Home Cleaning Products: Hazards and Homemade Alternatives

Posted May 25th, 2012
by Elizabeth Adams (no comments)

The average American doesn’t put much thought into what goes into household cleaners. While it’s not surprising that cleaners contain chemicals, the true health and environmental costs associated with chemical cleaners are often ignored.

Toxins in Households Cleaners

Everyone knows that household cleaners contain chemicals, but most people are not aware how toxic these chemicals can be to humans and animals. Yahoo points out the alarming fact that many of these toxins have a pronounced carcinogenic effect. Carcinogens are substances that have been directly linked to an increased instance of cancer.

Not only do household cleaners pose risks when people are exposed to them in the manner that they were intended to be used, but millions of children are poisoned every year due to accidental ingestion of cleaners. The use of household cleaners has been linked to an increase in dangerous indoor air pollution. People may not be aware that indoor air pollution can pose significant risks in the same way that outdoor pollution can. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that over 11,000 people die every year as a result of indoor air pollution.

The Environmental Impact of Household Cleaners

National Geographic states that household cleaners contain chemicals that can be harmful to the environment such as ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus. Phosphorus is the main ingredient in dishwasher detergent and enters the waterways after being drained from a dishwasher. This chemical builds up in the water system over time and is difficult to filter during the water treatment process. High concentrations of phosphorus have been linked to an accelerated growth of algae that has been known to kill fish and disturb the ecosystem in affected areas.

Fumes from household cleaners contribute to air pollution both indoors and outdoors. People may be surprised that one of the contributing factors of smog is the use of chemical household cleaners.

Occupational Health Hazards Related to Cleaners

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) acknowledges that workers in the cleaning industry are regularly exposed to high concentrations of harmful chemicals. One way to cut down on the risk of health hazards associated with this exposure is by following all OSHA standards that are in place regarding the use of chemical cleaners.

Employees in the cleaning industry may also consider talking to employers about the possibility of using natural cleaning methods.

The Finances of Household Cleaners

The costs of household cleaners are not only related to health and the environment. CBS Pittsburgh reports that Americans spend nearly $10 billion on household cleaning products every year. Households can improve health, help the environment and save money by taking the effort to make cleaning products at home.

Safe Alternatives to Household Cleaners

The Lehigh County, Pennsylvania website provides a comprehensive list of recipes for safe homemade cleaners. Some highlights from the list are summarized below.

  • A small amount of vinegar placed in a saucer can effectively eliminate foul odors in a room.
  • Baking soda is commonly used to absorb odors in enclosed areas such as a refrigerator, cabinet, trash can or litter box.
  • Thyme leaves that have been steeped in boiling water make a chemical-free disinfectant.
  • A mixture containing equal parts water and vinegar can be used in place of a window cleaner.
  • Clogged drains can be opened by pouring a quarter of a cup of salt down the drain and following the salt up with a pot of boiling water.
  • Bathroom mildew, lime deposits and tub rings can all be cleaned by rubbing a sponge soaked in vinegar over the affected areas. Follow the vinegar with a scrubbing of baking soda.
  • Wood floors can be polished with a mixture containing equal parts vinegar and vegetable oil.
  • Tile floors can be cleaned with a mixture containing equal parts vinegar and water.

Safe Methods for Spot Cleaning

Spot cleaning should be addressed separately because effectively removing spots can rely heavily on the type of stain that is being removed. Most substances that stain furniture or carpets can be removed through the use of common household products without adding toxic chemicals to the mix. The list below sourced from the information found at Top Green Cleaning provides spot cleaning tips for specific stain types.

  • Soak up as much of a liquid stain as possible before starting to spot clean.
  • Use club soda or salt to remove a wine stain. Salt is able to absorb the stain. If using salt as a spot cleaning method, make sure that the stain is completely covered.
  • Use a paste made of baking soda and water to remove grease stains. The mixture should be rubbed on the area that is stained and allowed to sit for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Use a mixture of water, vinegar and liquid soap to take care of any type of stain that is found on a carpeted area. The exact mixture should consist of one quart of water with three tablespoons of vinegar and two tablespoons of liquid soap mixed in. Take care not to soak the carpet with the mixture during the cleaning process.
  • Stained clothing can be pretreated with a mixture that is equal parts baking soda and vinegar.
  • Hydrogen peroxide is a safe way to treat scorch stains on clothing and blood stains on any surface. Apply the peroxide with some water and allow the mixture to work overnight.
  • Rust stains can be treated with a soaking of vinegar followed by a salt scrub. If the item that is stained is a clothing item, allow the clothing to dry fully after this spot cleaning process before putting the item into a washing machine.

Consumers can protect their families and pets by using natural and homemade household cleaners in place of harsh, dangerous chemical cleaners. Use the tips listed above to create a safe and clean environment at home.

Categories: Advice

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