Is my home making me sick? Was one of the hardest things I ever had to consider. Home is supposed to be an escape, a place you go to feel safe. But once I started noticing that every time I would be home I would become dizzy or would cough a lot, I barely wanted to be there. However, even though I knew I was avoiding home, it wasn’t enough for me to take it seriously, but what came next made it impossible for me not to look for answers.
I started noticing it was more common for young people to become ill. For instance, a lot of my friends including me were experiencing
- respiratory issues
- inconsistent, heavy and painful cycles
- Weight Loss Issues
- Mood Swings
Plus a few young people I was associated with were being diagnosed with cancer. Some survived, but I had a few loved ones that unfortunately passed away. I needed answers to see if any of this was preventable or at the least, manageable. This led me down a road of research, and even though I still can’t confirm exactly where health problems come from, I learned a lot. I hate getting sick, and I was also scared of being at risk of fatal health problems.
One thing about knowledge, once you start learning you can’t stop. But most importantly, it opens your mind to start really paying attention to things you once ignored. For instance, ever started researching a new car you liked, and then you notice it’s everywhere? That's Frequency Illusion.
Knowledge Is Power
He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding -Daniel 2:21
That was me! Through my research I started noticing things more frequently and started to notice some changes in my own health. For example, during this time, I remember my cycle was out of control, it had gotten to the point where it was nonstop for months and I wasn’t really paying attention to it until I started feeling weak and tired.
I’m sure you’re wondering why did it take months for me to stop ignoring a very clear problem? The short answer is abnormal cycles were my norm. Now I will admit, this was definitely different, so I eventually went to the ER to get some answers. The doctors ran some tests and eventually concluded Birth Control as the solution. When they gave me those pills, especially me, a person who hates taking medicine, that changed everything because I knew I really needed to find an alternative.
The main reason is that I didn’t want my body to become dependent on them, and also medicine in my experience hardly ever fixed a problem. It could mask it, and give me temporary relief, and birth control pills were no different. Plus they had some side effects that made me not think it was worth it. So I did what millennials do best, to google I went.
Through my research for an alternative, I realized heavy painful cycles could be caused by a hormonal imbalance, and the chemicals in household products and personal care products could be one of the things that cause this disruption. I started remembering different situations in my life where loved ones would warn me about using all those unnecessary chemicals and I suddenly felt regret because I really did ignore them and it’s unfortunate it took something happening for me to have a desire to even want to change. They warned me for years.
They tried to warn me, but I wasn't ready to change.
Nina Pop Williams
Blogger & Video Content Creator
For example, when I was living with my sister, and she started using Method Cleaning Products, she would mention how the other brand’s ingredients were too strong. I on the other hand insisted on using those brands because I felt the chemicals are what made the products work better. Or the times when my brother used to complain about the chemicals in my nail polish and I would just roll my eyes and think he was doing too much.
Then I started observing myself when I used certain products. That’s when I was reminded of the time I had to ask, is my home making me sick? I realized every time I would clean I would cough, every time I was in a room with plug-ins I was dizzy, and each time I cleaned without protective gloves like the label warns us my skin would become irritated or super ashy, and every time I would use certain fragrances I would break out. For years, I thought I had sensitive skin, breathing problems, and just normal inconsistent painful cycles. But I had no idea I would later find out that none of this needed to be my norm.
My decision To Go Natural and Choose Low Toxic Living
The more I studied myself and my symptoms, the more I realized a common denominator was my cleaning products, beauty products, and food choices. I was so shocked to discover the ingredients in these products were literally making me sick. It only takes about 7 seconds for something you rub on the skin to absorb into your bloodstream, the chemicals we rub on our skin can have side effects that we aren’t aware of. Also cleaning products, go into the air that we breathe, so what could those chemicals be doing to our lungs?
Do you see how easy it was for me to go down a rabbit hole of learning? I was so interested to learn more, but I was also shocked, scared, and confused. The more I realized chemicals like fragrances could be the reason I always felt dizzy when I would come home, or why I would always be coughing. Plus my shampoo could have been the reason my skin was breaking out, and my hair felt stripped and never stayed moisturized or those chemicals could be the reason my cycle was all wonky because it was causing me to experience signs of hormonal imbalance. The observations were becoming endless and I needed to find a solution.
