At Crucial Vacuum we know how important it is to keep our families healthy and breathing easy. Why else would we spend so much time cleaning and sanitizing? But lately there has been a lot of talk about the dangers of the chemicals found in common household cleaners and it got my attention. Am I doing more harm than good?
SoÂ I caught up with Mysti Reutlinger, author of â€śThe Pantry Cleaner: Chemical Free Cleaning”, to pick her brain about the dangers of household cleaners and I wasÂ shocked by what she had to say.
CV: So, just to clear things up, what is chemical free cleaning as opposed to â€ścommercial cleaningâ€ť?
MR: Chemical-free cleaning uses natural products that eliminate germs, grime, and all the goo any child (or adult) could produce without adding any chemicals into the home.Â Â
CV: What first sparked your interest in chemical free cleaning?
MR: The short version; My youngest son.Â My son arrived at 24-weeks in gestation. He was 1 pound, 7 ounces and 12 inches long at birth. He spent the first 115 days of his life in a Neonatal ICU and when he came home, he was on oxygen. I quickly noticed that he struggled breathing when I cleaned. Upon hours of research, including reading many medical studies published in accredited journals, I found the correlation between commercial cleaners and a host of problems occurring in people.
CV: Your book is described as teaching us how to clean without the use of harmful chemicals that can lead to respiratory distress, loss of smell, and even cause cancerâ€¦ are household cleaners really that dangerous?
MR: In a word, yes. When we purchase food in a store that is processed and packaged, we have a list of ingredients on the side and can make reasonable decisions about the quality of the food in the package. Commercial cleaners (anything purchased) donâ€™t have to follow the same regulations because their chemical formulas are considered â€śtrade secrets.â€ť Longterm exposure to some chemicals found in the most common of cleaning products leads to many disorders, diseases, and yes, even cancer.
A study published in the October 2007 issue of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine provides a good illustration. Over 3,000 people who did not have asthma or asthma symptoms at the start of the study were followed by researchers and their cleaning habits were evaluated. In the people who used commercial spray cleaners once a week, 42% had asthma symptoms at the end of the study. Those who cleaned more often were diagnosed with asthma and required medication.
CV: I was shocked when I read about the damage that chemicals in common cleaners can do. Like disinfectants are toxic to our respiratory and circulatory systems? Isnâ€™t that a bit ironic?
MR: It is ironic. We want what is best for our families. We love them and want everyone to be safe. Cleaning shouldnâ€™t be dangerous!
CV:Â Is itÂ safer to not clean at all rather than use store bought chemical cleaners?
MR: Before there were commercial cleaners, people cleaned. They used vinegar, lemons, baking soda, corn starch, and regular lye soaps. Dishes were scrubbed and when someone was sick, rinsed with boiling water. Even without understanding the science behind having a clean home and eliminating germs and bacteria, our ancestors cleaned. Just like they knew what science has proven today, a clean home will keep our families from becoming sick. It is definitely not safer to live without cleaning.
CV: I tried! But what about allergy sufferers? Donâ€™t we need something more powerful to clear the air?
MR: Allergy sufferers most certainly need clean air, not chemically-filled air. Â
At one point in my life, I took prescription allergy medicines every spring and fall. I was convinced that the stuffy nose and burning eyes was a result of the seasonal plants growing and irritating me. When I changed how I cleaned, I still had the occasional stuffy nose and burning in my eyes, but I no longer needed medication to treat the symptoms.Â Â
So now that I’ve got your attention, check back next week for Mysti’s tips for beginners like me who want to try their hand at chemical-free cleaning. Part two of our interview includes a couple simple chemical-free cleaner recipes, tips for getting rid of dust, and Mysti tells me what one item I should throw out today.