There’s no doubt that people are increasingly looking for alternatives when it comes to cleaning solutions for their home. Whether it’s for cost reasons, for the environment, or because of health and safety concerns, a quick internet search of “DIY cleaning products” turns up thousands of results, with people sharing information, anecdotes and their recipes. A common recipe for a cleaning product that people share online is for organic glass cleaner.
Most recipes for a DIY/organic/natural glass cleaner contain some combination of the following ingredients:
- Isopropyl alcohol (or ethanol as an alternative)
- White vinegar
- Distilled water
- Essential oils (optional)
Why these ingredients?
- Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol is a powerful cleaning agent and disinfectant. It also evaporates quickly, making it easier to get that streak-free shine.
- With a low pH, vinegar is inhospitable to many microorganisms, making it a powerful and safe cleaning agent. Vinegar is also good at removing stains and excellent at neutralising odours.
- Water is needed to dilute other ingredients that may be too harsh on their own depending on the cleaning surface. Distilled water is a good choice as it contains fewer impurities that can interfere with your cleaning.
- Cornstarch helps to eliminate streaking and absorbs oily residues.
- Essential oils are sometimes added for fragrance and to disguise the vinegar smell, but aren’t strictly necessary.
Households can save hundreds of dollars a year by using these ingredients. They are very inexpensive, readily available at your local supermarket or hardware store, and can be easily and quickly prepared into plastic spray bottles. Make sure you label your spray bottles!
DIY and organic cleaning products can be just as effective (and sometimes more so) than their commercial equivalents, but without the drawbacks. For example, vinegar has been shown in studies to be as effective as commercial cleaning wipes in eliminating influenza virus, and as effective as bleach in eliminating E. coli.
The evaluation of the safety data of over 1000 ingredients commonly used in household cleaning products has shown that more than half are a respiratory irritant, with one in five having the potential to trigger asthma, even in healthy people. Among the common ingredients are ammonia, which irritates the skin and lungs, and “fragrance”, which can be a mixture of hundreds of chemical compounds known as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), including some that are known to disrupt hormonal processes in the human body.
Many people, particularly those with young children, will feel more comfortable knowing that their household cleaners only contain ingredients that are considered safe and natural.
Many ingredients found in commercial cleaning products are non-biodegradable, meaning that they don’t break down once they enter the environment. When these chemicals enter rivers and lakes, they change the water’s chemistry, disrupt ecosystems and enter the food chain. They also have the potential to seep into soil and become absorbed in crops, which are eaten by humans and livestock. The evaporation of chemicals can also produce gases that remain in the atmosphere, such as ozone.
And finally, a few tips:
- Don’t mix vinegar and bleach as it will create harmful chlorine gas.
- Don’t use vinegar or any other acid on marble as it will etch the surface.
- Don’t clean your windows in direct sunlight, the solution will evaporate too quickly.
- Use newspaper to wipe off window cleaner, but wear gloves to avoid getting your hands covered in newspaper ink.