During my research, I discovered a health and wellness community that practiced low toxic living. And I was like “what the heck is that, it’s chemicals everywhere and they’re all toxic?” But the people who chose that lifestyle were thriving as they found ways to use fewer chemicals in their household. It sparked my interest. The more I searched for solutions and products that I should avoid the more I was opened to learning natural alternatives and becoming part of the natural community.
Stop Using Chemicals?
-Nina PoP WIlliams
What the heck, that's not even possible, it's chemicals everywhere... So I Thought!
So now that I pretty much knew the answer was yes to my original question, “is my home making me sick?" I figured switching to non-toxic products was a good place to start, but like I said I wasn’t fully believing this was possible because I still believed it was chemicals everywhere. Because of that, I decided to do a home detox and try low toxic living instead.
If you are reading this, and relating to it, maybe you’re thinking low toxic living could possibly work for you as well. So to give you an idea of where to start, as a newbie to this chemical-free lifestyle, especially if you’re like me and don’t know all the chemicals we should avoid, I suggest starting with what makes you comfortable. I used “clean apps” such as the EWG app, to scan products around my house, and for anything that scored red, and was considered “dirty” aka toxic, I swapped it with a natural alternative. I started with my hair care products, personal care products, and household cleaning products.
Black hair care products & hormonal imbalance
Scanning black hair care products around my home, and reading the side effects of some of those chemicals really made me believe that they were causing my body to show signs of hormonal imbalance. And as a result, I was experiencing this never-ending cycle that had me tied to birth control pills among other things. I know it may sound a little extreme but think about it, how many women you know are struggling with irregular cycles, heavy cramping, fibroids, fertility issues, diabetes, obesity, early menopause, fatigue, anxiety, or even chin breakouts? These could all be signs of hormonal imbalance. I’m sure you know at least one person in their 30s with these symptoms.
Knowing it wasn’t just me going through this made me want to take this seriously and find solutions. Being health conscious is more than just what we choose to eat, it’s also what we choose to use. If you’ve been following me, you know my mom passed away from breast cancer when I was 14yrs old. So once I started noticing these health concerns, looking for ways to manage and prevent fatal health problems really became a lifestyle.
It’s been a ton of studies showing how the ingredients in household products and personal care products are increasing health concerns and cancer risk. That’s probably not surprising, most of us are aware that some of the popular products on the shelves have chemical ingredients in them, but I don’t think as women, we’re aware of what constant exposure and use of these chemicals really mean for our future.
I have to believe that all those chemicals that are being mixed together to get the perfect formula for the perfect scent, or the most powerful cleaning agent, must have some type of side effects. Some chemicals are probably not even tested, and we know for a fact that some are even banned in other countries such as titanium dioxide. When I was experiencing skin irritation, headaches, coughing, fatigue, and sometimes dizziness after using those products, what exactly was my body trying to tell me?
Why I Limited The Black Hair Care Products I Used
I believe my body was trying to tell me, that it was rejecting something in my home. It was slowly showing me signs of hormonal imbalance and it might be linked to the black hair care products I was using, as well as the household cleaning products I used. Even though it’s still not enough evidence out there, so much research has been done that is finding reasons to be concerned with some ingredients companies are using. Some of the possible side effects are hormonal imbalance, asthma, fibroids, or fertility issues.
Now I don’t know every hair product on the market or its side effects, I’m just sharing my experiences and why I choose to swap out certain products for a natural alternative. If you’re like me, you love a good smelling product. When it comes to hair products, I was always looking for the best smelling ones that actually worked on my hair texture, the more fragrances the better. Our hair loves moisturizers, conditioners, shampoos, gels, etc. Wash days are like spa days in my household.
Looking at the ingredient labels on products I was using, I saw things like sulfates, and parabens and each one of those ingredients was considered bad for health.
What are Parabens
Parabens are hormone-disrupting chemicals that are used in some products to help mold and bacteria from being able to grow. It acts as a preservative to help prolong a product’s shelf life. When parabens enter the bloodstream, they can mimic estrogen hormones. Which could possibly encourage dangerous cell growth.
