It's spring cleaning time, and for many people, that means using harsh chemicals all over their homes. I do things differently. My main strategy to fight germs is to focus on building immunity through a healthy diet, exercise, sleep, and infrared saunas. And when I do clean my home, my DIY and nontoxic cleaning approach includes essential oils, vinegar, and a steam cleaner.
My setup is easier—and more effective—than some people might think. Steam cleaners, which can be quite affordable, reportedly kill more than 99 percent of germs, bacteria, and viruses. They are great to use on tiles and grout in bathrooms, as well as with bathtubs and sinks. They can be used on sealed wood, too.
Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide (at concentrations lower than 3 percent) can help manage some bacteria and germs. So can essential oils such as tea tree oil and oregano oil. I sometimes make my own wipes by mixing a drop of Castile soap with water and a drop of tea tree oil into a stainless steel food container. I then add paper towels and carry them with me. Easy.
Here's what I don't use: chlorine bleach and antimicrobial products like hand sanitizers and wipes. Yes, they're popular, but you can battle germs without using harsh chemicals. Depending on the level of exposure, chlorine could lead to a host of health problems. Furthermore, chlorine is highly reactive, which means it can combine with other things commonly found in homes to create unintentional toxic exposures. Instead of chlorine bleach, you can use hydrogen peroxide. It's an effective, safer replacement—that's why it's a popular active ingredient in green products.
Regarding antibacterial products, I suggest using them them only when necessary. In a statement released in December 2016, Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said this: “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long term.”
Those with a compromised immune system or other health issues may need extra consideration, so discuss this issue with your trusted health care providers. But my nontoxic approach has been effective in keeping my family with three young kids healthy—and it could work for you, too.
Sophia Gushee is a sought-after toxic exposures expert, author of A to Z of D-Toxing, and founder of Practical Nontoxic Living, a multimedia company that produces podcasts and is incubating the D-Tox Academy, an online portal to make practical nontoxic living simple and accessible.
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