What do you consider a “clean” smell?

I love the smell of a clean house. Imagine your clean house after a few hours of Spring cleaning. Do you smell the strong nose clearing sting of bleach or a light “fragrance” from an air freshener? Most people associate clean with artificial chemicals. But those chemicals could be harming you and the environment.

A recent study published in the Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health scientific journal found that common consumer products such as air fresheners and cleaning supplies emit a range of compounds that could harm human health and air quality. The problem is most of these ingredients are not disclosed to the public and are hidden under terms such as “perfume” and “fragrance”. The study found 156 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from 37 products tested, with an average of 15 VOCs per product. The study looked at store bought products marketed as green, all natural, organic and non-toxic and found that emissions of carcinogenic (cancer causing) hazardous air pollutants from ‘green’ fragranced products were not significantly different from regular fragranced products.

The products on store shelves are not required to list all ingredients or any ingredients in a chemical mixture called “fragrance”. These chemicals can be harmful to our human health but they are also harmful to the environment. Residual product is evaporated into the air, exposing ourselves to air pollution in our indoor environments. Chemicals are also washed down the drain into water supplies which has been shown to affect wildlife downstream. For example from the EPA, “Alkylphenol ethoxylates, a common surfactant ingredient in cleaners, have been shown in laboratory studies to function as an “endocrine disrupter,” causing adverse reproductive effects of the types seen in wildlife exposed to polluted waters.”

Your house can still remain clean without the harmful chemicals to your family and the environment. With a simple recipe, you can make your own cleaning supplies to keep your home shining. The other positive to making your own cleaning supplies is it’s much cheaper. For a few bucks to get started, you will have enough supplies to last you a few months.

Here is a simple recipe for an all purpose cleaning product to use in your kitchen, bathroom and everywhere. I rarely mix the same batch twice and have experimented with more and less amounts of ingredients listed. Save an old bottle or use a bowl to mix the following:

  • One spoonful of Baking Soda. Useful for cleaning dirt and grime.
  • One spoonful of Borax. Borax is a natural mineral that can be bought in the detergent aisle of most stores.
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar. Vinegar is an acid with antimicrobial properties. Lemon juice can be used as well.
  • 5 drops of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil has been found to be active against many bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
  • 3-5 drops of peppermint oil. Essential oils can be found at most health food stores. Be careful to buy a reputable brand to ensure the oil inside the bottle is what it’s supposed to be.

Fill up the rest of your bottle with warm water and shake.


These are the staples for a clean house. Many recipes will also include hydrogen peroxide or an all natural soap such as Dr. Bronners brand, but it’s not necessary. Figure out what works best for you but keep the staples in. You can always keep some of the harsh cleaners such as bleach around in case you have a major worry. Bleach is the best disinfectant but also comes with severe risks. For everyday cleaning the all natural ingredients can get the job done, use bleach as a last resort.

To use less resources while cleaning, drop the paper towels. Instead of using paper towels use old rags or t-shirts to do your cleaning. Rags can be used over and over and if they have some of the essential oils from cleaning on them, they act as a natural dryer sheet to reduce static electricity in your clothes.

Refresh your Spring cleaning with some healthier supplies. Your body and the environment will benefit. It just takes a little retraining to your nose to associate a new smell with clean.

As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.

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