How to cut down on chemicals for a cleaner and healthier home
Sales of natural and organic products are booming in Australia, with many households seeing them as better or safer than their chemical-based counterparts.
And it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that more of us are looking to reduce our use of chemicals in the home, especially when more than 70 per cent of households in one Nielsen survey raised environmental issues as a major concern.
In the past, the cost of many chemical-free alternatives has been an obstacle – yet this seems to be changing too. Nielsen’s Changing Consumer Prosperity study found the majority of Australians are willing to pay more for products that are environmentally friendly or sustainable (62%), contain organic or all-natural ingredients (59%), or carry social responsibility claims (55%).
According to Nicole Bijlsma, a healthy home expert and building biologist, even making a few small changes to what we buy and how we live in our homes can have a big effect on the amount of chemicals we’re exposed to in our homes.
There are some simple ways to make your home cleaner and healthier, without relying too heavily on chemicals.
1. Use eco-friendly cleaning solutions
For household cleaning, use a microfibre cloth and water, and a good vacuum cleaner. If you want to use a detergent, choose one without perfumes, Bijlsma says.
Common, readily available household products and items are often the best non-toxic cleaning products to use in the home. These will help to save money too. These include:
- Vinegar – a reliable antibacterial disinfectant that also cuts grease
- Bicarbonate of soda – a cleaning staple and mild abrasive that absorbs odours and dissolves grease
- Washing soda – a cleaning agent that removes laundry stains and cuts grease
- Lemon juice – a multi-purpose disinfectant
2. Give your skincare a natural “makeover”
Our skin is the largest organ in our body, which is also highly efficient at absorbing chemicals it comes in contact with. So what we put on our skin counts.
Many cosmetics contain more chemicals than you might realise.
The good news is, much like eco-friendly cleaning products, some of the best skincare alternatives may already be sitting in your pantry or laundry cupboard. Some natural skincare alternatives include:
- Coconut oil – a skin moisturiser with antibacterial properties
- Bicarbonate of soda – great for toothpaste, mouthwash and even deodorant
- Demerara sugar – dissolves in water, works well as a natural exfoliant
- Liquid castile soap – great for homemade face or body washes or even shampoo.
Outside of cleaning and skincare, you can also detox other parts of your home or household routines too.
3. Buy organic food
To further reduce the number of chemicals you bring into your home, aim to buy organic fruit, vegetables and other fresh produce from local growers.
Co-ops that sell organic produce are becoming more common, even in regional areas. Most supermarkets also have an organic fresh food section.
“Be mindful of ingredients such as colours, preservatives and flavours. Know where your food comes from, and try to make more of your meals from scratch,” Bijlsma says.
4. Cut the plastic in your kitchen
Try to avoid using plastic, PVC and polystyrene containers to store food, as many possess hormone disrupting chemicals, Bijlsma says.
If you heat or freeze food in plastic containers, the chemicals in plastic can be absorbed by the food.
Use glass or metal containers to store your leftovers and keep the plastic containers for dry foods such as rice and oats.
5. Leave your shoes at the door
Walking through your house with shoes on can bring chemicals in from the outside, such as pesticides from lawns.
If you have babies or young children who spend a lot of time on the floor, they can breathe in that dust or absorb it when they put their hands in their mouths.
Try getting into the habit of leaving your shoes at the door and wearing indoor shoes or slippers.
6. Use a good vacuum cleaner
Choose a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which will remove dust and any pollen, mould and chemicals in the dust.
If you can, choose hard floorings rather than carpets which retain dust. That’s especially important if anyone in the house has allergies.
Consider using an air filter in your house, too.
7. Keep your home insect free
Rather than using insect spray to kill one fly, stop insects getting into your house in the first place.
Keep all food sealed and covered, and don’t leave pet food out once your dog or cat has stopped eating.
“Have good flyscreens on windows, clean up after every meal so there's no food or smells to attract them in the first place, and don’t have compost bins too close to the house.”
Small changes make a big impact
Small intentional changes can have a big impact on our exposure to chemicals in the home.
The good news is, most of these changes are simple to make, good for the environment and kind on our household budget too. It’s easy and affordable to get started too.