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Get rid of those stinky cleaners!

by Anca

I know I've mentioned this in passing before, but it's such an important and easy thing to do that I've decided to devote a whole entry to it. Why so much emphasis on household cleaners? Quite a few reasons:

  • Over 90% of all reported poisonings in America occur at home- the leading reported cause is household cleaners.
  • Cleaning products are not regulated and are full off chemicals. Many have ingredients that have hormone disruptors, carcinogens, respiratory inhibitors, and neurotoxins.
  • A 2002 survey of contaminants in U.S. stream water found that 69 percent of streams sampled contained persistent detergent metabolites, and 66 percent contained disinfectants.

So if you still want a clean house (and most of us do) but don't want to get sick or hurt the environment doing it, make the switch:

  • Replace your chemical household cleaners with the organic version: There are many alternatives out there to be found in your local health food stores and, increasingly, in other venues as well. For instance, Target now carries Seventh Generation products. When buying organic or "natural" cleaners, don't forget to check the ingredients and make sure you understand them. And of course, dispose of the toxic products responsibly. Some products are safe to dispose of down the drain, while others should be disposed of at a hazardous waste site.
  • Make your own concoction: Use vinegar, baking soda, borax, lavender, lemon juice, and other natural ingredients to create your own cleaners. There are quite a few recipes out there—here are some great ones from CHEC (the Children's Health Environmental Coalition . If you can’t be bothered to search for a recipe but still want to make your own, get a do-it-yourself kit.
  • If you're not switching, use at your own risk! If you decide to stay with the polluting, unhealthy alternative (no, I'm not biased, just honest), be careful! Here are some things to keep in mind:
    1. Read labels and look for the least toxic alternative.
    2. Ask questions of the manufacturer if you're unclear about the ingredients.
    3. Don’t use chemical cleaners when children are present and keep them out of their reach!
    4. Wear protective clothing and ventilate the space after use.
    5. Buy limited quantities.
    6. Avoid using hot water; this enables the volatile chemicals found in many cleaners to more easily evaporate and enter the air in greater amounts.
    7. Never mix cleaners; this may accidentally create substances more hazardous than any of the individual cleaners alone. Same goes when disposing of them.
    8. Rinse cleaned surfaces thoroughly to remove as much cleaning product residue as possible.
    9. Avoid using products like waxes and floor polishes that are intended to make surfaces shiny; they are specifically designed to leave residues behind and usually contain dangerous solvents.
    10. Use cleaners that are applied via sponges and rags; spray cleaners diffuse their chemicals into the air and distribute them across greater distances.


    After all of the above, do you REALLY want to keep using chemicals to clean? I hope the answer is NO!