How clean are your cleaning supplies?
As a wife and mother, taking care of my home is important since it’s the main place I nurture my family. To me, the thought of managing my home means making sure everything is going smoothly, which also entails making things clean and presentable.
This kind of home maintenance is biblical. In Titus 2:4-5, Paul asks older women to “train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”
And in 1 Timothy 5:14, Paul counsels “younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.”
Other than a reference in Leviticus 14 about mildew and an order to purify rooms in Nehemiah 13:9, the Bible doesn’t specifically address cleaning. However, like older women are asked to train younger women in Titus 2:4-5, many older generations pass down the importance of a clean house.
While managing my own home, I try to keep things clean by using healthy products. For me, it’s a no-brainer: my home is clean, safe for my family, and I’m being a good steward of God’s provisions by saving money in the process.
Discovering the dirty truth
My decision to clean with safe products didn’t come overnight, though. As a clean freak, I used to love buying the latest “new and improved” products that helped with my cleaning. If a spray could get my bathtub sparkling clean and I only had to use it once a month, then I was sold. I thought bleach had a wonderful, clean smell. I liked the perfumed scent of freshly washed laundry.
Then I discovered how harmful cleaning products are. Similar to cosmetics, manufacturers are not required by law to list all the ingredients in their cleaning products.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services does publish a Household Products Database that contains product ingredients and toxicity reports, but it solely relies on companies to provide the information. No unbiased, third party group checks for accuracy or completeness of the records. Additionally, there are no penalties for companies that do not report harmful ingredients or alert consumers to potential health hazards.
More stringent standards could ensure safer products in the U.S. In European cleaning products, more than 1,000 chemicals have been banned from use. However, the United States has banned fewer than ten. 1
Until I realized cleaning products were dangerous, I never really contemplated the history of cleaning products. I was surprised that aside from the past century or so, homemakers cleaned without bleach. Antibacterial cleaners weren’t necessary – or even available – for the home. The big change in cleaning and everyday life came with the convenience of synthetic products made after World War II. Post-war products focused on ease and efficiency with little thought to safety or health risks.
While more than 80,000 chemicals were manufactured and sold since World War II, less than twenty percent have been tested for toxicity. 2 According to the EPA, “Most Americans would assume that basic toxicity testing is available and that all chemicals in commerce today are safe. A 1998 EPA study found that this is not a prudent assumption.” 3
When our own Environmental Protection Agency warns Americans to not assume that cleaning products are safe, you know something is wrong. And it’s easy to believe when 64,000 chemicals haven’t even been tested for safety.
Call me crazy, but I have to believe most people would not reach for a bathroom cleaner that removed rust stains and mildew but caused cancer.
Don’t despair … just like there were safe and effective cleaning methods before the toxic products were available, there still are safe and effective cleaning methods. Join me again on Friday to find out more about them.
Find out how to make healthy choices that honor God and happen to help the environment at www.accidentallygreen.org.
1. “The Dirt on Cleaning Product Companies: How Top Manufacturers Rate in Protecting You from Toxic Chemicals.” Women’s Voices for the Earth.
2. “Children and Chemicals.” Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center. 3. “High Production Volume Chemicals and SIDS Testing.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency High Production Volume Chemical Hazard Data Availability Study.
Graur Razvan Ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net