U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studies indicate that elevated concentration of household chemicals persist in the air long after being used. Long-term exposure to chemicals inside our homes can be harmful to our families.
Find and replace the toxic products in your home: Under almost everyone’s kitchen sink is a collection of toxic chemicals in the form of bug killer, disinfectants, furniture polishes, and many others. When you are using these products, you are bathing your home in poisons, which eventually could have a negative impact on your family’s health. In addition, household poisonings are one of the highest threats to the health of children.
An excellent first step in greening your house is to grab a note pad and a garbage bag. Go around to all the cabinets that store household chemicals, and take a look at their labels. If it says poison, danger, warning or caution on the can or box, write down what function it performs and throw the unused portion in the garbage bag (if it is sealed tightly). When finished, seal the bag, put it in a well-ventilated area (such as outside or in a garage) and look up when the next Household Hazardous Pickup Day is in your neighborhood.
Buy nontoxic household cleaners: Standard cleaning products contain chemicals that may affect ecosystems by contaminating soil and groundwater. Alternatively, natural, biodegradable household cleaners break down easily in the environment and rely on natural ingredients that protect the water and wildlife near your home.
A growing number of eco-friendly cleaning products are coming onto the market. Be sure to watch for greenwashing! Products that claim to be a greener choice because they use less packaging or water will most likely have the same dangerous chemicals in a more concentrated form. Try to find products that advertise that they are nontoxic and don’t use fragrances.
Make your own household cleaning supplies: There are many inexpensive, easy-to-use natural alternatives which can safely be used in place of commercial household products. Recipes for homemade cleaning products can easily be found on the Internet and they will cover every aspect of home cleaning. Some of the most commonly suggested ingredients include baking soda, unscented soap, lemon, borax, and white vinegar.
- All-purpose cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda into 1/2 gallon of water.
- Bathroom cleaner: One part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water. Is especially effective on mold.
- Carpet stain remover: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray on stain and leave for several minutes. Finish by washing the area with warm soapy water.
- Disinfectant spray: Mix 2 teaspoons borax with 4 tablespoons of vinegar and 3 cups hot water.
Use all-natural drain cleaners: While the first rule in proper drain maintenance is to keep hair and other items from going down the drain in the first place, even the best maintained pipes will become clogged over time. Below are instructions how to make a safe, nontoxic drain cleaner.*
- Mix 1/4 cup salt with 1 cup baking soda and pour down the drain. Let it sit for 3 to 6 hours.
- Boil 1 cup vinegar with 1 cup water in a microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl.
- Pour the boiling vinegar solution down the drain. The mixture will fizz, and quite a bit of foam may come up the drain and into the sink. Boil more of the mixture and repeat 1 to 2 more times after the fizzing stops.
- Turn on the faucet and flush the vinegar and baking soda out of the drain to avoid damage to the pipes from the acid solution.
Don’t use disposable cleaning products: Disposable cleaning products end up in landfills and can account for a large portion of your home waste stream. Here are some tips to avoid these products:
- Paper towels: Use natural-fiber rags and towels instead.
- Sponges: Use sponges made from recycled materials. Avoid synthetic or natural sponges.
- Avoid single-use mops or dusters: Opt for natural-fiber multi-use mops. Dust with a damp, natural-fiber rag.
This is a chapter from the book “The Ultimate Guide to Greening your Home.” SCGH readers are eligible for a 20% discount on the digital versions of this book. (Enter SIERRA when prompted for a Discount Code.)