I now try to avoid ingredients such as propylparaben, methyl 4-benzoate, and anything that pretty much end or begin with "paraben" or "benzoate". Because most likely these ingredients are some form of paraben, and our skin or hair shouldn't be absorbing it. Another ingredient to avoid is phthalates.
What are Phthalates and what problems do they cause
Phthalates are a group of chemicals that basically make plastic flexible and durable. Some types of phthalates have been considered endocrine disruptors and can possibly cause damage to the liver, kidneys, reproductive systems, and even lungs.
These chemicals can be found in hair sprays, soaps, detergents, shampoos, nail polishes, deodorants, and more. I definitely appreciate the companies that have switched to a safer alternative. But some still use these, so I try to avoid products with ingredients that say phthalate, DBP, dibutyl, benzyl, and of course sulfates.
Sulfates can strip away too much moisture in our hair, and I think black hair care products learned that we need moisture so our hair won’t become dry and brittle. Sulfates are chemicals so it is possible to experience skin irritation or redness when using products with these ingredients.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a common one I’ve seen. It makes products foamy and increases the cleaning power. Other ingredients to also avoid is PEGs, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, artificial coloring, and fragrances.
Fragrances Scare Me
Fragrances are a group of known and unknown chemicals put together to make a product smell like something else. It can be like 100 different ingredients making that one fragrance. Fragrances were one of the hardest things for me to let go of. And unfortunately, they still creep back in, because sometimes when I order products the company will still have fragrances on the packaging or in the ingredients. But as much as I love a good smelling product, when possible I opt for more natural scents and essential oils.
My biggest issue with fragrances is the respiratory irritation I used to get when using them. It contributed to so much of my coughing and breathing issues. The chemicals that create fragrances can be allergens, hormone disruptors, asthma triggers, neurotoxins, and possible carcinogens. Meaning they could be increasing our risk of cancer. Although, not all carcinogens or people exposed to them our vulnerable to cancer, I still think it was something worth swapping out.
How Do These Products Contribute To Hormonal Imbalance
These chemicals can possibly be confusing our endocrine system. The endocrine system coordinates the tissues and organs of the body and is connected to our hormones.
Basically, the EDCs aka endocrine disrupting chemicals are chemical mixtures that interfere with our hormone functions. It can be found in food, food packaging, sprays, pesticides, air pollution, and personal care products. So ingredients like carrageenan which is found in some toothpaste brands, I decided to toss. Other ingredients with bad side effects are the ones found in body washes and other products. These are benzyl alcohol, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, phenoxyethanol, titanium dioxide, triclosan, and propylene glycol.
Eating organic options, avoiding plastics, and canned goods can really help limit our exposure to these chemicals. It’s been a slow journey because I like convenience, but I am working on ditching the plastics and switching to more organic eco-friendly things.
Because some of these chemicals are possibly linked to women's reproductive health problems. That’s alarming because of the increase of women that are having difficulty conceiving and maintaining pregnancy.
So it may be a good idea to swap the products with those ingredients, for a “cleaner” option. But don’t break the budget, natural alternatives can get pricey. For me, I like to purchase concentrated natural alternatives when I can. Such as Dr. Bronners all natural castile soap. The one bottle replaces a ton of products for me. For example, I can use it as a facial cleanser, a body wash, and an all-purpose cleaner.
Have fun with scanning items around your home and decide which ones you will swap, and keep in mind, that a ton of products can be replaced with simple ingredients. If you want other apps you can try besides Think Dirty and EWG, I listed a few more down below.
Here’s a list of a few more apps
- EWG Healthy Living
- Detox Me
- Think Dirty
- Bobby Approved
It may also help if you took the quiz on the right side of this page in the sidebar. It’s titled “is my home making me sick? Quiz”
When I started my home detox and opted for more natural products I started to see a lot of different changes the biggest change for me was I no longer coughed as much as I used to when cleaning the house or washing my hair. I don't get sick as often, my skin is starting to clear up more and more, and my cycles are not as painful or heavy.
Once I started to change the way I was eating which I would share more about that topic in another article, I started to see even more improvements. Personally, I know that choosing more natural options has definitely bettered my health and that is why I believe when I was exposing myself to way more chemicals they were silently killing me. I'm not saying I am the healthiest person in the world now, because I'm far from it, but I know that the small changes I made, overall made a big difference.
