green cleaning

Baking soda, lemon and cleaning tools.

Green cleaning is an easy way to keep toxic household products out of your home and away from your family.

It is also generally less expensive, although at times the tradeoff means you'll need to use a bit more elbow grease to get the dirty jobs done.

A few things to consider when choosing between so-called natural and synthetic products: Whether naturally or artificially derived, all ingredients - even water - are chemicals.

There are no non-toxic substances. Even salt can be deadly if taken in too high a dose. 

"Nontoxic" and "Green" Cleaning Products

First and foremost: Don't get taken in by label claims that include words like "nontoxic" and "green". Many people interpret these words to mean a cleaner is totally safe to use - for both the Earth and its inhabitants.

But environmentally friendly and people friendly are two different things. And regulation of what constitutes a "green" or "nontoxic" cleaner is spotty at best. 

Remember, all cleaners contain chemicals. And any chemical, natural or synthetic, can be toxic at some amount. All cleaning products have some environmental impact, although some have less than others.

A majority of the commercial products we use, including ammonia cleaners, chlorine bleach, disinfectants, rubbing alcohol and tub, tile and shower cleaners, will not have a significant effect on the environment when disposed of properly.

Downshift to Simpler Cleaners and Save Money

If you really want to downshift to simpler cleaners and save money in the process, this list of alternative cleaning supplies can help you clean less expensively and with fewer chemicals - truly green cleaning.

Here's a look at green-cleaning alternatives:

  • Vegetable-based liquid soap (such as Castile or glycerin-based soaps), diluted in water for an all-purpose cleaner to wash dishes;
  • Baking soda mixed with water, as an all-purpose cleaner;
  • Lemon juice to remove greasy fingerprints on windows;
  • Toothpaste (white) for cleaning silver;
  • White distilled vinegar diluted in water, to remove baking soda residue and to clean windows;
  • Borax, to clean and deodorize, and to remove toilet bowl stains.

Daily Green Cleaning Tips

Always make sure you have adequate ventilation in the area you're cleaning. 

Even natural cleaning products can be hazardous when inhaled in small spaces, such as in the small, confined space of most bathrooms.

Although less-toxic cleaners are safer for the environment, don't be lulled into a laid-back attitude when it comes to your safety when using any cleaner.

Homemade cleaners generally require a great deal more time and elbow grease. The single exception is this home-mix glass cleaner: 1/4 cup (60ml) of vinegar in 3 and 3/4 cups (900ml) of warm water.

If you'd prefer an easy-to-use, concentrated bio-friendly cleaner, Biokleen concentrated all purpose cleaner, is a good choice. It doesn't have any artificial fragrances, colors, or preservatives and works wonders on tough, greasy jobs.

Chemicals to Avoid for Safer Cleaning

Read labels to minimize your family's exposure to chemicals when buying cleaners. Steer clear of household cleaners with the following ingredients:

  • ammonia (found in glass cleaners; instead, make your own using 1/4 cup [60ml] of vinegar in 3 and 3/4 cups [900ml] warm water);
  • glycol and butyl ethers (found in all-purpose cleaners);
  • terrenes (a chemical in virtually all citrus cleaners);
  • formaldehyde, phosphates and perfumes.

These chemicals can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, nausea, and headaches in the short term. Long-term exposure can damage the liver, kidneys, and the central nervous system.

Look for products that are dye-free, perfume-free, phosphate-free, biodegradable, nontoxic, and highly concentrated.

Prevent Water Pollution at Home

Here are some tips for preventing water pollution at home:

  • Send dirty water down a sink or toilet, not into a street, gutter or storm drain.
  • Clean up spills, lawn and yard clippings with a broom, not a hose.
  • Make sure trash can lids are tightly closed and recyclables are secured to prevent them from blowing into storm drains.
  • Dispose of any potentially toxic products - such as leftover pesticide and yard chemicals, oven cleaner, drain cleaner, motor oil or paints - at a household hazardous waste collection facility. Never pour potentially toxic products in indoor drains or street gutters.
  • Recycle or dispose of oil and other automotive fluids properly. 
  • Rain and overwatering wash chemicals off lawns and yards and into storm drains. Spray only when rain is not in the forecast, and turn off sprinklers.
  • Control pool algae by regulating chlorine levels and by using a pool cover to block sunlight. Don't use copper-based algae control products.
  • Pick up animal wastes and dispose of in a garbage can or toilet.

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