When to ditch the harsh household cleaners and go au naturel instead

Sep 26, 2016 at 2:00 p.m. ET
Image: Luka Lajst/E+/Getty Images

I'm no stranger to messes, but let's be real here — as the mom of two young girls, the messes I'm cleaning these are days are a thousand times worse than anything I tackled pre-kids. During my kid-free years, I was what some may call a bleach-aholic. Counters, walls, showers, sinks — you name it and I probably bleached it. That said, I'm sure you can understand my reluctance to say farewell to my favorite cleaning products after my daughters arrived.

I thought making the switch to natural cleaning products would be tough. What will kill the germs? How will the stains be removed? Well, I'm going to let you in on a little secret here, people — not only are natural cleaners equally effective as those harsh cleaners, they're safer for my home, my family and the environment. Plus, they make my house smell way better than that chemical-laden junk I was so used to.

Even if you haven't completely made the switch, there are some places in your home you just can't cut corners. That old, tried-and-true cleaner may make you feel like you get a good clean, but it's not doing much good if you're just introducing new harmful substances into your environment.

More: 11 hacks to make your home smell fresh and clean

Ditch the usual cleaners, and opt for something more natural when you're cleaning these high-contact spots in your house.

1. Your counters

You know, the place where you prepare your food? No one wants their food to come into contact with harsh chemicals, so keep them far away from the places where you make your meals, starting with your kitchen surfaces.

2. The fridge

I'll be the first to admit that I don't clean my fridge as often as I should, but when I do, I reach for the natural stuff. Not only do I want to avoid my food sitting in leftover solvent, but those chemicals can also transfer tastes over to the food — and that's not what I want my dinner to taste like.

More: 6 houseplants that remove bathroom toxins naturally

3. The dishes

Sensing a pattern here? That's because there is one — chemical cleaners and food just don't mix. Those fancy chemicals found in dishwasher detergents can cause burns and skin irritations, and liquid dish soaps can cause irritations to your mouth and throat. In the event you don't get one of those dishes completely rinsed, wouldn't you rather the leftover residue be something a little safer?

4. The oven

If you've ever cleaned an oven, you know it's not a pleasant experience. Not only is it backbreaking work, but the lye in most oven cleaners is corrosive, and just the fumes can be painful to your eyes and throat — which I'm sure you know if you've ever been shoulders-deep in the job. Using a natural, lye-free cleaner can make the job much less painful and will help you avoid having your whole house permeated by those nasty fumes the next time you heat up the oven for dinner.

5. Your floors

This one is especially true if you have kids. How many hours a day do your little ones spend down on the floor? The last thing you want is those precious, chubby legs sitting on a harsh chemical combination.

More: How getting organized made everyday cleaning so much easier

6. The bathtub

Do you remember what happened to your favorite T-shirt that time you leaned a little too far over the tub when you were scrubbing it? If those chemicals have the power to instantly strip your shirt of all its color, imagine what it can do to your skin. No matter how thoroughly you rinse the tub, it's likely some of the cleaner will be left behind, and I doubt you want your kiddos bathing in bleach.

7. Laundry

A super-harsh laundry detergent is a mom's worst enemy — trust me on this. Chemical-filled detergents can lead to irritated, itchy skin, which has the power to make an entire household miserable in no time at all. Use gentle, natural detergents to save yourself a lot of trouble.

8. Toys

Mamas, you know nothing gets gross as quickly as the contents of your kid's toy box. Since the toys spend so much time in your kid's hands (and sometimes mouths), it's important to keep them relatively clean — and to use something that's not made of dangerous ingredients.

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