Now that the worst of winter is over, it’s time to start tackling those household items on our to-do lists. It might not be the most exciting task but undertaking a thorough spring cleaning of your home won’t just help remind you why you loved it in the first place, it will even have positive effects on your health. If you use the right products that is…

We’ve enlisted the help of Marilee Nelson, Co-founder of Branch Basics one of the top non-toxic, plant and mineral based cleaning brands (with products that actually work), to give us tips on how to take on some of our biggest cleaning challenges.

Let’s start with our health. Are side effects from cleaning something that we truly have to be concerned about?

Most people overlook the fact that the “dirtiest” place in their home may be the invisible air they are breathing – especially after using conventional household cleaners that are loaded with chemicals. Studies show that using conventional cleaning products may be equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day! These products are absorbed through the skin, inhaled into the lungs, and ingested as chemical residues that remain after dishes, laundry, and other household items have been washed. 

They have been linked to reproductive disorders, obesity, neurological problems, endocrine disruption, headaches, cancer, asthma, birth defects and more. We like to say that people with allergies or those that are chemically sensitive are our “canaries in the coal mine”, their symptoms are warning signs for those of us that are seemingly healthy.

What about the products from Branch Basics – are they safe for those with skin and other types of allergies?

Yes, Branch Basics Concentrate‘s ingredients were chosen with the most sensitive in mind, from babies and the elderly, to people with peanut and tree nut sensitivities, skin and respiratory issues, chemical sensitivities and compromised immune systems. The majority of people should not have an allergic reaction to the ingredients in this product. There are no common allergens such as wheat, gluten, soy, dairy, citrus, nightshades, peanuts, tree nuts, or harmful chemicals. We avoided synthetic preservatives, as they are considered by dermatological associations to be the number one cause of contact dermatitis.

Since it was really important that our formula was not an eye or skin irritant, we had many sensitive people test before we would give final approval for ingredients. Then we went the extra mile and had third party end-product testing that reveals the properties of the formula after the ingredients have been mixed and how a formula impacts the body. The results? Better than any the testing lab had ever seen –  even better than natural soaps! Our formula tested 100% to be like the control in the skin irritation test.

What is the most toxic chemical found in your average cleaning product that you won’t find in Branch Basics?

Without a doubt one of the most toxic ingredients found on the label of the average cleaning product (both conventional and those labeled “non-toxic”) is the word “fragrance” which is unregulated and usually represents a synthetic fragrance recipe that is actually a cocktail of 100+ chemicals that are neurotoxic which affect brain function, as well as asthmagens (trigger asthma), endocrine disruptors that affect hormone balance, thyroid disruptors, and obesogens that are linked to weight gain, metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

In addition, most products used to clean clothes have proprietary signature fragrance recipes which are designed to impregnate and stay in clothes. The unscented versions add masking chemicals, which simply cover up the fragrance with another chemical. Think about it, you wear your clothes 24 hours a day, your body never gets a break or rest from exposure to these products.  At night when you are supposed to be resting, repairing, and rejuvenating, instead, you are detoxifying chemicals from the pajamas, sheets, and bedding. Definitely avoid products with synthetic fragrance!

Okay, let’s get to cleaning tips. If we want to do a thorough spring cleaning, where should we start? Is there a part of the home that many of us forget to clean?

For the best spring clean ever, first clean up your cleaning products!  The simple removal of all cleaning products with harmful ingredients from the home creates an immediate and dramatic improvement in your home’s air quality. We just don’t realize how much this can impact our health. The replacement with just one versatile non-toxiccleaning concentrate is a minimalist’s dream. Your space, time, energy, pocketbook, and wellbeing will reap the benefits!

We all have grout that could use a makeover – do you have any tips on making grout look brand new?

Spray Branch Basics Bathroom solution on dirty grout lines and let soak in for 1-5 minutes. Scrub clean – an old toothbrush works great, we also have a scrub brush that we love. Wipe dry. That may be all you need!  For a stronger treatment wet the grout, sprinkle Oxygen Boost on the grout line, wet the Oxygen Boost thoroughly with Branch Basics Bathroom spray and let sit 5-10 minutes. Scrub surface and rinse or wipe residue off. Let fully dry to see results –  Repeat if necessary.

Wow, that sounds simple enough! What would you suggest to use on hardwood floors on a daily basis to avoid tarnishing its natural beauty?

Have a remove shoes policy in your home to reduce tracked in dirt, dust and debris. The accumulation of dust plus shoe traffic eats away at a hardwood floor’s luster. HEPA vacuum or mop with a microfiber to reduce abrasion and keep floors clean and scratch free.

How about leather – it wears well over time but also needs periodic care. What do you suggest as a way to clean it and keep it conditioned?

For cleaning – test on inconspicuous area first for compatibility and color-fastness. Spray Branch Basics All Purpose on a damp microfiber or cloth and wipe the leather furniture or clothing. For stubborn stains, brushing with a small brush may be necessary.

For periodic conditioning of leather use organic or wildcrafted lemon essential oil. Dampen a microfiber with water and 10 to 15 drops of lemon essential oil, wipe the leather surface with the cloth. The lemon oil will help prevent cracks and promote the longevity of the leather.

For a tough stain on fabric (for example on sheets or on the sofa) what do you recommend to get it out? Do Branch Basics deal with all types of stains?

We’ve never met a stain we couldn’t beat. For most stains, just spray All Purpose* on the stain and gently agitate the fabric. Sprinkle Oxygen Boost** on the stain, wet with All Purpose, gently agitate to boost stain removing power. For grease marks, oil stains, or the toughest stains that won’t go away despite numerous attempts, try this. Wet the fabric, put straight Concentrate on the stain, sprinkle Oxygen Boost on top, and use a brush (a toothbrush works great) or the fabric of the garment rubbed together to gently agitate the stain. It will get soapy and the Oxygen Boost will act as an abrasive. If the fabric is white you can let Oxygen Boost sit for a day or two.

To avoid lightening of non-color fast fabrics soak the treated garment in water for about 15 minutes to overnight and then wash in washing machine as directed with 1 scoop of Oxygen Boost and ¾ capful of Concentrate. On upholstery, wipe away any residue of Oxygen Boost.

*Note:  We recommend mixing Branch Basics All Purpose using distilled water for stain removal, especially on fabrics and upholstery to make sure there are no watermarks from the minerals in tap water.

**Always test fabric first with Branch Basics and Oxygen Boost in an inconspicuous area to make sure the fabric doesn’t lighten

Could you share one non-product related cleaning tip?

Make new clothes colorfast  so they don’t bleed on other clothes you are trying to wash. Soak new brightly colored clothes in a gallon of water with 1 cup white distilled vinegar and ¼ cup salt. Let soak 24 hours. Rinse. Place garments in clean water to see if any dye is released – if so – repeat process for vibrant colorfast clothes that won’t bleed on your other laundry.