If you're looking to go natural on any budget, and stay connected by joining our email community, I'm willing to help you as much as possible, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
Household Cleaners and My Concerns
After I cleaned my beauty and personal care products I also went through and scanned my cleaning products. I discovered my go-to products had ingredients like butylphenyl, methylpropional, fragrances, and sodium hypochlorite. Chemicals like these can be found in cleaning products with bleach, or products with a “good” scrubbing power. It can cause headaches, dizziness, and skin irritation, and can cause fertility issues, plus some even have considered it a carcinogen. Which is bad for your health and can disrupt the cellular system which could lead to exposing us to several types of cancers.
What Could I Use?
-Nina POP Williams
I felt like I couldn't use anything, and honestly that made me almost give up.
So I worked towards ditching all of that, by this point of my home detox journey, I was so overwhelmed because I was getting discouraged and I remember thinking, “I can’t use anything”. But boy was I wrong, I had no idea the powers and the benefits of plants. As I searched for natural alternatives I discovered Essential oils. Essential oils are oils derived from plants, and I had no idea the versatility I would experience once I started using them. Spoiler alert, since making the switch to natural alternatives I barely cough or get dizzy when I clean, and my house is no longer making me feel sick.
Learn all about essential oils and the hidden powers
Out of all the products I discovered, I’m so happy I found essential oils. I use them for cleaning, as a fragrance replacement, headache reliever, cough relief, etc. I continued to see people bragging about essential oils, and I needed to learn what the big deal was. In addition to learning the benefits of the individual oils, I also discovered a huge variety of products I could actually make myself simply with essential oils, water, and other random things I already had in my home.
So one of the first things I obviously wanted to know was "are essential oils natural?" and the answer was, "YES, ABSOLUTELY!" Oils are extracted right from roots, seeds, stems, flowers, leaves, or the zest of the fruit, so yes they are definitely natural. However, be careful sometimes companies will add other ingredients and unnecessary oils to the essential oil bottle, which can compromise the quality of the oil.
I put together a guide from A to Z, of essential oils. I share what they smell like, and a few of their benefits. It is published on Amazon, you can check it out here. It's called "Help Me Learn About Essential Oils"!
One of the best things my low toxic living journey taught me is that there are oils for almost everything. Essential oils are used for their medicinal benefits, as well as their amazing natural wide range of scents, and cleaning power. They are also used for aromatherapy and so much more.
I use them in several different ways, I make natural air fresheners for my home, I use them for their health benefits, and in my diffuser for many different reasons. From my experience, the aroma really can be a natural mood booster. You can use them in your beauty products, in your hair care products, in cleaning solutions, as a body spray and perfume alternative, as a pain relief, or to soothe a rash you may have. Essential oils are so versatile, I love having them in different parts of the home for a gazillion different reasons.
In the early stages of my essential oil journey, I tried a ton of recipes, some worked and some didn’t. One problem is not understanding that all oils were not created equal, some oils were not quality oils. The second problem was, everything doesn’t work for everybody and I personally wasted many oil bottles trying to keep up with those long recipes. So to save money, I started making small batches of products, I used castile soap a lot and added a few drops of oils to make it smell like whatever scent I was going for.
Another thing I really like about these oils is the germ fighting, bacteria fighting benefits that are in some of the oils. I’ve gotten through toothaches, and even really bad illnesses from using oils. For instance, every single time I have gotten sick before I knew about oils, I would have to take off work and be uncomfortable for a few days. But since learning about oils, I have a recipe that I created that has stopped every one of my sore throats or coughs in its tracks. Even when I had congestion and upper respiratory issues.
So, do I think essential oils work? Yes. But they are not created equal, so I like to choose really good quality brands such as Plant Therapy or Melaleuca and sometimes I find some good ones at Whole Foods.
You still have to be careful with them, some oils aren’t kid safe or pet safe. And because oils are super potent you should dilute them before applying them to the skin. Just like anything else please do your own research, try small areas first, ask your doctor, and pay attention to your body.
Remember all essential oils are not created equal, and are not kid safe, so please research to see what works best for you and your family.
For instance, tea tree oil is a strong oil and is known to sometimes be toxic to children and pets. Another example is when I used oregano oil on my skin to stop a sore throat and didn’t dilute it, omg it was burning so bad I really thought the pain would never end. So please make sure you are properly using essential oils.
