Sustainable Scrubbing: Tips for Toxin-Free House Cleaning
Cleaning the house shouldn’t be a health hazard, yet studies have linked many popular cleaning products to asthma and other respiratory ills, developmental problems in young children and breast cancer. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group warns in its Guide to Healthy Cleaning that both toilet and oven cleaners and heavy-duty degreasers that contain hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide or ethanolamine can cause skin burns, blindness and lung irritation.
Products containing ammonia or chlorine bleach produce dangerous fumes when accidentally combined. Even air fresheners and scented cleaning or laundry products can trigger allergies, and often contain suspected endocrine disruptors such as phthalates and synthetic musk.
EWG scientists have evaluated 2,500 cleaning products and posted the results online: Out of 507 all-purpose cleaners, only 59 earned an A for safety and 151 got an F. Other indicators of high eco-standards are a Green Seal or an EcoLogo certification symbol on the product’s container.
There are many good, safe and effective cleaning strategies that use natural ingredients. Chasing Green lists 23 ways to use baking soda in the kitchen, including cleaning grease stains, iron pots and baby bottles. For example, to clean both wooden and plastic cutting boards, use a paste made of one tablespoon each of baking soda, salt and warm water.
Vinegar, which is nontoxic and antibacterial, is another natural go-to cleaner. An equal mix of distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle can clean windows, stovetops, countertops, porcelain and ceramic tile. The Spruce lists ways to use vinegar to clean everything from crayon stains to mold and mildew, and suggests adding a drop of lavender or citrus essential oil if the smell is unpleasant.
Tree Hugger cautions not to discard old, toxic products down the drain or in the trash, where they’ll end up poisoning the water supply or landfill soil. Instead, keep an eye out for local toxic and electronic recycling events.