Since chemicals are used in just about every cleaning product on our shelves, it’s wise to read the label. We seem to be using cleaning products everywhere in our “war on dirt” – on counter tops, dishes, floors, furniture, windows, clothing, even the “fresheners” floating in our air at home, offices and in our cars. And, while we think these chemicals are dealing with germs and dirt, they may actually be making things worse for us.
Many of the cleaning products we use on a regular basis are based on petroleum and have been implicated in human health and environmental problems. Instead of a “war on germs and dirt” that annihilates every living thing, we can use natural cleaning methods and products without all the potential toxic effects.
What follows are some ideas about how to get things clean the “greener way”.
- Use more natural cleaning products.
As we learn more about the impact conventional cleaners have on our health and that of our planet, environmentally safer and effective alternatives are coming onto the market. Some are made from non-petroleum, renewable materials, they are biodegradable and are non-toxic to animal and plant life.
If you’d rather know exactly what goes into your cleaning products, you can of course, make your own all-purpose cleaner by mixing vinegar or lemon juice or baking soda with some water.
- Don’t breed your own “super bugs”.
According to the FDA anti-microbial and anti-bacterial cleaners aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, they don’t actually clean better than ordinary soap and water. And, overuse may actually promote generations of “super bugs” that may become resistant to any remedies we have. Don’t get sucked in by the advertizing that you “need” to use these especially during the cold and flu season – not so!
- Air quality in homes and offices can be extremely toxic.
Because the buildings we live and work in are better insulated than ever, the use of chemicals – cleaners, solvents, printing inks, etc. – can make the air we breathe worse than the pollution outside. Open your doors and windows regularly to allow fresh air in and toxins out, especially when you’re cleaning.
Use whichever herbs and spices (for instance cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, oranges or dried basil, thyme and oregano or dried lavender) you especially like and put them and a bit of water into a saucepan and simmer for 20-30 minutes (top up the water as needed) to freshen your air.
House plants will help to filter the air and some smell really nice, so place plants in the bathroom, kitchen and bedroom. They also improve the oxygen levels in your home.
- Don’t landfill your toxic cleaners.
If they aren’t safe to use in your homes, they certainly won’t be safe to dispose of in ordinary trash or down the drain. Don’t contribute to polluting your water supply by improperly disposing of these chemicals. Find out how your town or city deals with the collection of toxic cleaners
- Don’t bring the toxins into your home or office.
Walking around all day in cities means you are likely to be bringing in on your shoes particulates, oil, animal waste, antifreeze, pollen and all sorts of other chemicals. None of these substances are good for the kids or pets that may spend time on the floors in your house. Have sturdy mats outside each door and get people to wipe their shoes before coming in. If you can, implement a “shoes off” policy inside your home.
Many office buildings are now installing systems by which the stuff on people’s shoes gets walked- off before they enter the building. Less dirt entering the building or homes means less cleaning and less cleaning means less use of chemicals, water and energy. Makes sense, doesn’t it.
- The numbers tell the story
Only 30% of the 17,000 petrochemicals available for use in the home have been tested for the health effects on humans and the environment.
In the average American home there are 63 (or approx.10 gallons) of potentially harmful chemical products.
Industrial cleaning in America uses 5 billion pounds of chemicals each and every year.
There are 275 active ingredients in anti-microbial cleaners. The EPA calls these pesticides because they kill microbes – beneficial and not.
We had better look carefully at the advertizing slogan from the 1960’s, “Better living through chemistry” because the more we know about these chemicals the more we understand that green cleaning is much better for humans and the environment.