One day as I was hunched over my tub, spraying heavy-duty bleach cleaner without a care in my small apartment bathroom that has no windows, the thought occurred to me that this is probably not all the great for my lungs/brain/various other organs. The repercussions of cleaning with toxic chemicals are widely documented. The American Lung Association says cleaning supplies often contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that cause chronic respiratory problems and headaches. They especially caution against using air fresheners.

The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization focused on environment and public health, released a list of the worst cleaners for your home. While some of the reasons deserve a side-eye (“intentional misuse by deliberately concentrating and inhaling the contents can be harmful or fatal”…obviously), it was alarming to see that products I used regularly are responsible for serious health problems.

Although you should take everything you read on the internet with a grain of salt, there are clearly some benefits to using more natural cleaning supplies. But how do you stop feeling like your apartment needs mega-strong cleaners?

I decided to test some homemade solutions to find out. Here’s what worked and what definitely did not.

Air Fresheners

I don’t know how to say this delicately, but in most apartments the bathroom is not far from where you hang out and my place is no exception. When people come over I make sure to light a plethora of candles because I know the horror of having go hang out in a place directly connected to where you just went to the bathroom…but Febreze remains a staple. In all the information I read about chemical cleaners, air fresheners were among the worst offenders.

Method One: Essential oil room spray

To make this, I mixed 8 drops of tea tree oil and 10 drops of lavender in an 8 oz. spray bottle. Then I added 3/4 cup of ethanol (vodka), and filled the rest with water just like the instructions said.

The results: I went to town spraying this around my house and it smelled SO good. Unfortunately, the scent doesn’t last all that long . Fortunately, you can spray it often as you want without worrying about breathing in weird stuff. While it may not be the best thing to get rid of odor, it masks it in a really pleasant way.

Next, I used it on day-old clothes (sorry, I’m gross) and it worked just as well as Febreze. The alcohol scent quickly evaporates and my clothes smelled really fresh. I hope my co-workers and friends agreed.

Method two: Baking soda jar deodorizer

All you have to do to make this air freshener is pour a 1/2 cup of baking soda in a mini mason jar, add some essential oil (the directions say use 8-12 drops, but I ended up using about 20), poke holes in a piece of paper, and screw on the lid. The perfect kind of craft project.

 The results: I first tried this out in my kitchen, but couldn’t smell it at all. So, I added more essential oil and put it in my tiny bathroom. I think that was the key, it made the whole room smell like sandalwood and sweet orange and it was amazing. The downside of putting it in a bathroom is that the paper gets a little soggy from all the moisture after a shower. To rememdy this, I plan on poking holes in a mason jar lid with a nail and seeing how that goes. Between the room spray and this deodorizer, I think it will be pretty easy to permanently get rid of aerosol room sprays.
Next week stay tuned for part two, when I test kitchen cleaners and laundry detergents. Any special formulas you use to create your own cleaning supplies?