Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Guest Post: Greening Your Cleaning


It is my pleasure to have a guest post today from Janet Little, a certified nutritionist with Henrys Farmers Market. She is sharing tips for creating a clean home naturally. Read on!

While a good scrubbing of the home creates a healthy environment, it’s crucial to know how certain cleaning products can actually be harmful to your family’s health. It’s also equally important to explore safer, earth-friendly alternatives.

Cleaning often involves the use of potentially harmful products, which can be toxic, corrosive, irritating and flammable. Every time you use a cleaning product, you are absorbing its contents into your skin and breathing it into your lungs. Your kids and pets are also at risk as well.

What Are In Commercial Household Cleaners?

Phosphates – These can be found in dishwasher tablets. When they reach waterways, they cause algae to bloom. Algae consume oxygen and block the sunlight from reaching other aquatic organisms. As a result, the other organisms die from a lack of much needed nutrients.

Phthalates – These come from phthalic acid which is used to make dyes and perfumes and has been related to health effects such as organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), reproduction and fertility issues and birth and/or developmental effects. It can also harm the endocrine system, the brain, nervous system and even the immune system (including sensitization and allergies).

Ethoxylated alcohols– Found in washing liquids, these can be harmful because they consist of chemicals such as sodium laureth sulphate, which helps create foaming but is also a possible carcinogen.

Chlorine –Chlorine, a poisonous, greenish-yellow gas described as having a choking odor, is a very corrosive and hazardous chemical used in bleaches and creates toxins in waterways. It is crucial to never mix chlorine with other products such as ammonia, as this can create highly toxic fumes. It also creates organochlorines, compounds that pose an adverse human health risk. Some are even carcinogens. Exposure to chlorine gas can produce chest pain, vomiting, coughing, difficulty breathing and/or excess fluid in the lungs. Exposure to 430 ppm in air for 30 minutes or more will cause death. People with previous lung disease, smokers and those with breathing problems are more sensitive to chlorine.

Ammonia and nitrobenzeneCommonly found in floor polish/glass cleaners, such chemicals can cause respiratory problems and are skin and eye irritants. It is important to never mix ammonia and bleach. The combination of ammonia and bleach produces dangerous chlorine gas, which in small doses can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and the respiratory tract. In large doses, it can kill.

TriclosanAntimicrobial agent found in antibacterial liquid hand soap, detergents and other sanitizing/cleansing products. The popularity of antibacterial products has led to increased consumer use of triclosan. However, the American Medical Association (AMA) has advanced an official recommendation against using antibacterial products in the home due to concerns about antimicrobial resistance. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel reviewed the existing research and found no evidence that households that use antibacterial products are healthier than households that use soap and water and other typical cleansers.

Avoiding Toxic Chemicals

Any product carrying the words CAUTION, WARNING, DANGER or POISON is harmful to living things and should be avoided. It is important to choose household products that do not contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that may hurt your health and the health of your family.

People can try to avoid harsh chemicals in their cleaners by buying natural, non-toxic household cleaning products shopping at environmentally friendly stores such as Henry’s Farmers Market, are available to help reduce the level of toxicity and hazardous waste around your house. Natural cleaning products are made with biodegradable materials and do not contain harmful chemicals.

Tips for Green Cleaning

o Use alcohol as a sanitizer in place of "antibacterial" products.

o Pine oil or citrus-based solvents make great renewable resources, and they will not damage your lungs or cause cancer.

o There’s finally a great use for full-fat mayonnaise: it’s a wonderful furniture cleaner.

o Buy biodegradable sponges than can break down or be composted when their useful life is through.

o Indoor air can be up to 90 percent more polluted than outdoor air. Open your windows whenever possible.

In addition to non-toxic products, switch to hypoallergenic laundry detergents and fabric softeners, dishwashing liquid and household cleaners, as well as environmentally friendly paper towels and bath tissue. You can also use things in your pantry to create homemade cleansers.

10 Ways to Create Natural Cleansers

1. Use olive oil mixed with lemon juice to bring out furniture shine.

2. White vinegar and baking soda will keep your toilet bowl clean.

3. Baking soda absorbs odors, so place a bowl near smelly areas, and/or open a window.

4. Lemon slices placed down the garbage disposal will keep your sink smelling fresh.

5. Spray vinegar and warm water on glass and then wipe off with crumpled newspaper.

6. To clean stainless steel, use baking soda as a paste, and leave on for awhile to remove tough stains.

7. Silver can be cleaned with toothpaste. Copper can be cleaned with vinegar and lemon juice.

8. Use hot soapy water to disinfect cutting boards.

9. Tea tree oil makes a great disinfectant, which can be used to eliminate mold and mildew.

10. A drop of lemon essential oil in rinsing water makes a great disinfectant when cleaning out the fridge, freezer or kitchen surfaces.

Janet Little, is a certified nutritionist with Henry’s Farmers Markets. For more information on simple ways to “green” your household, visit www.henrysmarkets.com.

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