Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Are your cleaning products making you sick?

Brace yourself.

The conventional products we’ve been using to clean our homes are, themselves, rather dirty. Typical household cleaners—from laundry detergent to glass cleaner—traditionally have a number of toxic ingredients like mutagens, neurotoxins, and hormone disrupters.

Read the label and you’ll probably see red flag words like “Caution” and “Poison”; you’ll also find some products don’t disclose their ingredients, which makes you wonder what the manufacturers are hiding. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a term for the 1.6 million tons of common household product waste tossed into landfills every year: “household hazardous waste.”

We’ve always known housework wasn’t fun, but hazardous?

The EPA has a suggestion: Try alternative products when available. Green household cleaners are now easy to find. Big retailers like Target and Wal-Mart Stores sell eco supplies as do many chain grocery stores and every local health food store. In other words, there’s no excuse for adding to the household hazardous waste problem.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to clean green:

Sun & Earth Deep Cleaning Laundry Detergent
As the name implies, this product has a “deep cleaning” formula that’s tough enough to stand up to your worst stains, yet gentle enough for baby’s clothing and people with sensitive skin. It’s hypoallergenic, biodegradable, non-toxic, and free of allergens, dyes, perfumes, and petroleum-based solvents.

Seventh Generation Liquid Dish Soap
Washing dishes will never become one of life’s greatest pleasures, but it will come as close as possible with this dish soap, available in a number of delightful scents. It’s biodegradable, plant-based, packaged in recyclable bottles made partially from post-consumer plastic, and never tested on animals.

Ecover Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Cleaning the toilet isn’t enjoyable but at least you can enjoy knowing that you’re not harming Mother Earth. The process itself isn’t exactly a walk in the park, but this cleaner’s pine-fresh scent makes it somewhat like taking a hike in the woods.

Caldrea Window Spray
You can have clean, streak-free mirrors and windows without using harsh ammonia. Caldrea does a fantastic job (be sure to clean with a lint-free, reusable cloth) and comes in a number of pleasing scents that will have you almost looking forward to washing the windows.

Shaklee's H2 Organic Super Concentrated Cleaner
This nontoxic, natural, double concentrated, and biodegradable product is a super powerful and versatile cleaner. "Use a couple of drops of this, and it's amazing," Oprah Winfrey says of H2 on "You can clean the windows. You can clean the counters. You can clean everything!" Need we say more?

This list is just the beginning. You can (and should) stock your cleaning supply cabinet with all green supplies. Mother Earth, and your family, will thank you.

By the way, I was inspired to write this post when I read this article in my paper about how employees of a local company got sick simply unloading a truck carrying conventional cleaning products.

Question of the blog: How are you approaching spring cleaning?