Best alternatives for how to clean your home using eco friendly products. What products are considered dangerous, and what are the greenest products for keeping your home clean?
Would you stock your cabinets with known toxins? Spray the air in your home with harmful substances? As much as you hate to think about it, there’s a good chance that you’re doing just that — but only because you’re likely unaware of the harmful chemicals in household cleaners and other products in your home. So what substances are considered dangerous, and what are the greenest products for keeping your home clean? Here’s the dirt on cleaners.
Sure, toxins may be everywhere and nearly impossible to avoid, but there are ways to reduce your exposure to them. It’s not just about simply realizing that you should use eco-friendly products — you should also know which chemicals must be removed from your home first. Here are some of the most harmful chemicals found in common cleaners as well as environmentally friendly cleaning supplies that work well as substitutions:
Why they’re bad: Phthalates are binders and plasticizers that are in everything from soap to fragranced air fresheners. Are you familiar with the warning about BPA leeching out of plastic water bottles into the water? BPA is one of the many phthalates. And phthalates may have actually been linked to asthma, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cancer and male reproductive disorders, to name a few.
An eco-friendly substitute: A better choice when buying is to choose products that are “fragrance-free” or organic products that are “all-natural.” Open a window for real fresh air instead of spraying air fresheners. If you still want a pleasant scent, consider diffusing essential oils throughout your home.
2. Perchloroethylene or “PERC”
Why it’s bad: Perc is used in carpet and upholstery cleaners, spot removers and in dry-cleaning clothes. It is a neurotoxin that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies as a “possible carcinogen.” The exposure comes from inhaling the fumes from dry-cleaned clothes or cleaned carpets. Dizziness and loss of coordination can result.
An eco-friendly substitute: An eco-friendly way to clean spots is to rub undiluted castile soap on the problem areas before laundering. And for “Dry Clean Only” items, take them to a facility that uses water-based cleaners instead of the traditional chemicals.
3. Quaternary Ammonium Compounds or “Quats”
Why they’re bad: Quats are powerful germ killers commonly found in antibacterial wipes and cleaners as well as fabric softeners and sheets. Unfortunately, the use of quats is a dramatic overkill. Yes, they are an effective germ killer, but there are serious side effects associated with them. As a lung irritant, they can contribute to asthma, as well as being a skin irritant. Studies have shown that quats have caused decreased fertility in mice, as well as birth defects. Another disturbing effect of their use is the emergence of “superbugs” — a new strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Sounds like the plot of a drive-in movie, doesn’t it?
An eco-friendly substitute: You can avoid this unnatural disaster scenario by using a natural alternative: vinegar. Use it as a fabric softener and combine it with tea-tree oil for a powerful, yet environmentally friendly, disinfectant cleaner. And, of course, you can add essential oils to it for a pleasant scent.
Why it’s bad: Found in kitchen and glass cleaners, fumes from 2-Butoxyethanol can cause sore throats, pulmonary edema and liver and kidney problems.
An eco-friendly substitute: Simply make a baking soda and vinegar mixture for a multipurpose cleaner or substitute diluted vinegar and newspapers for just-as-effective glass cleaner.
Why it’s bad: Speaking of glass cleaners, ammonia is also commonly found there. When inhaled, it is a strong irritant. It can affect people with asthma or anyone with breathing problems.
An eco-friendly substitute: There is an interesting alternative to ammonia: vodka. No joke.
Why it’s bad: Chlorine is found in mildew removers, toilet cleaners and laundry room bleach. It is an eye, nose and skin irritant. And when bleach comes in contact with ammonia, it can produce a toxic gas that can cause coughing, shortness of breath, watery eyes and breathing problems.
An eco-friendly substitute: Once again, vinegar is the star substitute of choice.
Unfortunately, these are just some of the hazards lurking under your kitchen sink. Your best bet? Always read the active ingredients lists and warnings on the labels — and know that products that come straight from Mother Nature don’t require extensive ingredient lists or warning labels. If you stick with what’s natural, you don’t have to be concerned with minding your p’s and q’s (percs and quats, that is).