5 Starter Products For Your Nontoxic Home (That Won't Break The Bank)
The ever-elusive idea of having a "nontoxic home" sure sounds nice—but putting it into practice can be daunting. Ridding your home of all toxins seems like it would take all new furniture, hours and hours (and hours) of scrubbing, and lots of money. In reality, all you need to reduce your toxic load at home is a few products that do a really good job cleaning up the problem areas that are most likely to make your home feel sick and stuffy. If you do nothing else, invest in cleaner versions of these five things, and you're well on your way to a healthier home.
What to look for: The home cleaning market is famously unregulated in the U.S., and manufacturers aren't even required1 to share what goes into their products. This means that there's a chance the deep cleaners you're using are made with some unsavory ingredients like triclosan, an antimicrobial chemical that's been linked to antibiotic resistance, and 1,4 Dioxane, a potential carcinogen. So you'll want to go for a product that lists all of its ingredients on the label. If you don't recognize some of them, take the extra step of searching for them on the Environmental Working Group's Healthy Cleaning database just to be safe! One general rule of thumb: If you feel like you need to open a window when you use something, you probably shouldn't be using it.
What to buy:
Branch Basics is founded by three women on a mission to clean up the cleaning industry. They've seen firsthand how potentially harmful the toxins in our home can be and set out to create a super-effective cleaner that doesn't call on harsh chemicals to get the job done. I personally use their all-purpose concentrate to clean everything and am always amazed by how gentle yet efficacious it is. Plus, one bottle lasts forever since you're adding water yourself.
Branch Basics Concentrate ($49)
What to look for: Like other home cleaning products, dish soap is largely unregulated. There is a bill floating around in California that would require cleaning companies to provide information on all the ingredients they use, but until that gets passed (fingers crossed!), it's best to be extra cautious and choose a product from a company that prizes safety and transparency.
What to buy: Method soap has a lengthy "do not touch" list of chemicals that might be damaging to human health or the health of the environment, and the company avoids them in favor of plant-derived ingredients. Method is constantly giving people a glimpse of its production facility in Chicago (mbg even toured it recently), and you can find a description of all of the ingredients used in its dish soap on the company's website.
method Dish Pump Soap Clementine ($2.99)
What to look for: Detergent is another place where toxins could be hiding, and you'll want to shy away from ones that contain monoanolamine, diethanolamine, or triethanolamine, chlorine bleach, or sodium borate. These have been associated with skin irritation and hormone disruption, and they're not so great for the environment either, so it's best to leave them out of our water system. Instead, look for ones that aren't made with petroleum-based synthetic fragrances or synthetic, nonbiodegradable dyes or optical brighteners.
What to buy: Seventh Generation's detergent fits the bill, plus the company is looking to make all of its product packaging 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable by 2020. If you care about protecting the ocean (and we all need to these days), you can throw a Cora Ball into your wash to trap the polluting microparticles you'll find in clothes so they don't end up in our waterways.
Seventh Generation Liquid Laundry Detergent, Free & Clear (17.81)
What to look for: Conventional dryer sheets and fabric softeners are notoriously bad for the planet and your health. They're packed with chemicals and, honestly, unnecessary most of the time.
What to buy: If you do crave that soft, fresh-from-the-laundry feel, cleancult makes a line of dryer balls made with one ingredient: wool. The all-natural material softens clothes naturally and speeds up the drying process too.
cleancult Wool Dryer Balls ($12.95)
What to look for: Air fresheners are another source of chemicals (think: benzene2 and toluene3, which can cause headaches and skin irritation). And if you have essential oils, you don't need 'em! Diffusing oils is a natural way to scent your home, plus you can mix and match scents based on your mood. Certain essential oils have also been tied to health benefits, so it's a healthy habit to get into.
What to buy: You'll want to buy your oils from a reputable brand to make sure they're pure. If the oil's Latin name and expiration date are listed on the bottle (which should be dark and made from glass), it's a good sign. Mountain Rose Herbs sells 100 percent pure and certified organic oils that fit the bill.
Mountain Rose Herbs Ginger Essential Oil ($14)
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.