If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, don’t trust it. This mentality has spread among foodies in recent years, but these same principles can be applied to the cleaning products you use in your home.
“The ingredients in cleaners are highly suspicious,” says Argyle Baukol. “These synthetic materials aren’t biodegradable, and they’re almost all petroleum-based. But the biggest red flag is that most cleaning ingredients aren’t even listed on the label.”
For the last seven years, Baukol has co-hosted Earth Matters Now, an environmental radio show on KYRS Thin Air Community Radio. She has also worked as a living-green specialist for the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program.
She says organizations like the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) and the Washington Toxics Coalition (watoxics.org) “have so much information that it’s scary.” She says that, time and again, these organizations and their studies show that cleaning products have detrimental effects on one’s health and the environment.
To avoid jeopardizing yourself and your family, she recommends making your own cleaning products. While working with SNAP, she teaches students, parent groups, garden clubs and co-ops how to make their own green cleaners.
“When I first started teaching these classes seven years ago, it was brand-new territory,” she says. “But today, green products are becoming more and more popular. Families are not only becoming interested in but passionate about the products they use in the home.”
The transition from store-brought cleaning products to green ingredients is simple and cost effective. Virtually everything you need — to clean the oven, wash your windows and do the laundry — can be made from a few key ingredients that are just as powerful as their pine-smelling counterparts.
If you’re concerned about smell, Baukol suggests using essential oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender and rosemary that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also contain disinfecting properties. (To counterbalance the scent of vinegar, use lemon extract.)
“The best way to get started with green cleaning is to just go shopping,” Baukol says. “The benefits are overwhelming, it’s really very easy, and keep in mind that it’s not an exact science.”