Just in case you’re not a real believer in the toxicity of all those spray bottles on your grocery store’s cleaning aisle, here’s a breakdown of the top four ingredients you’ll find in your standard name-brand all-purpose cleaner:
• Alkyl C12-16 dimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride
You can’t even pronounce that! Well, it’s what provides the anti-bacterial aspect of most household cleaners. Aside from killing bacteria, it also offers moderate acute oral toxicity, low acute dermal toxicity, high acute inhalation toxicity and increased liver weights.
• Dimethicone/silica/PEG Distearate Antifoam
An additive to prevent the spray from foaming, it causes eye irritation and if ingested, will result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
This is used for removing soils that are fatty, oily or acidic. It can be absorbed into the body via skin, inhalation or ingestion and is toxic to the eyes, skin, lungs and central nervous system.
• Ethylenediaminetetra acetic acid
This chemical is added so you don’t have to rinse any residue away. It causes eye irritation on contact, coughing if inhaled, and abdominal pain as well as diarrhea if ingested.
Try These Natural Alternatives
In other words, your basic all-purpose cleaner is poisonous to drink, causes minor skin burns, burns lung tissue and damages the liver and central nervous system. Most pets are usually closer to the floor and closer to the toxins so their reaction may be worse. It’s actually easy to avoid. Just don’t drink it, get it on your skin or inhale it! Better yet, don’t use it!
Among the many natural cleaning options are vinegar, peroxide, lemon, baking soda and essential oils. These ingredients can be combined in most cases to increase their cleaning power or to create a specialized cleaner, like adding lemon oil to a weak vinegar solution to create a wood furniture cleaner.
If you purchase only one natural alternative, make sure it’s vinegar. Vinegar is a natural and safe alternative to bleach, anti-bacterial cleaners, fabric softener and more.
To clean spots on carpets fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water then spray on the spot and blot, repeating until the stain is gone. If it’s a really big, nasty stain, add a teaspoon of dish soap to a cup of the vinegar/water mixture, rub it into the stain then rub it out using a clean, wet sponge, rinsing each time. Not only will the stain be gone, the smell will disappear and the area will be disinfected.
When you need to wipe kitty paw prints off the glass top table or doggy nose prints off the front window, use the 50/50 spray, wiping it off with newspaper or paper towels. That same spray is perfect for cleaning and disinfecting counter tops and is safe for use on hardwood floors.
After using the dog towels to clean up Spot’s little accident, toss them into the washer with a cup of vinegar in the bleach dispenser and a half cup in the fabric softener dispenser. The towels will come out clean, soft and deodorized.
When it’s time to disinfect the litter box, make the last step a complete spraying with full strength white vinegar. Drain off the excess then leave to air dry before filling with litter again.
Vinegar isn’t just for cleaning the house. It is a strong deodorizer and will remove skunk smell from pets much better than the tomato juice method. Wash then rinse several times with vinegar, allowing to air dry between each rinse. Skunk smell is gone! If there’s a funky smell in a room just fold a hand towel, place it in a bowl or plastic container and pour vinegar over it to cover. The vinegar will actually cause the odors to be absorbed into the towel which can then be put in the washer and washed away. This method works great in a car as well.
Pros and Cons of Using Peroxide
Another great natural cleaning ingredient is peroxide. It has the same disinfecting properties as vinegar, but care must always be taken when using on any type of textile, as it will remove color just like bleach. Peroxide, however, does not provide the deodorizing power of vinegar. For cleaning hard surfaces, a 50/50 mix with water will do the job. Peroxide is not recommended for use on hardwood floors, but is an excellent cleaner and sanitizer for other hard surfaces.
When you need some abrasive power, your go-to is baking soda. A simple paste of three parts baking soda and one-part water will give you great scrubbing power and will remove stains on counter tops as well as that spot in the bathtub that the cat created (but follow that up with vinegar to sanitize the tub!).
Essential oils are great for cleaning, providing anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and deodorizing all in a few little drops. They also have the added benefit of aromatherapy so your house is clean, smells great, and you feel great! The best part, though, is the fact that oils, used in the right amounts are safe for pets, even down on the ground where they spend most of their time.
Lavender is definitely the first oil natural cleaning experts grab. Its antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties make it particularly good for cleaning. Its calming effects are perfect for cleaning up after a stressful day. Clean up and you’re ready for a relaxing night’s sleep!
Need a powerful cleaner? Then tea tree oil is what you want. It is filled with antimicrobial, antifungal, antiseptic, antibacterial and insecticidal properties, so it’s a must on the list for cleaning the bathroom or kitchen. Some people find the tea tree aroma a bit strong, so it is often mixed with other oils to create a more relaxing scent.
Rosemary is both antibacterial and antiseptic, making it a perfect additive to an all-purpose cleaner for the whole house. Especially all those things that get touched a lot by multiple people who have touched multiple things outside the house, like the door knobs, cabinet pulls, light switches and remotes.
Orange oil will cut straight through greasy cleanups and is antiviral, having shown to inhibit E. coli and salmonella. It is perfect for cleaning wood cutting boards where meats are prepared, as well as pet dishes. Orange oil has an aroma that is uplifting and anti-depressive. This makes orange oil the perfect oil to clean with in the morning to get your day started on a high note.
So now you have this big list of natural cleaning ingredients, but what do you do with it? Well, fear not! Below is one of the best ever recipes for natural all-purpose cleaner:
Natural All-Purpose Cleaner
1 ½ cup hot water
1 tablespoon natural castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
10 drops lavender oil
10 drops rosemary oil
10 drops orange oil
20 drops tea tree oil
1 ½ cup vinegar
Mix the hot water, soap and oils in a glass container then pour into a quart-sized spray bottle. Add the vinegar, and then top off with more water. Shake well before each use to make sure oils are fully distributed. This cleanser can be used on everything but glass. It is safe for wood floors and furniture. The aroma is clean and relaxing and lasts.
This is just one of thousands of safe, natural cleaning recipes lurking about the Internet. Pinterest is full of them. So go spend a few dollars on some basic supplies, add a good spray bottle, and you’re ready to tackle all those pet messes without poisoning yourself or your pet.
By Sarah Zumhofe