An increasing number of people are looking to decrease the amount of toxins in their immediate environment, and for good reason too – stress can take one of four forms: physical, mental/emotional, electromagnetic and you guessed it, chemical. However, in our search for convenience, we’ve loaded ourselves up with chemicals. Many of them hiding in our kitchens, laundrys and bathrooms. If we really want to live low chemical, what do we need to pitch and what can we replace it with?
New to the holistic health blogosphere are chiropractic couple, Kim and Anton. They advise that there are seven things that we all need to bin if we want to rid our immediate environment of toxins. While some of these hide in the make-up cabinet (check out our blog piece on that), some others include laundry powders, shampoos and hand soaps. That’s before we get started on cleaning chemicals and detergents.
But living low chemical doesn’t skimping on the cleaning routines. There are alternatives. Here are some of the suggestions:
What to be watchful of: Laundry Powder
The humble laundry detergent is home to fragrances, irritants and a plethora of chemicals. This ends up worn next to your skin all day and night. It mightn’t be obviously problematic for all of us, but those with sensitive skin would beg to differ.
What to be watchful of: Hand soap and body wash
These lovely smelling staples tend to be used with warm water (i.e. the shower). This opens up your pores so the chemicals in the hand soaps and body washes sink right in. The downside is that many of them contain surfectants, detergents, preservatives, fragrances and emulsifiers, many of which are toxic. Dr Mercola advises that there are groups of questionable ingredients within these products, and they include :
- Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulphates. “Research studies have linked SLS to skin and eye irritation, organ toxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity and endocrine disruption .” No thanks!
- Dioxane, which has been rated by ‘Environmental Working Groups’ Skin Deep as a high hazard and a ‘probable’ carcinogen.
- Parabens, which are endocrine disruptors linked with a number of concerning conditions
- Triclosan, which is thought to contribute to antibiotic resistance.
What to be watchful of: Shampoo
Shampoo has some of the same chemicals groups you’ll find in hand soaps, along with phthalates, which act as a gelling agent, but have a number of concerning health flags.
What to be watchful of: Household Cleaning Products.
If we were to start listing the potential toxins in household cleaning products, we’d be writing this blog until next Christmas. The list is just so long! We might be pulled in by the promises of antibacterial qualities, antiseptics and so on, but the reality is that there are some very practical, low toxin alternatives that are readily available if you know what to do with them.
Okay, now that we’ve highlighted most of the contents of your cleaning cupboard as potential hazards, what do you do now?
Buy up on baking soda: It’s a naturally occuring mineral (sodium bicarbonate) that also doubles as an excellent cleaner. Many people use it as a toothpaste, as it is slightly abrasive. It also cuts through grease, is a whitening agent, and stain remover. (Throw a little castile soap or borax in with it, along with some essential oils and you’ll have yourself a laundry powder alternative too. More details on that here. But go easy on the Borax, which is made of a boron mineral and salt. There is some evidence to suggest it can irritate or disrupt some hormones.)
Reach for the vinegar: This pantry staple is great for dealing with grime, grease and soap scum due to its acidity. Throw a cup of white vinegar in hot water and you’ve got a great floor cleaner.
Love your lemon juice: The humble lemon is known to deal with mold and mildew, and shines hard surfaces.
Castile Soap: This particular beauty is made from plant oils, and an organic version can be sourced . It can be used in combination with other pantry staples to create laundry powder, hand soap or other cleaners . A word of warning though: it shouldn’t be combined with lemon juice or vinegar. It is basic, and they are acidic so they cancel each-other out. It can even be used to make toxin free, DIY shampoo .
Essential Oils: Pick your favourite and combine it with castile soap and water for a hand soap, or to add a bit of pizazz to your DIY laundry detergent.
Cornstarch: This can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, or shampoo carpets and rugs .
These are just a few pantry staples that can be whipped up into bona fide alternatives for people who want to decrease the toxins in their home. If you’re after specifics on how to combine them into specific soaps, shampoos or detergents, check out the reference list for some handy articles that include how-to guides.
The downside to DIY is that some ingredients may irritate sensitive skin. Use your discretion when whipping up any of these chemical alternatives. If a certain ingredient irritates you, substitute it for something gentler.
Happy low-chemical living.
 Kim and Anton (2016), “7 Things to Toss in the Trash,” Kim and Anton online