Buttoned Up: Still cleaning with toxic chemicals?
Sadly, many of the sweet-smelling, bubbly concoctions we use to clean our homes are poisonous if ingested and can be harmful if inhaled or even touched.
It's a disturbing thought: The very things you are using to make your house sparkle and shine are actually making it toxic. But more and more Americans are starting to make the shift to cleaners that are more environmentally friendly.
It is time we all made the shift and eliminated cleaning toxins from our homes. To help you make the change, we've done some research and gone on the hunt for affordable "green" alternatives and listed them for you here.
The top four toxic compounds to avoid
1. Drain, oven and toilet cleaners containing ammonia or chlorine bleach. By far the most acutely dangerous products are corrosive drain cleaners, oven cleaners and acidic toilet cleaners. Corrosive agents can cause severe burns to the skin, eyes and esophagus. These items also typically contain chlorine bleach and ammonia, which not only have highly irritating fumes but also combine with other chemicals to produce lung-damaging gasses, such as chlorine gas.
2. Laundry detergents, disinfectants, laundry stain removers and citrus cleaners/degreasers. These products often contain a class of chemicals called alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs). Because they disappear down the drain, they get into our water. These chemicals do not easily break down and have been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen. Not only do these harm fish and other wildlife, but have been shown to rapidly grow estrogen-sensitive breast-cancer cells in test tubes. You can find out which brands contain these by using the Household Products Database from the National Institutes of Health (http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/index.htm).
3. All-purpose cleaners with the sudsing agents diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA). When these substances come into contact with nitrites, they may react to form carcinogens that could readily penetrate the skin.
4. Cleaning products with fragrances. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has found that one-third of the substances used in the fragrance industry are toxic. Some of these may be capable of causing birth defects, central-nervous-system disorders, cancer, eye and skin symptoms, and actually causing broad chemical sensitization. Unfortunately, because the chemical formulas of fragrances are considered trade secrets, companies aren't required to list their ingredients, but merely label them as containing "fragrance." Be on the safe side and avoid scented products.
Four cheap green alternatives that work
We know that green cleaners are often more than twice as expensive on a unit price/ounce basis as the toxic ones, so they may appear to be out of reach if you are on a budget. But there are many ways you can still get a good, safe clean on a tight budget using products you already have around the house. Here are four alternatives:
1. Baking soda, water and soap oven cleaner. Rather than spraying toxic gunk, fill a spray bottle with warm water and spray your oven -- really dousing it. Then sprinkle the bottom of your oven with a generous amount of baking soda. Leave it overnight. Then the next morning, wipe off the baking soda. Then use a wet, soapy sponge to scrub away the remaining grime. For three additional green oven cleaners, check out TipNut.com (http://tipnut.com/oven-cleaner-recipes/).
2. Baking soda and vinegar toilet-bowl cleaner. Mix 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse. A mixture of borax (two parts) and lemon juice (one part) will also work.
3. Washing soda, borax and soap laundry detergent. If you are on Pinterest these days, it is hard to miss all of the tutorials on how to make your own laundry detergent. Just in case you've missed them, here is a wonderful step-by-step tutorial on how to make laundry detergent on BabyCenter here: http://blogs.babycenter.com/life_and_home/322012-homemade-detergent-turned-out-so-fresh-so-clean/.
4. Water, baking soda and vinegar all-purpose cleaner. Mix 1/2 gallon of water with 1/2 cup of vinegar and 1/4 cup of baking soda and you have a terrific cleaner to use on virtually any surface.
The writers are co-founders of Buttoned Up, a company dedicated to helping stressed women get organized. Send ideas and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more columns, go to scrippsnews.com.