Household Cleaning Products: Your Health and the Environment

Vikki Scovell

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In the last 30 year the range and choice of cleaning products has soared and the amount of chemicals in use has risen from hundreds to tens of thousands; and yet we still have no clear picture of the long term health effects of some of these chemicals. Allergies appear to have risen alongside the use of these chemicals; many are powerful irritants despite their use in household and cosmetic products. It is also worth mentioning that some common household chemicals have been found in breast milk, and may cross the placenta. Household hygiene is big business and billions of pounds are spent every year persuading you that you need to protect the health and safety of your family through the use of their products, whilst revitalizing and relaxing yourself with their fragrances.

Many (or most) of these products are unnecessary, and contribute hugely to environmental pollution, with millions of disposable ‘easy wipe’ products filling our landfill sites every day. Since when did we become incapable of using a cloth to clean things? If you are addicted to the spray bleach, then read on; here are several simple ways to remove chemicals from your household; they will save you some money and get those arms toned up:

1. You can keep most things in your home perfectly clean using micro fiber cloths (, which can be reused and washed hundreds of times, and due to their texture, remove dirt and grime without the need for ANY chemicals. Old toothbrushes will reach those difficult places which only the spray bleach seems to get.

2. Buy white distilled vinegar which is a natural disinfectant, and will remove stains and mineral deposits (lemon juice is also fabulous);

  • 2-3tbsp in 3L warm water to wash windows, dry with crumpled up newspaper to shine.

  • 1 tbsp in a scummy flower vase, fill with warm water, soak for ten or fifteen minutes and rub with a soft cloth before rinsing.

  • For dirty floors and laminate mop with 8 tbsp vinegar per 3 liters of hot water.

  • For carpet stains, oven cleaning and pet smells use equal amounts of water and vinegar.

    3. Your next best friend is Bicarbonate of Soda which you should be able to buy in big boxes from your chemist. This harmless but powerful product can be mixed with water to dissolve grease and loosen dirt, or used as a paste to scrub more stubborn areas.

  • Apply a paste of bicarb and water with a damp cloth to stainless steel, leave for five minutes before wiping clean.

  • Make a solution to clean the fridge; bicarb also eliminates smells, so leave a little in a pot in the fridge with some lemon juice.

  • For everything in the bathroom, make a paste of 2 parts bicarb to one part vinegar of lemon juice, apply with a damp cloth and leave for 10 minutes before wiping clean. For mildew leave for a couple of hours.

  • For the toilet, use 8 tbsp in the pan over night, and clean the seat and porcelain with a sprinkle of bicarb on a soft cloth.

  • For drains, use soda to hot vinegar 1:4 parts and leave overnight. Your drains will also benefit from the solution you use whilst cleaning.

    4. Wooden furniture and floors can be cleaned with natural beeswax which you may be able to source from your local honey supplier or farmers market. Alternatively, use one part olive oil (not your finest) to one part lemon juice; rub in and then shine with a soft dry cloth.

    5. Artificial fragrances (including those used in candles) are strongly linked to allergies, skin problems and also possibly cancers. It is easy to swap to using essential oils. Buy an oil burner, and buy quality pure essential oils to fragrance your home; 8 tbsp of bicarb in a bowl with some essential oil added will absorb unpleasant smells. (For essential oils and cosmetics, go to or as well as your local chemist or health food store).

    6. For washing powder, fabric conditioner and washing up liquid, try Ecover which is available in most decent supermarkets, or alternatively visit your local organic supermarket for a broader range; ours allows you to refill your bottles for extra green Brownie points. It may also be worth changing your usual washing products if you have anyone in the house with asthma, eczema, or other skin sensitivities or problems. If you use a tumble dryer, Dryer Balls from Eco Zone (about £9) will shorten drying time by 25% (saving the leccy) and soften clothes without recourse to chemicals. If you want some fragrance, place a cloth with a little essential oil into the drum.

    If you live in the Bristol area why not try out The Better Food Companies Eco Store, selling a large range of products designed to make your home, and the environment a safer and happier place to be ( Or for more ideas on cutting the chemicals in your home, visit The best thing about this way of living is that children can join in with the cleaning safely, there is nothing dangerous stored in cupboards, you will help anyone in the family with allergies and skin problems, as well as keeping pets safe, and you will be doing a big favour to the planet.

    Vikki Scovell BA(hons) PG DIP is a fully qualified Personal Trainer and Fitness Coach. She is a qualified Nutrition Adviser, GP Referred Trainer and runs successful Community and Corporate Exercise classes and events. Vikki is a consultant in Healthy Eating and Exercise initiatives to schools in the independent sector and publishes School and General Healthy Living newsletters. Vikki believes passionately that everyone can make small changes to their lifestyle to ensure that they live happier, longer and healthier lives. She lives in Bristol in the U. K. with her partner Jeremy and two young children Apple and Honey. For enquiries for nutritional advice, personal training, corporate wellness and general enquiries visit

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