If this Memorial Day finds you opening a family summer house for the season or just overdue for spring cleaning, there's no need to add unsafe chemicals to the grime
Here’s the thing about conventional cleaning products: They’re supposed to make our surfaces shine, but they actually pollute our homes, the environment, and our bodies. Since cleaning product formulas are currently considered government-protected trade secrets, it’s almost impossible to find out what is in these bottles. Many products don’t list ingredients. Basically they can contain a mix of potentially hazardous, often petroleum-derived chemicals including ammonia, synthetic fragrances, and the synthetic antibacterial agent triclosan. These ingredients have been linked to, among other diseases, asthma, cancer, and hormone disruption. In addition, if a product containing ammonia mixes with another containing chlorine bleach, it releases highly toxic chloramine gas. Residues from these cleaners linger in your home for long periods of time after you use them. Not exactly the sort of things you want coating the dining room table, or your kids’ toys. Cleaners are part of the reason the EPA says indoor air is more polluted than outdoor air, even in urban environments. But cleaners affect more than just your home. According to an article published in the L.A. Times, in Los Angeles, vapors from cleaners (as well as cosmetics and other consumer products) are the region’s second-leading source of air pollution.
In the absence of ingredient lists, consumers can look for warning labels. Trust your common sense, bottles marked “toxic” “poison” “danger” or “hazardous” should not be purchased and brought into your home.
Thankfully there are safer ways to get a house clean. You can either purchase plant-based cleaners, which usually contain essential oils instead of synthetic fragrance, from natural product companies who disclose their ingredient on their bottles—even though they don’t have to. Or you can make your own with safe and effective—and sometimes edible—household staples like vinegar, water, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and even lemon.
DIY cleaners can be as simple as screwing a spray nozzle into a bottle of hydrogen peroxide to make an effective bathroom cleaner or just sprinkling baking soda and a squirt of natural castile soap on a damp sponge for a quick tub scrub. It can also be a lot more involved, and the Internet is overflowing with make your own recipes. Or you can pick up a book. Here are a few easy DIY recipes from Planet Home: Conscious Choices For Cleaning And Greening The World You Care About Most:
Once a month or so put half a cup baking soda followed by half a cup vinegar down the drain. Allow this to foam up as it eats away at whatever might be in the drain, and then pour a few cups of boiling water to wash down the crud.
Make a 50-50 solution of white distilled vinegar and water.
Mix a quarter cup lemon juice with half a teaspoon olive oil in a glass jar. Dab solution onto a soft rag for use. Make only as much as needed; it doesn’t keep.
Sprinkle a good layer of baking soda over grease and grime in oven. Spray with water until damp, then re-wet occasionally. Allow to sit overnight. In the morning, grease and grime will wipe away easily.
Happy start of summer. —Alexandra Zissu