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How to clean house without toxic chemicals

By BCPP Staff Emily Reuman

It’s official—spring is here! I just returned from a desert camping trip in Anza Borrego and the desert is in full bloom. Wildflowers in white and yellow, pink cactus blooms, and even the red ocotillo blossoms peeking out. I woke up to a stream of butterflies coming up through the canyon walls, flying northward—the painted ladies. These beauties are out in full force through the desert on their trip up toward the Superbloom in Northern CA.

If you’re like me, the first signs of spring are enough to make you want to throw open the windows, pull out your broom, and give those dusty corners a good sweep. But hold on there, Mary Poppins! Just a spoonful of broom sweeping and spraying toxic cleaning products can send a whole host of new and accumulated chemicals up into the air you breathe. Think flame retardant chemicals (like PBDEs) from foam furniture like your old couch. Ew.

As much as possible, I try to avoid harsh chemicals, plastics, and disposables when I clean. I opt instead for non-toxic solutions and zero-waste options, which, in addition to being simpler and reusable, save me money. That’s winning in my book!

So before you turn the house upside down, check out my top recommendations for ways to make your home sparkle.

Step 1—Contain the grime

Vacuum with a HEPA filter

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Do I have to? Broom sweeping seems easier.

I hear you. Vacuuming with a HEPA filter is by far the best way to keep dust and harmful chemicals out of the air you breathe. By safely capturing dust and particulate matter inside the vacuum bag, you help avoid stirring up the nasty.


HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. A HEPA filter is a mechanical air filter that works by forcing air through a fine mesh. It traps harmful particles including pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and tobacco smoke. HEPA-equipped vacuums cut down on the dust that goes back out into the room as you vacuum. You can thank me later for that allergy sinus relief.

Step 2—Shine it up

Wet Mop


Get yourself a reusable mop pad with a simple, homemade cleaning solution in a spray bottle.

Why though
  1. Skip the harmful chemicals in synthetic fragrance-laden cleaning products. Breathe easier. Reduce your cancer risk.
  2. Eliminate trash from wasteful disposables and plastic while you save money. Cha-ching!
  3. Many mop pads are machine washable, making clean-up a breeze.
I’m no chemist

Me neither. Easiest cleaning solution: 10 cups water + 1 cup white vinegar. Boom. Add lemon if you fancy.

Reusable mop pads—help me

Microfiber cloth pads work well to lift grime and can go in the wash again and again. Cheapest option? Wrap a towel, microfiber cloth, or even an old sock around a mop-shaped base and pin, clip, or stich together on the top. Heck crochet them, if you’re handy!

Step 3—Smelly things

De-odorize without masking

Non-toxic options

Baking soda neutralizes odors, eliminates dampness, and is especially tough on grime and hard-to-tackle stains. Vinegar is an easy and cheap de-odorizer as well. Just like grandma used.

What not to use

Cleaning products that either don’t list all their ingredients or include the word ‘fragrance‘ on the label. These products contain any number of unknown harmful chemicals that may increase your risk of breast cancer. Skip em.

Step 4—Still want to buy something?

I try to skip the plastic packaging whenever possible. For everything else, EWG’s healthy cleaning guide has brand and product ratings along with ingredient info. Find yourself a product.

Got more non-toxic cleaning tips?

We’d love to hear them! Share on our Facebook page, Tweet at us, or tag us on IG and include #springcleandetox

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