A Truly Safe + Effective Household Cleaning Product
According to a recent study, regular use of household cleaners can have the same effect on women’s lungs as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day! Several studies have already shown the short-term impact of such chemical exposure to include asthma, skin & eye irritation, hormone disruption, allergies or migraines, but the long-term effect is still widely unstudied.
The study, conducted by scientists at Norway’s University of Bergen, aimed to investigate the long term consequences on respiratory health. It revealed that women who regularly expose themselves to the harmful chemicals in cleaning products had “accelerated decline in lung function, suggesting that exposures related to cleaning activities may constitute a risk to long-term respiratory health.”
Their findings are in line with a study released in 2017 which concluded, after analyzing over 55,000 nurses since 1989, that using disinfectants once a week had an increased risk of developing COPD.
Years ago when I made the decision to trash these toxic products, the process of finding safe replacements that actually work was seriously challenging. I will share my favorite cleaning products but first, you might want to check your cabinets for some of the more toxic offenders.
According to EWG, (Environmental Working Group, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment) many of the most popular cleaning products contain ingredients that have been shown to cause cancer, asthma, endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity and allergic reactions to name a few. These ingredients even show up in so-called "natural" brands, therefore contributing to "Green-Washing" of the consumer.
As I mentioned in a previous post, more and more children are starting puberty at the strikingly young age of 7 or 8, which has been linked to endocrine disruption caused by exposures to chemicals such as those found in your household cleaning supply.
EWG’s Cleaners Database Hall of Shame, puts some well-known products and their harmful ingredients on display. Click the link to review the full list, but, they include brands such as:
What I use instead
I’ve been using the Branch Basics cleaning concentrate for 95% of my household (+more) cleaning for almost 4 years and they continue to be my top recommendation as the safe and effective alternative to harmful cleaners. We use it in the kitchen, bathrooms, hardwood and tile floors, windows, even on jewelry and as our wiper fluid! It's incredible at cutting through grit and grime and safe enough to let my daughter do her own "cleaning" with.
The 100% plant based cleaning concentrate is comprised of:
Purified Water, Coco Glucoside (Sugar-Based Cleanser), Chamomilla Recutita (Chamomile) Flower Extract*, Decyl Glucoside (Sugar-Based Cleanser), Sodium Citrate (Food-Grade Emulsifier), Lauryl Glucoside (Sugar-Based Cleanser), Sodium Bicarbonate (Food-Grade Baking Soda), Sodium Phytate (Plant-Based Antioxidant), Sapindus Mukorossi Fruit (Soapberry) Extract*
The solution comes as a concentrate which you dilute for use around the house. While you can certainly use your own spray bottles, the company provides bottles with helpful labeling to determine how much to add for specific uses.
Concentrated formula that can be diluted for virtually any cleaning use.
Removes heavy gunk, grease, grime, and stains
Won’t leave skin dry or chapped
Fragrance-free so no lingering odor
No harmful VOCs so no need for ventilation
Dilutes to make cleaners that leave no residue behind
Plant & mineral based ingredients
Human Safe & Non-Toxic
Hypoallergenic, no nuts or tree nuts
No parabens, phthalates, synthetic preservatives, synthetic fragrances, alcohols, ethoxylates, or SLS
Kind to life: not harmful to people or pets when used as directed
Bottled in BPA-Free recyclable plastic bottle
Products are made in the USA
Easy-to-dispense spout with a squeezable bottle for simple pouring
USE BY DILUTION TYPE
All-Purpose: Appliances, Dishes, Granite, Grills, Highchairs, Jewelry, Marble, Natural Stone, Pacifiers, Pots & Pans, Stains, Stovetops, Sticky Spills, Yoga Mats
Bathroom: Tile, Grout, Countertops, Sinks, Showers, Tubs, Toilets, Fixtures, Shower Liners, Soap Scum
Streak-Free: Windows, Mirrors, Glass Surfaces, Computer Screens, Phones and Tablets, Fixtures, Aquariums, Shower Doors, and Picture Frames
Foaming Wash: Hands, Face, Body, Baby, Hair, Pets, Removing Make-Up, Shaving, Dishes, Fruits & Vegetables
Misc: Laundry, Stainless Steel, Wood and Vinyl Floors, Carpet, Wiper Fluid
Laundry and surfactants
Most natural laundry cleaners are not really "laundry detergents" since they do not contain a surfactant. A surfactant's job is to both grab ahold of the dirt and oil of clothing and dispel it into the water. All surfactants contain a water-hating (hydrophobic) component at one end and a water-loving (hydrophilic) component at the other which allow it to properly 'grab and dispel.'
