Homemade vs. Store Bought
Purchasing a cleaning product from the store seems like a great idea. It’s already mixed and ready to use. There are simple to follow directions. Surely these products are tested and regulated for safety right? Actually, they aren’t.
Homemade cleaners could be safer, but how do you know who’s recipe to follow? What if they don’t work?
We wanted to share with you why it’s important to spend time researching cleaning products before you use them, and give you some examples of cleaning products that have high safety ratings. We also share some homemade products for you to DIY at the end of the article. Come learn more about how to clean your home safely!
Who Regulates Household and Commercial Cleaning Products?
Household and commercial cleaning products are not food, drugs, or firearms, so the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) does not regulate them.1 The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) only requires manufacturers of cleaning products to list ingredients that are active disinfectants or could cause potential harm.1 Manufacturers of commercial cleaning products for homes and businesses are not required to list all of their ingredients for consumers by any agency of the United States.1 They can claim that ingredients are a trade secret, and not disclose them on the product labels.1 The truth is that they can legally use just about anything in a cleaning product leaving you the consumer in the dark about its true safety and effectiveness.1
How do I find out what is in cleaning products?
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.”3 EWG has created a database and guide for healthy cleaning in an easily searchable format called EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.2 The EWG Guide can help you to find safer cleaning products and check products that you already use for safety.2 You may find that the products you already use are not safe or that they can cause respiratory distress. The EWG Guide “contains information and hazard assessments for 2,109 products, 197 brands and more than 1,000 ingredients.”3 Product ingredients are rated with a high, moderate, or low risk based on different categories. Products are given a final rating of ‘A’ to ‘F’ based on the safety of chemicals present in the product, and whether or not the ingredients are listed completely on the label.3 Ratings of ‘A’ being the safest and ‘F’ being the most dangerous, or that have the least information available. To learn more about how the EWG guide was created go to About EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.3
It smells good. It’s clean, right?
Wrong! Smelling good does NOT indicate that something is clean! In fact ‘fragrance’ can be anything in a product that gives it a smell from essential oils from plants to industrial petrochemicals.2 Cleaning and personal care product manufacturers are required to list their ingredients on the label of the products.4 However, because of a loophole in government regulations (specifically the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973), they are not required to list any fragrance ingredients.4 This means that they can use any chemical they choose to add smell to a product, including dangerous, allergenic, and even toxic chemicals.4 To learn more about hidden fragrance chemicals in personal care products go to: EWG Not so Sexy – Hidden Chemicals in Perfume and Cologne.4
Our government does not regulate personal care products or cleaning products in a way that allows consumers to have all the facts about a product before they use it.4 Because of this, we urge you to learn all you can before using any product in your home. Cleaning products affect air quality, especially if ventilation is not used during cleaning. Remember to always use good ventilation when using any cleaning product.
Recommended Cleaning Products
We wanted to share with you our thoroughly researched homemade and store bought cleaning products. These product suggestions are just that, suggestions. Different people react differently to different products. Products some people can use may cause allergic reactions or sensitivity in others. You know yourself and your home best. Please do your own research on any product you use in your home or on your skin by going to www.ewg.org, and learn all the facts for yourself.
Store Bought Cleaning Products
Hopefully we have convinced you that purchased cleaners may not be safe to use for a number of reasons, all of which relate to your health, your children’s health, and your pet’s health. There are products that have been tested by EWG and received the highest rating test rating of ‘A’. On the EWG guide there are detailed lists of ingredients and ratings for each ingredient. We encourage you to do your own research before using any product in your home or office.
Especially if you have someone in your home or office with allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivity, be sure to read all ingredient lists to check for potential sensitivity to the ingredients. Whenever you use a cleaning product, be sure to ventilate the room (bathroom fan, ceiling fan, door open, window open, etc). Also, only use the new product in a small area of the room to test for potential sensitivity to the product and to check for allergic or asthmatic reactions of the most sensitive person in your home or office. Wait at least 15-20 minutes. If that small amount of product doesn’t cause problems, proceed cleaning the rest of the space with proper ventilation.
Recommended Cleaning Products – ‘A’ rating on EWG
Each of these products received the highest rating of ‘A’ on EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Each link will take you to EWG’s report on the individual cleaner.
General Purpose / Bathroom
- Seventh Generation Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner, Lemongrass Citrus Scent
- LYSOL Hydrogen Peroxide Multi-Purpose Cleaner, Citrus Sparkle Zest
- Earth Friendly Products ECOS Wave Dishwasher Gel, Lavender, Fragrance free is also available
- Seventh Generation Dishwasher Detergent Packs, Free & Clear – Lemon is also available
- Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus Dishwasher Detergent Packs, Fresh Citrus Scent
- Seventh Generation Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent Packs, Fresh Citrus Scent
- Attitude Sensitive Skin Natural Laundry Detergent
Homemade Cleaning Products
How can you tell which homemade recipes out there actually work? For that, you need a little high school chemistry refresher. We can hear you all groaning. It won’t be that bad we promise!
Cleaning products generally fall into one of two categories – acids and bases.
Acids, like white vinegar, and bases, like baking soda, should usually not be combined. Why? When acids and bases are combined they chemically react. This reaction creates heat and changes the chemistry of both acid and base to a neutral solution. In the case of baking soda and vinegar, it also creates carbon dioxide gas. Much stronger acids and bases can create much more heat and more toxic gases!
So when reading a homemade recipe, ask yourself these questions:
- Who created this recipe? Is it from a book? A blog? A friend? Is the author an authority on cleaning products or just someone who managed to get a book published?
- Does the recipe contain both acids and bases? Are they used separately or combined? If combined, it probably isn’t the best recipe. It may work, but you would be better off using the ingredients separately.
