Nobody LOVES cleaning, but it’s a job that we all do. But did you know that some ingredients in common cleaners are linked to allergies, asthma, and other long-term effects like reproductive harm and cancer? Get your house safely clean this spring by following these tips to make sure you use safer cleaning products for both you and the environment.
1. Make your own green, safer cleaning products.
You can tackle almost any cleaning dilemma with combinations of three key ingredients: baking soda, white vinegar, and liquid soap. Check out a few of our favorite cleaning recipes here. Consider starting with a basic all-purpose cleaner, simply a 50/50 ratio of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. You’ll be surprised at the number of uses for this wonder spray!
2. Use fewer products.
You don’t always need a separate product for each room or special purpose. The DIY all-purpose cleaner is one great way to simplify your cleaning supplies.
3. Learn how to read labels.
Avoid products with the signal words Poison, Danger, and Warning. Don’t be misled by vague, unregulated claims including “natural,” “eco-friendly” and “non-toxic.” Look for third-party certified products, such as those endorsed by Design for the Environment.
4. Buy from companies that fully disclose ingredients.
Consumers need to know what’s in a product to evaluate its safety. If your favorite product does not list ingredients, contact the company to ask for disclosure.
5. Avoid unidentified “fragrance” in products, or choose fragrance-free.
Synthetic fragrances can trigger asthma and may contain hormone-disrupting chemicals. Instead of masking unwanted odors with fragrance, tackle the source.
6. Avoid antimicrobial products.
If your family is generally healthy, the need for routine disinfection is rare. Regular cleaning with plain soap and water along with good rinsing are effective in lifting dirt and microbes away. Don’t confuse cleaning with disinfecting – clean first, and then only disinfect if necessary. Common antimicrobial chemicals to avoid include triclosan, triclocarban, and ammonium quaternary compounds (“quats”). Chlorine bleach is preferable if disinfection is truly needed, but should be used minimally. Instructions for using antimicrobial products vary greatly, so carefully follow directions on pre-cleaning, dwell time, and rinsing to ensure a product will work as intended.
7. Focus on safer cleaning techniques in the kitchen and bathroom rather than relying on a disinfectant.
Examples of safe techniques include: using separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables, and washing the meat cutting board in the dishwasher. Replace kitchen sponges frequently and wring them out to keep dry. Disinfect sponges weekly by boiling in water for a least three minutes or microwave for a minute. Always wash hands after using the bathroom.
8. Wash hands regularly with plain soap and water.
Outside of healthcare settings, antibacterial soap provides no benefit over plain soap and water.
9. Practice safe storage and safe usage.
Never mix products, even homemade green cleaners. Chemicals can have dangerous reactions when combined – for example ammonia and bleach together create poisonous fumes. Always store cleaning products out of children’s reach. Ventilate, use gloves, and other precautions as recommended. Dispose of old, hazardous cleaning products through your county’s household hazardous waste collection program.