Whatever Wednesday: Good Green Cleaning for People with Allergies

China, 2009
China, 2009

New Year, new resolutions, right?  I have been transitioning to chemical-free cleaning for the past few years.  When I moved into my current place, I spent some house with ammonia-based cleaner in the kitchen, and while it needed the heavy-duty, chemical-laden cleaner, I felt awful afterwards.  Since then, I’ve been making my own.  So we’re going to talk, here, about cleaning for the next few Wednesdays.  Denise addressed cleaning and caring for yourself if you have allergies — specifically coconut allergies, though all her products were great for anyone.  I’m going to talk about cleaning your place.

Beyond my food allergies, I have environmental allergies to beat the band.  I am allergic to almost everything and am overly sensitive to fragrances, particularly those of the fake, chemical kind.  Yay me!  Since I can’t live in a bubble, I do my best to make my environment habitable.

My allergist recommended establishing a “safe zone” in my bedroom — if you can minimize the allergens in your bedroom, you have 6-10 hours per day in which you can sleep and recover, giving your body a break.  To do this, wrap your box spring, mattress, and pillows in dust mite protectors.  Wash bedding in hot water weekly to kill dust mites, or use a specially-formulated dust mite killing detergent that works in cold water.  Or, you know, move to Denver (apparently dust mites do not thrive at high altitudes.  Minimize the fabrics in your bedroom — where possible, eliminate carpet, drapery, and upholstery, where mites can thrive unmolested, and where you have those fabrics, treat them with an allergen neutralizing spray (there are different formulations depending on your allergies and whether you have pets in the house). For any sort of specialized allergy products, I have to recommend National Allergy out of north Georgia.  They do not pay me; I like their stuff.

For cleaning my house, though?  I make my own products.  I still buy dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, and floor cleaner.  I am not allergic to coconut or its derivatives, but for those who are, we’ll address that with the laundry detergent.

What will you need to embark upon this adventure?  Not much.  Overall, cleaning your house in an environmentally responsible manner which is also allergen-friendly?  It’s CHEAP.  With this arsenal, you can clean EVERYTHING in your house (not including dishes and laundry and yourself), I swear, and the grand total for cleaning for the year is well under $100, and some of these supplies will last for 5 years or longer.  At first, the castille soap and essential oils might seem a bit spendy, but in the long run, they are not.  They are cheaper than your common cleaning products and safer for use with kids and pets and people.

If you’re ready for this, I recommend the following:

  • Cleaning cloths — an old sheet or t-shirt will easily provide you a good number of cloths for dusting, polishing, and screen cleaning.  A cheap stack of terrycloth washcloths will work for scrubbing and spot cleaning (either buy a stack at a home goods store or get some at a thrift store).  For dishes, nothing works better than knitted dish rags.  If you don’t knit, do you know a knitter?  ALL of these can be washed in hot water and dried in the dryer, stay germ-free with regular washing, and are reuseable for years.
  • Do you have pets?  You’ll need a pet hair remover unless your vacuum is really awesome (I’ve never owned that great a vacuum).  I really like the Pledge pet hair remover.  It works really well.
  • Rubber gloves.  Especially if you have coconut allergies and want to use regular castille soap (which is coconut-based).
  • Baking soda — the cheapest and biggest size you can find.
  • White vinegar — again, buy the big cheap bottle.
  • Vodka — yeah, again, cheap, big, gallon bottle of gut-rot.
  • Rubbing alcohol.
  • Distilled water.
  • Castille soap (yes, this is all coconut-based.  If your coconut allergies are severe, you can use Denise’s olive oil liquid soap (stop before you do the shampoo add-ins, just melt the olive oil bar soap down), but I’m going to say that for cleaning?  It’ll be easier to suck it up and buy gloves.  You are going to rinse everything off, so it won’t linger to touch your skin at all.)  Your best deal is going to be Dr. Bronner’s baby soap if you want to add scents.  I also like the tea tree for cleaning.
  • Borax
  • Olive oil
  • Essential oils — there are a billion “flavors” out there, so sniff ’em all and decide what you like.  Only one warning  — for the products we’ll be spraying on to things (counters or fabrics), you will need to avoid some citrus essential oils, which will stain.  These scents are not like the fake scents added to most cleaning products, which are often likely to trigger environmental allergies and are, by some studies’ conclusion, very bad for your health.

Start your gathering.  We’ll be talking clean for the rest of the month, and you’ll be ready way before spring cleaning begins.


    1. I like to use steam for as much as I can. I have a steam mop that I use on all the hard floors (most of the floors in my house). I also have a steam cleaner that looks a lot like a tea kettle. You basically blast steam at whatever you are cleaning (stove top, counter, shower wall, etc.) and then wipe down with a micro fiber cloth. It sounds like a mini power washer which attracted The Man of the House. Bonus is that the guy does work while playing with the steam cleaner.

    2. I have severe allergies to a lot of laundry detergents, even some of the “sensitive skin for babies” varieties, but I have NO reactions to Tide’s formulas, so that’s what I stick with, however, I DO like to run the clothes through a few times a month with just Washing Soda and/or Borax. Detergent doesn’t always rinse out completely and I find that the Washing Soda/Borax treatment helps out a lot with getting the “dregs” of detergent out of the clothes.

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