exhaustive list, just the items and brands we’ve grown to know, love and feel safe using around our families.
Pacha Liquid Soap
This is a must-have in our house! We’ve tried some the “greener” competitors from the store, but Pacha Liquid Soap is the clear winner. It smells amazing. We love the Clarifying Charcoal scent and leaves your hands super soft.
Force of Nature
This is on our must-try list. The science behind this product is so cool. It’s an EPA registered disinfectant that you can make on your countertop at home using salt, vinegar, water and electricity! Check out more info here: The Science – Electrolyzed Water.
Look no further than your own kitchen cabinet for a more natural cleaning agent. Vinegar is a natural product that has been shown to kill germs that cause colds and flu. It contains 5% acetic acid, which is what kills bacteria and viruses. For the best results, combine hot water and vinegar. Another common household item, hydrogen peroxide, can be used to kill bacteria and viruses. It should be used in the same manner as bleach, i.e. mixed with water and wiped down. Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O20 should be used with caution because it can stain clothing and porous surfaces. Simple Green, another natural cleaner, is marketed as a safer chemical that will kill the flu virus as well as other bacteria and viruses. NOTE: Do not mix the two together in a bottle. Please read their instructions before using these ingredients together.
Isopropyl Alcohol Wipes/Sanitizer Wipes
Think of this like your hand sanitizer but in a wipe form. Both of these wipes contain the CDC recommended amount of alcohol for disinfecting. When using alcohol wipes, make sure you have cleared the surface of dust and debris and allow to sit wet for 30 seconds. This would not be good for large surface areas but great for small jobs. Find plain isopropyl alcohol wipes with no added ingredients here.
DoTerra OnGuard Sanitizing Mist
This is by far one of my favorite hand sanitizers! It has a spicy/citrus aroma and works to build your immune system through each use with oils: eucalyptus, rosemary and clove.
Dr. Bronner’s Organic Hand Sanitizer
This is another family favorite – particularly, the lavender scent. It’s a light, refreshing mist that won’t leave your hands dry.
This packs a whopping 72% alcohol content combined with soothing aloe juice, oatstraw extract and cedarwood oils. This spray comes in four different sizes.
This handy spray contains vitamin E and aloe vera juice to leave hands soft after spraying. The light lemon scent is refreshing!
Another 72% alcohol-based spray that leaves a lovely lavender smell and soft hands.
Y’all know we love Tubby Todd! This spray comes in a 2-pack with aloe and vitamin E to help soften skin. You can choose from lavender or coconut scents.
Reducing Your Toxic Load
Since we’re being bombarded with all the smells, cleaners and sanitizing, we need to take some extra steps to make sure our bodies can handle the toxic load. Even if you’re using safer products in your home, you’re bound to run into the tequila smelling hand sanitizer at the doctor’s office. It smells like a night out. Whew.
Air Out Your Space
If you spend a day sanitizing all the things with the heavy hitters, open the windows and doors and turn on the fans. It’s best to keep some fresh air circulating. Even better, grab some small air purifiers for each room of the house. Some of them can cost a pretty penny, but it’s worth it for good air quality.
A supplement is nice, but good ‘ol fashion sunshine is going to do wonders for your body. Not only will it be good to get some fresh air, but some sun exposure will help your body produce Vitamin D which is essential to a healthy immune system.
You may be concerned that do-it-yourself green cleaners will not effectively kill germs. Tufts New England Medical Center researchers, on the other hand, are concerned that we are killing too many microorganisms, claiming that disinfectants found in household cleaners may contribute to drug-resistant bacteria. According to Healthy Child Healthy World, ordinary soap and water are sufficient to keep our families safe, barring someone with a severely compromised immune system.