A new study performed at the University of Bergen found that cleaning the house could do as much damage to women’s lungs as smoking a packet of cigarettes per day.

This study that tracked 6,235 men and women’s lung health over the course of 20 years concluded that women who cleaned around the house as little as once per week had an accelerated decline in lung capacity.

This drop in lung function was comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes every day for between 10-20 years.

Strangely, this effect did not occur with the men studied.

However, bleach and ammonia were classed as the top irritants behind the damage. There was no difference found between sprays and cleaning liquids: both had an equal impact.

The researchers said that low-grade inflammation over many years could lead to persistent damage to the airways, and persistent damage could result from continued exposure and possibly cause cleaning-related asthma and scarring of the lungs.

Might you also be damaging your lungs when you clean the house, and be putting other female members of your family at risk, too?

One of the ways to minimize the damage is to invest in microfiber cloths and clean with just water.

Other natural alternatives to harsh chemical cleaners include the following:

  • Castile soap: made from 100% plant oils, Castile soap cuts through grease and cleans well
  • Vinegar: thanks to its acidity, it can gently eliminate grime, grease and soap scum
  • Lemon juice: the natural enemy of mildew and mold, natural lemon juice shines hard surfaces, cuts through grease and smells great
  • Olive oil: natural polish. Try it on your furniture
  • Essential oils: add them to your homemade cleaning products for a fresh scent as you clean (just watch out for allergies to some oils)
  • Baking soda: it cleans, deodorizes, brightens, cuts through grease and grime and kills viruses
  • Hydrogen peroxide: for a serious disinfectant, mix a half cup of baking soda with 1 teaspoon of castile soap and half a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide. Apply to a wet cloth, scrub and then rinse thoroughly.

This short list of ingredients is all you need to make up the recipes you need to clean every area of your home thoroughly.

For example, clean your toilet with half a cup of baking soda and ten drops of tea tree essential oil. As the mixture fizzes away in there, add a quarter cup of vinegar to the bowl and scrub.

For daily toilet cleaning, fill a spray bottle with one cup of vinegar and add a few drops of an essential oil such as lemon. Spray this mixture onto the toilet seat, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe the surface clean.

Need to clean the oven? Heat to 125 degrees, then spray your vinegar onto any caked-on grime until it’s slightly damp and then pour salt directly onto the affected areas. Turn off the oven, letting it cool, and then use a wet towel to scrub away the grime. You can also use baking soda instead of salt for stubborn areas.

Enjoy your new effective, lung-friendly cleaning products.

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