So where can you find these oils? at this point, you can buy essential oils anywhere. Dollar tree, grocery stores, with a network marketing company, or even online. Now, are they all created equal? Absolutely not.
I’ve tried multiple companies some were definitely better than others. So it depends on what you’re looking for, convenience? Price? Quality? Imagine being able to make your own cleaning spray and adding a real lavender scent to it, that won’t expose you to all those chemicals that had you coughing and breaking out.
So maybe you’re thinking what’s the difference between essential oils and fragrances? Well EOs has benefits and fragrances don’t and synthetic fragrances are created from multiple chemicals and EOs come from plants.
How to clean your home without chemicals
Tested and not tested chemicals are everywhere, so I know how important it is to try to clean without using harsh chemicals. The home needs to be cleaned and disinfected so even as we swap products, we want to make sure we’re not compromising the good stuff. I clean my bathroom and kitchen with just a few items, baking soda, lemon oil, tea tree oil, white vinegar, orange oil, and of course castile soap.
I made a random cleaning spray with the Rose Dr. Bronners Castile Soap and a little water, sprayed it on the hard water stains in the shower and it wiped away. Cut through more dirt than I knew was even there. I was disgusted.
For odor, I use an enzyme cleaner, I’m sure you’re wondering what is an enzyme cleaner. It's basically a variety of beneficial bacteria that discharge enzymes to break down molecules found in organic material. So if you spray it on a stain or odor, it will break it down and consume it leaving you with a fresh smelling home and a stainless carpet.
So after you’ve cleaned I’m sure disinfecting alternatives are next on the agenda. Well, lucky for us naturals, disinfectants are super easy to make, you can get some paper towels, and add some water, alcohol, castile soap, tea tree oil, and lemon to create sanitizing wipes. Check out this video of me trying a similar recipe out. Or you can add that recipe to a spray bottle. Essential oils such as tea tree oil and peppermint oil are great bacteria fighters, so I use them in all my natural disinfectant recipes.
Rubbing alcohol kill germs, and helps water evaporate faster. Did you know that rubbing alcohol can also prevent bacteria growth and can kill some bacteria?
To learn more about the different oils so you can use them as a natural alternative to other ingredients that we just don’t understand, I highly suggest grabbing a copy of my essential oil book, because the more you start understanding the benefits of essential oils, it will really help you come up with some amazing recipes and tweak recipes you find online. You can order it from Amazon here.
For tougher, bacteria inviting areas such as a shower, you can do the same. I used to really believe it couldn’t get clean if I didn’t use certain things, and I was so wrong. You can throw out all those toxic shower cleaners and still have a clean, disinfected, tub. The fragrance in that stuff makes it way too harsh for our skin and respiratory system and can sometimes cause irritation. Did you know if you need a little extra scrubbing, baking soda can do the same thing if not better? Sprinkle a little baking soda and spray some vinegar and wipe clean. You can also add essential oils so they’ll have a nice pleasant smell. Of course, always try a small area first. If you have glass mirrors in your shower, you can clean the streaks and prints with a little spray bottle of water, vinegar, and a few drops of lemon oil.
I used to think going natural meant I would have to sit there buying a ton of ingredients and wait longer to see results, it would be time-consuming and most likely stressful, so I was really hesitant about starting. It really doesn’t have to be, once you learn how to tweak recipes with things you love, and already have. For example, I don’t like using rosemary in my hair, but I know that peppermint oil and castor oil is good for natural hair as well, so instead, I opt for those in my hair oil recipes. Once I ran out of sunflower seed oil, but I had grapeseed oil and it still got me moisturized hair in the end.
Now that we’ve discussed a reason your home can be making you sick, some signs that it might be, a solution to try, harmful chemicals to avoid, and some ideas on how to clean using natural alternatives, I want to go ahead and add some floor cleaning ideas. I feel like that’s needed in order to complete the full picture.
Floors hold so much dirt and odor, but that’s okay we got this. Floor cleaning really doesn’t take much in my household anymore, and it has been amazing for my breathing. What changed? I stopped using chemical floor cleaners.
