Community Herbalist, Aromatherapist, Spiritual Entrepreneur, Mother& Grandma. ~Celebrating Family, Earth and Spirit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Natural Cleaning-part 1

To begin the cleaning journey, I want to start with the herb/utility room. Things in here are not necessarily seasonal and organization will help right now.

I also want to start by discussing all purpose cleaners because this is what most of us would need to tackle this job.

So lets see what is in some of the all purpose cleaners on the market.

According to
All-purpose cleaners contain the sudsing agents diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA), which can react with nitrites (an often undisclosed preservative or contaminant) to form nitrosamines - carcinogens that readily penetrate the skin. Skin also easily absorbs nerve-damaging butyl cellosolve (also known as ethylene glycol monobutyl ether), present in some cleaners. Fumes from ammonia-containing cleaners may cause respiratory irritation. Sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite (bleach) are highly caustic, and sodium hypochlorite should never be mixed with any product containing ammonia or acids, or toxic gases will result. To prevent chemical accidents, it's best to simply avoid.
Other ingredients in common cleaners are

Morpholine-known to irritate eyes and skin.
Some of the side effects of morpholine are rhinitus,irritation of the lower airways and corneal oedema.
A study of morpholine done on rats, showed some tumour growth in the liver and lungs.
Other mice did ok, apparantly.
Skin applications in rats, oral and skin applications in guinea pigsand inhalation in rats showed necrosis of the kidney tubules and liver.
Oral administration induced stomach and small intestine hemorrhages in guinea pigs and rats, liver degeneration in rats, and renal insufficiency in mice.

Sodium Bromide is another chemical in some cleaners. Here is what wiki says
NaBr is harmful if swallowed or inhaled in large amounts, affecting the central nervous system, brain, and eyes (see potassium bromide). The chemical compound causes irritation to the skin, eyes and respiratory system.
It is also anticonvulsant and sedative.

Naphtha- wiki says, It also enters the word napalm from "naphthenic acid and palmitic acid", as the first napalm was made from a mixture of naphthenic acid with aluminium and magnesium salts of palmitic acid.

The word Naphtha itself means pitch or petroleum in Latin and Greek.
It also is in the word Phthalate, which is under scrutiny for being health risk. Phthalate esters are added to plastic to make them more pliable and soft.

Other cleanser chemicals according to the book Clean and Green by Annie Berthold Bond


Dry bleach- Sodium carbonate peroxyhydate-can irritate the eyes, skin, respiratory tract. May be harmful if taken internally.

Kerosene-another petrochemical which can be fatal if ingested.

Butyl Cellosolve is a neurotoxin also called butyl glycol, Dowanol, Bane-Clene and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (EGBE). Studies have shown this chemical can cause testicular damage, fertility reduction, birth defects and embryo death. Also has been found to cause liver and kidney damage.

Petroleum based surfactants- these replaced typical veggie based cleaners in the 1950's. They tend to clean better making them a trend in cleaning products. However, the run off from these products has poisoned waterways and fish. Some do not biodegrade. Some of these surfactants create havoc with the endocrine system, leading to reproductive illness. Some are said to contribute to smog by emitting large doses of volatile organic compounds. Some are unknown yet what hazards they may cause.

Glycol ether is a solvent that has been reported to lower sperm count in men that have been in high exposure.

Stoddard solvent which is a combination of petroleum distillates (mineral spirits)which irritates the skin and eyes. Headaches can occur through exposure and dizziness as it has been noted to effect the central nervous system (the head and your spine). It may effect the throat as well. High concentrations of Stoddard Solvent can effect the peripheral nervous system (outside the spine),central nervous system and can irritate the upper respiratory tract. It is suspected to effect the blood, liver and kidneys as well.

EDTA is short for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. This has been found to effect cells, and cause mutations in lab animals. Taken orally, it was found to have reproductive and developemental effects.
EDTA is labeled a persistant organic pollutant due to the widespread use of this chemical. It accumulates in the environment and in the body tissues.
Persistant Organic Pollutants are known to cause illness by disrupting the endocrine, reproductive and immune systems. People who have high levels of persistant organic pollutants shown to be more insulin resistant which is one reason why clean organic fats are so important in the diet, since these types of pollutants are stored in animal fats.

