Chemicals, Begone! 3 Effective Housecleaning Alternatives

Ammonia, bleach, degreasers, anti-bacterials—all those containers, bottles, and wipes with long, born-in-a-laboratory-sounding names scrolled across their sides, the ones that you have trouble pronouncing—these might be uber-effective at getting your home all spick and span, but have you ever paused to consider what threats they pose to the environment?

You’d balk at most of the statistics and the reported impacts of these chemicals on local waterways, atmospheres, and more. Here’s just one example.

According to the San Francisco Gate, the flushing of ammonia- and other fertilizer-rich chemicals (which are commonly used as surface cleaners around the house) can trigger massive die-offs of plant and animal life over time as they empty into local waterways, because wastewater treatment facilities can do little to strain out these particular chemicals.

There are all kinds of small fixes that we can make around the house to limit the disproportionate impact of these chemicals on our surrounding environment.

Check out these three housecleaning alternatives and consider using them during your next spring cleaning session to cut down on your contribution to an ongoing crisis.

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Clog remover

Has that long-haired roommate clogged your shower drain again?

It’s tempting to head to the store and grab that heavy-chemical drain de-clogging solution. It’s an easy, one and done fix, right? You won’t have to worry about flooding the tub floor each time you need to take a wash anymore.

But consider, for a second, pursuing one of these easy-to-implement, cheap alternatives.

If hair is what’s clogging your shower drain (not food particles, say, in the kitchen sink), pull a wire hanger from your closet and bend it into a long, hook-like lure to scoop out the offending clump.

Dealing with food particles, grease, and fat clogging your kitchen drain? Try using a plunger. Position your plunger over the mouth of the drain, fill up the sink with a bit of warm water, then push and pull until the clog gives way. The warm water will rush down and whisk away more of the troublesome food scraps.

See? Not too difficult. And you didn’t have to pay money to pour chemicals into your waterway.

Dishwasher detergent

As mentioned previously, phosphate-rich household cleaners, like certain dishwasher detergents, can cause massive oxygen depletions if they flow indiscriminately into our public waterways over time.

Phosphates have a fertilizing effect of sorts, encouraging large-scale algal blooms to grow that, in turn, suck up oxygen, and essentially suffocate the aquatic animal and plant life in the area in question.

There are all kinds of other impacts that chemically unsafe dishwasher detergents can have—not just on the waterways, but on land as well. The plastic containers that detergents come in often cannot be reused, because of their exposure to chemicals, which means they are usually diverted to landfills without any chance at a second life as a repurposed object.

So, what to do about the matter of dishwasher detergent? Well, you could make sure there aren’t any worrisome ingredients in your current detergent. Or you could make your own, for starters. An organic solution, produced the old-fashioned way.

All you really need is a bit of washing soda, and whatever essential oil suits your fancy (the essential oils are for purposes of fragrance more than anything). Here’s what to do:

  • Get 4 cups of washing soda together
  • Select an essential oil you’d like to use (something sharp and citrusy is always recommendable—the natural cleaning abilities of something acidic like that are bound to be beneficial); you’ll need anywhere between fifteen and thirty drops of this
  • Mix these ingredients until there are no clumps to be found in your detergent mixture
  • Store your detergent in a jar and use two tablespoons with each load of dirty dishes that require cleaning

Surface cleaner

Surface cleaners are so ubiquitous, and so necessary, particularly for those of us who have children or animals (or both). Messes are inevitable. But depending on heavy-chemical laden products doesn’t have to be.

Corrosive chemicals in certain heavy-duty products used for scrubbing ovens, stovetops, and other particularly troublesome areas should be avoided at all costs. These products can cause severe damage to your skin if it is exposed improperly and can even cause blindness if the burns to your eyes are severe enough.

And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that, without proper disposal, these highly corrosive chemicals stand to damage surrounding plant and animal life in just as significant a manner.

Never fear—a solution is near! A combination of borax, baking soda, water, lemon juice, and soap is a more than suitable (not to mention effective) alternative to those undesirable, heavy-chemical options. Use this mixture with a strong, coarse sponge and whole lot of effort and you’ll have that mess under control in no time.

What’s the takeaway, here?

If you’re not going to make these changes for the environment, make them for your own personal health, and for the personal health of your family and friends. (Not to mention the health of your property—those pipes can only handle so much chemical, grease, and other forms of strain your plumbing can take before you have to call for professional help.)