I switched to this simple recipe. I get an empty bottle and pour about:
- 2 drops of alcohol
- Multiple drops of essential oils usually something citrusy
- Shake Well
Then I add that solution to some hot water and mop as usual. It works amazingly, and it smells good too.
For the carpet in my home, I get some baking soda, and essential oils, and sometimes when I’m feeling creative I would add dried flowers. Let that sit for a while and then sprinkle it on the carpet. Then vacuum it up after about 15mins. The smell isn’t strong but it overall creates a nice aroma in the home. Turn on the diffuser for a couple of hours and enjoy.
Natural cleaning products
The DIY Blues is real, and some of us just don’t really want to make our own cleaning products and that’s okay. I definitely have experienced that mood a time or two, and it’s real. When I started making the decision to use toxic-free products, it was around the time I didn’t have a job and I was barely making it.
We all know how expensive the healthy stuff can be, and then when I realized a lot of these products would say “natural” or “plant-based” it wasn’t. This was called greenwashing. Products would label themselves as being a better product simply from adding a few healthy ingredients, but were still using chemicals and this is legal. But as a newbie, this made it more challenging for me to trust what I was buying. I still struggle, sometimes I will buy a product from a line of “natural” products and they’ll slip in a synthetic fragrance, or it’ll say essential oils but then have a bunch of other questionable ingredients.
Here I am 3 years into this journey and I’m currently working two jobs, building a business, and I'm a newlywed. My life is hectic, and I just need to order products from a reliable natural company without compromising my health goals with the fake green labels. So to make it easier, I want to share with you a few products you can research.
It’s by a company called Pur Home, and you can find natural cleaning products for your entire home on their website right here. Convenient, right? I tried the Pur Home brand, back in December and I definitely will be a returning customer. My favorite product out of the two I purchased, is the All Purpose Cleaner. I purchased the lemon and lavender scented Multi-Purpose cleaner and the lavender bathroom cleaner. The natural bathroom cleaner was a light scent, it was not overwhelming, and worked well with picking up dirt and whatever else was on the surfaces.
The Multi-Purpose cleaner, I use mainly in the kitchen area, to clean the microwave, and counters, and to lift annoying stains off surfaces. It has a light essential oil scent, nothing too strong. She has products that are concentrated and sometimes for our convenience she'll have options that are already mixed. If you aren't sure what concentrated products are, they're the ones that you dilute yourself.
As I said earlier, I love concentrated products because as we know most cleaning products already come diluted with the first ingredient usually being water, but when you pay for a concentrated bottle of a cleaning solution you add the water yourself. So one bottle could end up being like 10 bottles of solution for the price of one.
I was introduced to my first set of concentrated household cleaning products when I purchased my Melaleuca membership. Their concentrated products saved me a ton of money at the start of my natural journey and I still have a few of their products now and it's been 2 years since I canceled my membership. After the first year or so I realized I was one person who was barely home, so I didn't need that much stuff every month, so I canceled, plus the pandemic had hit and money was even tighter than usual. I was sad, but I had hope that I would find a new company. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw that Pur Home offered concentrated options, that were natural, and handmade, This is a great option that Pur Home is providing for their customers, and I really appreciate them for it.
Another good company that I haven’t tried yet is “Force of Nature”, “better life” has some good options, and Branch Basics, Puracy, and the Honest Company. You can sometimes find deals on these on amazon.
For those that want to try to start making their own products you only need a few staple ingredients, most you can get from a grocery store or even the dollar tree.
- Essential Oils- Plant Therapy website or Amazon. Sometimes Melaleuca and sometimes Whole Foods have some good options.
- Dr. Bronners Castile Soap- Amazon or your local grocery store
- Baking Soda- Walmart or dollar tree
- Distilled White Vinegar - Walmart of dollar tree
- Rubbing Alcohol- Walmart
- Witch Hazel - Walmart
- Mason Jars- Amazon
- Glass Spray Bottles- Amazon
- Aloe Vera Gel- Amazon or Grocery Store
- Fractionated Coconut Oil- Amazon
- Grapeseed Oil - Amazon or Walmart
- African Shea Butter- Amazon - But Preferably an African Store
You want to look for products with few ingredients as possible. I try to avoid the products that use synthetic fragrances and choose the brands that use essential oils instead. I hope this answers your question of “is my home making me sick”, and not only answered the question but offered a solution as well.