The water-hating part binds to the oil in dirt, grease, etc. while the water-loving part dispels and suspends itself, along with the dirt, into the water to be washed away. If your laundry detergent doesn't contain a surfactant, you will notice that it doesn't clean as effectively and over time will notice build-up of dirt and soap.
I've tested many laundry powders, soaps and detergents, and have noticed if soap is used as the surfactant, my laundry begins to look dingy over time as it's not properly cleaning and the soap film. While soap is technically a surfactant (contains both hydrophilic and hydrophobic components), most are oil based and have a harder time rinsing off (hence the soap build up) and can be less effective in hard water.
The Branch Basics concentrate includes a few surfactants including Soapberry (also known as Soapnut) which contains Saponins which happen to be a natural surfactant and effective as a detergent and less abrasive on clothing and the environment than synthetic detergents! Here's a couple published studies about saponins: Source 1 and Source 2.
Pictured here are before and after's of Sawyer's favorite organic horsey dress which invites stains. Every time she wears it, I think it's ruined, but our Branch Basics has gotten them out every time! This most recent was from blue ink which was splattered all over her dress, front and back.
I soaked the dress in a bit of concentrate in hot water and then ran it through the wash. Sometimes I'll sprinkle a bit of the oxygen boost in the soak as well.
And don't forget their latest addition, the 100% wool dryer balls to reduce static and wrinkles and decrease drying time by 10-25%! As a lover of animals, it was very important to me that these dryer balls be ethically sourced. The wool comes from sheep over a year old, in fact the lambs are allowed to wean themselves from their mother and then fed an organic diet. The sheep are given no hormones, medication or petroleum and washed with non-toxic soaps. They are treated and sheared in the most humane way!
For a full list on the Branch Basics Concentrate capabilities, including ovens, automobile and pet-care, check out their user guide.
Get Branch Basics in your home
While Branch Basics sells all of their items individually, I recommending starting with the Starter Kit which includes:
32 oz. Concentrate
3 empty refillable 24 oz. spray bottles (All-Purpose, Bathroom, and Streak-Free)
10 oz. foamer bottle (Great for washing hands and face and for dishes too!)
2 lb. Oxygen Boost
Quantity + Price Breakdown
32 oz Concentrate Makes:
16 All-Purpose bottles (24 oz), at $3.06 each ($0.12 per oz)
10 Bathroom bottles (24 oz), at $4.90 each ($0.20 per oz)
240 Streak-Free bottles (24 oz), at $0.20 each (less than $0.01 per oz)
17 Foamer Bottles (10 oz), at $2.88 each ($0.28 per oz)
192 Laundry loads at $0.26 per load
With typical use you can fill 3 All-Purpose, 3 Bathroom, 3 Streak-Free, 3 Foaming Wash, and 60 loads of laundry! **The individual bottle prices are based on full retail prices of The Concentrate sizes.**
You can shop all the items here!
A NOTE ABOUT VINEGAR
Since vinegar is acidic, you definitely should not use it to clean your hardwood floors. It actually starts to break down the protective coating on the wood which will ultimately leave your hardwood dull as the coating erodes. I use the Streak-Free dilution on our hardwood and tile flooring. I still use a splash of vinegar in each dishwasher load to help with shine, though!
Pairing with Bon Ami
I sprinkle a bit of Bon Ami along side Branch Basics for tough grime in showers or sinks. They pair very well together!