- Test the recipe on a small area. Did it clean the area well? Was there any heat or bubbling from the mixture? Did the mixture bubble or get hot when you mixed it? If so, you may want to try a different recipe.
Common Acids and Bases Used for Cleaning
Bleach (strong base)
Hydrogen Peroxide (weak acid)
White vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and ordinary dish soap (not antimicrobial) are excellent cleaners. Remember NOT to mix hydrogen peroxide with any other chemical when cleaning, and to wear latex or nitrile gloves.
Why not antimicrobial? Aren’t antimicrobial cleaners better?
Good old fashioned soap and water are the best for removing microbes from your skin and dishes.9 Antimicrobial ingredients such as triclosan and triclocarban, persist in the human body for many years, are linked to hormone disruption, and persist in the environment.8 It has not been proven that antimicrobial products are any better than soap and water at removing microbes.9 Overuse of antimicrobial products has also been linked to multiple-drug resistant bacterial diseases.8, 11
Remember that disinfectants are needed only when an area or surface is in a high risk area – an area or place that is frequently soiled by contact with hands, bodily fluids, or food that could be contaminated (eggs, raw meat, etc). Disinfectants are more dangerous to use because they contain much stronger chemicals than sanitizers.
Remember to check out the EWG guide for yourself to learn specific chemicals that are in disinfectants and learn more about the ingredients used. To learn more about disinfectants, go to our posts titled: Disinfecting, Sterilizing, and Sanitizing is there a Difference? and How to Disinfect Properly.
For more information on safer disinfectants to use check out EWG’s post 16 Effective and Safe Products To Guard Against Coronavirus. For information from the Environmental Protection Agency about disinfectants that are useful against coronavirus go to List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 | US EPA.
Special Section On Mold
Mold can cause indoor air quality problems whether you have allergies and asthma or not. It’s easy to take care of mold as a homeowner, but it’s also a good idea to know when to call in the pros. If the area of mold covers more than around 10 square feet, there is a good chance the mold problem is more than an isolated issue. Mold is great at hiding in hard to detect locations. A mold inspection by Branch Environmental can help you get to the bottom of the problem. To learn more about cleaning small areas of mold check out our post titled: A Simple Guide to Cleaning Mold.
2 Easy Recipes to DIY
The following recipes come from Karyn Siegel-Maier’s book ‘The Naturally Clean Home.’ It is a great book filled with easy recipes for cleaning with essential oils. Some of the recipes in the book are better than others. This is due to the combination of acids and bases in some of the recipes. Another newer book to check out is The Organically Clean Home by Becky Rapinchuk. It is currently free for Kindle users. Remember to always research ingredients for DIY recipes before you use them. Never combine acids and bases, and test on a small area first.
Homemade Automatic Dishwasher Detergent
2 cups Washing Soda
2 cups Borax
10 drops lavender essential oil
Combine all ingredients blending essential oil well. Store in a labeled plastic container away from children. Use 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons per load of dishes.
Simple Rinse Aid for Dishes
Adding plain white vinegar to the rinse aid dispenser of your dishwasher will help remove spots from hard water, and keep your dishes sparkling clean without the need for harsh chemicals.
Lemon Fresh Dust-Buster
¼ cup lemon juice
⅛ cup lemon balm tea*
2 drops thyme essential oil
4 drops lemon essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a plastic spray bottle, label the bottle, and shake well. Spray on to wood surfaces, and wipe with a clean dry cloth. This recipe is for a single use. Lemon juice and lemon balm tea biodegrade quickly, so only make just enough each time to use it up, or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
*Lemon balm is an herb in the mint family that is easy to grow, and makes a soothing lemon flavored tea. Brew a cup, use some for the recipe, relax for a minute and drink the rest! Great hot or iced. For more information on how to grow lemon balm go to: Growing Lemon Balm in Containers OR How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Lemon Balm.
For even more recipes with essential oils, check out our post Essential Oils For A Healthy Home.
We’re Here When You Need Us
Call Branch Environmental. We’re experts at mold removal and indoor air quality. We can determine and remediate the underlying causes of poor indoor air quality from hidden mold sources to major contaminants. We can identify exactly what is going on in your home and rid it of environmental toxins, often for good. We want you to to be in your best health, so you can live your best life!
We hope we have given you some great information on keeping your home truly clean! Armed with knowledge, you are ready to clean your home safely, and keep the people and pets you love clean and healthy!
Branch Environmental – Because nobody should live or work in a building that makes them sick.
For more information go to:
- Environmental Working Group – Weak Regulation of Cleaning Products
- EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning
- Guide to Healthy Cleaning | About EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning
- EWG Not so Sexy – Hidden Chemicals in Perfume and Cologne
- Essential Oils for a Healthy Home – Branch Environmental
- A Simple Guide to Cleaning Mold – Branch Environmental
- Branch’s Guide to Spring Cleaning – Branch Environmental
- More than 200 Scientists, Medical Professionals Urge Stricter Limits on Antibacterial Agents – EWG
- Antibacterial Soap? – FDA
- 16 Effective and Safe Products To Guard Against Coronavirus – EWG
- Biggest Threats and Data | Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance – CDC
- How to Disinfect Properly – Branch Environmental
- Growing Lemon Balm in Containers
- How to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Lemon Balm
- List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 | US EPA
Blog information is NOT intended to provide or replace medical advice. NO information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition.
*We are an Amazon affiliate company and we do occasionally receive compensation for products that you purchase through links on our website.
Suggestions for products to use are just that, suggestions. You know yourself and your home best. Please do your own research on any product you use in your home or on your skin, and learn all the facts for yourself. Thank you.