Many of the classic household cleaning supplies that were used by our parents and their parents before them are fairly toxic. These days we’re more aware of the hazards, but not always sure of how to avoid them. These are some of the problem cleaning supplies and how you can replace them. It’s often surprisingly simple.
Bleach is certainly powerful as a cleaner, and there are times when you have little other choice for getting rid of mildew. But for routine cleaning it’s really more power than you need.
Bleach is an irritant. If you’ve used it, you know this already. The fumes are uncomfortable to breathe. They aren’t good for you or for your children. On top of that, the labels even warn you about too much contact with bleach.
Replace with: Lemon juice. For many purposes, lemon juice does a very good job. Natural sunlight is also great at bleaching out certain stains. They aren’t as strong, but for most purposes they’re quite good enough.
Ammonia is often used in glass cleaners as well as other surface cleaners. Just as with bleach, the fumes are rather unpleasant, and if you read the label you can see that it’s hazardous.
Replace with: Vinegar. It’s not the most appealing of smells, but the scent dissipates as it dries, and it does a fair job of taking other scents with it. Vinegar works great on glass and other hard surfaces, and can be combined with baking soda for many cleaning chores.
3. Air Fresheners
You may love the way air fresheners smell, but their ingredient list may be enough to drive you out of the house. They may contain chemicals such as 1,4 dichlorobenzene, formaldehyde, naphthalene and other VOCs that can cause respiratory effects. These can be a problem if anyone in the house has asthma or other breathing issues.
Beyond that, they don’t usually actually freshen air. They often deaden your ability to smell or simply cover up one smell with another.
Replace with: Open windows are ideal, weather permitting. If not, boil some favorite herbs or some apple peels on the stove, or spray vinegar in the air. Any of these will help with household odors.
4. Toilet Bowl Cleaners
Toilet bowls can get pretty awful looking, and that squeeze bottle is an awfully easy way to clean them, but it’s not the best for the environment. The chemicals in toilet bowl cleaners are very strong, not the kind of thing you want around your family, especially small children.
Replace with: Baking soda plus scrubbing for basic stains, borax plus vinegar, time and scrubbing for worse stains. Or buy a reputable eco friendly brand of toilet bowl cleaner. Seventh Generation makes a toilet bowl cleaner, for example.
Since many products don’t list ingredients, your best bet is to avoid cleaning products that say “Caution.” “Danger” or “Warning” on them. These will have some sort of hazardous chemical you should try to keep out of your house as much as possible.
Products with specific environmental benefits listed are better than ones claiming to be green with no claimed benefits at all. If it says biodegradable, does it say how soon? Are there no phosphates in it? If there’s a clear statement of the benefit, there’s more likely to be something to it. “Natural” and “eco-friendly” don’t mean a thing on their own.