Complex phosphates

Chlorinated phosphates both of which I had a hard time finding out the toxicity of its use. So I can only share phosphates, with deposits can contain heavy metals and can pollute plant and water life which can make it into our food.

There is a loophole in some of the US manufacturing processes that allows companies to keep their secret recipe ingredients hidden and just label it fragrance, surfactant and innocent looking things. In this secret formula, there could be chemicals that cause reactions in some individuals.
If you are in doubt of the safety of your favorite cleaner, a call to their customer service number might give you an idea if you should continue using it.

You can always check your local health food store to see what they have on their shelves.Most of those should be fairly safe, but as I have noticed over the years, the health food industry is loaded with marketing as well. Read the labels and call the companies if you have questions.

Best of all, you can make many of your everyday cleaners yourself.

Most often I use vinegar and water in a spray bottle in equal parts (usually half and half) and add some essential oil to it. Since this can be used for glass and mirrors as well, I often will only use 10 drops of Lemon essential oil to a quart bottle. This usually will not streak your mirror.

Or for a cleaner specifically for surfaces, use a 1 qt spray bottle and add 2 Tbsp borax and fill with water. Leave a bit of room for 1 tsp of castile. Shake and then add 15-20 drops of essential oils.
These are very simple ways to clean and deodorize. Use your imagination when combining essential oils. It is really fun! Rosemary and Lemon are great antiviral oils and smell clean without overpowering.
Some people like lavender for the calming effect, while sometimes I need some pep and reach for peppermint.
I would be careful with sweet orange essential oil, as it can warp plastic and take finish off of floors and wood when applied straight. I have never used in a spray bottle since it does effect plastic and eat it away.

So when you make your chosen cleaner, grab a lint free cloth, then you can move to the fun part of cleaning.

I am starting in the herb room because I absolutely need this room in order and clean. If you do not have an herb room, you could start with your utility closet or coat closet.

The first thing I do is take everything off the shelves. Since my herb room is a large walk-in closet, I do one side at a time so I do not feel so overwhelmed.
I then clean my shelves, the walls in between the shelves and start putting the herbs away.
Once side of my room is herbs, tinctures, vinegars, liniments, oils and flower essences.
These are almost all in glass jars so they are dusted.
I arrange my herbs in alphabetical order with tinctures and herbs together. On my labels I also include some common usage, date made, botanical name and what I extracted the plant in. That way, my family can see the preparations and understand what it is used for.
This is a good time to assess what you need. You can also take a smell at your oils to be sure they smell fresh.
Then I have a shelf that is mostly vinegars, honeys, oils and flower essences. There are not as many of these, so they are just organized together. For example, vinegars are together, oils together, and so on.

On the other side of my room is my essential oils. I take everything off the shelves and do it all over again, putting everything into alphabetical order.
There are miscellaneous objects in there such as mortar and pestles, buckets of oils,incense, candles and things. They all are arranged for easy reaching, and add character to the room.
I also have a roll out drawer organizer for bottles, jars, sprays, roll ons, lip balm tubes and other things I need for our needs. This keeps them clean and organized. So that comes out and the wall and floor is cleaned with my all purpose cleaner. Then when dry, rolled back.

On the far end of the wall are my books that are quickly growing larger than the space there is available. I do the best I can organizing by topic. Plant ID books, Aromatherapy, Women's Health, Cookbooks, and then miscellany and fictions.
This helps me when I need to reference something quickly.
Then the floor space. This cleaner does a great job cleaning this vinyl floor. Once in awhile a stubborn stain or streak from shoes is left behind, so I use just a dab of orange essential oil and it almost always come clean.

Working my way out, I then clean the door from top to bottom, the knob, track and hinges.
And whalla, put everything away that goes onto the floor(like my 50 pound buckets and recycling containers) and you have just completed your first room.
Have any tips you would like to share please feel free in the comment section.


  1. Excellent post (as usual!) K! I always learn so much from you, and I count myself fortunate to be among your faithful readers. Thank you for informing and educating us!

  2. Thank you for reading and I do hope it helps us all. I seriously have been using natural stuff for so long, just because I felt I could make stuff. Which of course I do! lol
    But I have no idea what it is products out there so thank you for educating ME!