While many of the conventional cleaning products we're used to are designed to make our lives easier, the pollutants and chemicals in these products can take a toll on the environment and even on our health.
Cleaning supplies with harmful ingredients (which can include anything from soaps and wood polishes to oven cleaners) can irritate the throat and eyes, exacerbating respiratory issues and allergies. Household bleach and ammonia are also risky - when mixed together, toxic gases are produced which can cause symptoms like wheezing and watery eyes.
Swapping out harmful cleaning substances in your home doesn't mean you have to skimp on cleanliness: there are plenty of ways to keep your home immaculate without harming your health. Ensure your cleaning products are free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and experiment with DIY and green cleaning products instead.
These tips and ideas below will help you clean effectively with less harmful solutions...
1. Use steam to clean
Investing in a steam cleaner can save you time and money in the long run: steam cleaning works by combining pressure, speed and high temperatures and can clean up to 99.99% of common household bacteria on hard surfaces. Steam cleaners can also tackle limescale and mould stains and run entirely on tap water.
2. Check the kitchen cupboard for 'green' cleaning products
There are plenty of effective, non-toxic cleaning products in your home - you just may not know it yet. Baking soda can be used to clean carpets, oven doors, hairbrushes, surface stains, your hoover and more (just mix with water to turn into a paste), while vinegar and water can clean glass and soap scum (vinegar can even be used to clean your washing machine - just pour in 200ml of white vinegar into the drawer and run a cold cycle, according to Method Products).
Lemon juice and salt work effectively to clean brass and copper, toothpaste can un-tarnish silverware and polish bathroom taps and cornflour can eliminate grease from surfaces like carpets and leather. Off the shelf in your local supermarket, you'll also find plenty of sustainable, safe products to use around the house.
3. Use a reusable cloth to clean
Spare the environment each time you clean your home and avoid using kitchen roll, recommend the experts at Method. Microfibre cloths are effective, don't need any product and pick up dust along the way.
4. Pop toys in the freezer
Worried about your children ingesting germs from dirty toys? Kill dust mites by popping them in a plastic bag in the freezer for a few hours, recommend the experts at Method.
5. Embrace essential oils
Store-bought air fresheners are often full of unpleasant, harmful substances, so you can add a pleasant smell to any room with essential oils, which also double as antiseptics, like lavender and clove. Diluted clove and eucalyptus also works as a flea killer for your pet.
6. Open the windows
We spend 90 per cent of our time indoors, at home, work or in school, and research has shown that the quality of indoor air can be worse than that of outdoor air. Open windows as frequently as possible to let fresh air in - especially when cleaning the home. Dry your clothes outside when possible to save energy.
7. Put the toilet seat down
Putting the lid down before you flush the toilet stops the spread of bacteria.
8. Check your appliances
A-efficiency rated kitchen appliances will save you money on bills in the long term, as well as saving energy and water. According to the UK Cleaning Products Industry Association, older model dishwashers consume up to 40 litres of water per cycle, compared to the newer models, which can consume as little as 15 litres. Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when there's a full load to minimise energy and water waste.