Concerns over chemicals in cleaning supplies spark DIY revolution among local parents

Posted at 7:25 AM, Oct 18, 2019

CLEVELAND — As a parent, it’s pretty common to constantly wipe down surfaces and disinfect the house, especially with flu season on the horizon. But have you ever looked at the back of conventional household cleaners? A local mother sparked a DIY revolution when she started swapping her harsh cleaning chemicals for homemade ones.

Stacey Kopec is a mom of 4, young kids from Northfield. She said she had an epiphany a few years back while cleaning her bathroom.

“I was on the phone with my mother-in-law, and I was cleaning my bathroom and coughing, and she goes ‘What are you doing?’ and I said ‘I’m cleaning my bathroom, and she said ‘You’re 8 months pregnant’ and it dawned on me,” she said. “What am I breathing in and why is my body trying to eliminate whatever it is I’m breathing?”

She began to read the back of some of the cleaning products underneath her sink.

“I was absolutely horrified when I began to realize, just, the potential side effects that come with some of these products,” she said.

She’s not alone.

Dr. Aparna Bole, a University Hospitals pediatrician at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, said she sees more and more parents becoming interested in what is in their products.

“Patients and families are looking to be more empowered about what it is they're buying, what they're bringing into their homes and what they are exposing their children to,” she said.

She said, at times, some of the harsh chemicals and synthetic fragrances in everyday products could be to blame for health issues in children like asthma and eczema.

“The problem with some of those products, too, is you don't know what all the ingredients really are. They can be irritating to the skin, they can be irritating to the eyes, they can also have an ingestion risk,” said Dr. Bole.

Her solution is just to make them yourself.

“You can use things like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon oil to do almost everything in your home very safely, very cheaply and very effectively,” she said.

Kopec is now an expert at DIY

“It took me a total of about five to six years to swap every product out of my home,” she said.

She took what she learned, and told her friends, who then told her friends. She began holding DIY classes.

“I had lots of people ask me questions so then I said ‘Let's start holding classes.’ It's so simple to do, I want to empower you so that you can do it yourself and save your family money,” said Kopec.

She teaches simple recipes like these:

General Cleaner.png
Recipe for DIY home products.

“We make our own laundry soap. I make my own dish soap. We make our own foaming pump hand soaps which is free of chemicals,” she said.

Deep Scrub.png
Recipe for DIY home products.

The parents who attend the class, claim they’re just as effective and, ultimately, cheaper, too.

“Buying some containers, that upfront is a little bit of an investment, but then they’re reusable so then you can continue to use the products and then refill them,” said Shelley Colbert.

Carpet Powder.png
Recipe for DIY home products.

Kopec said after the initial upfront cost of the bottles, the ingredients cost her around a dollar, but the relief she has knowing what exactly is in her house, is priceless.

“We've noticed a huge change in all of our health. It’s really been amazing over the years,” she said.

Recipe for DIY home products.

Dr. Bole recommends parents to head over to the Environmental Working Group’s website. (EWG.ORG)

The group has some findings of harsh chemicals that you should avoid in your homes.

  • Formaldehyde- sometimes used as a preservative in cleaning products.
  • Chloroform- sometimes used in products that contain chlorine bleach.
  • Quaternary ammonium- found in antibacterial spray cleaners and fabric softeners.
  • Sodium borate- added to many products as cleaning agents.