Upham's Corner Online

Change Your Lifestyle - Use only Safe Household Cleaners

The Boston Water and Sewer Commission** suggests we change our lifestyles when it comes to cleaning our homes, a change for the better - for ourselves, our families and our environment.  Most of the common household cleaners are toxic - safer alternatives exist and work well.  Changing our approach to cleaning will improve our health and the health of the planet.
Safe Household Cleaners

Marketing Ploys - Toxic Cleaners are "Good"

Manufacturers of household cleaners have convinced the American public that cleaning chores require "tough" cleaners to get the job done right.  Unfortunately, this often translates to toxic chemicals. Promoting specialized cleaners is also a marketing sales pitch.  Unless free of toxic and long-term harmful chemicals, cleaning products are to be avoided.  Your health and the health of the planet require it.

Every time you use a cleaning product which contains a toxic or otherwise dangerous chemical, you are exposing yourself and your family to its effects, be it through inhalation, absorption or ingestion.  Product use leaves a residue.  You and your ecosystem are being contaminated.  Residue atomizes (gets into the air), remains on surfaces that are touched by people and pets or objects used by them, gets into the soil or goes down the drain, thereby extending the footprint of toxic effects to more than just yourself.

To use an extreme but valid comparison, think of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Thus far, more than four years after the nuclear plant was damaged, attempts to contain the radiation have failed. Contaminated water continues to leak into the ocean, in essence contaminating the entire planet. 

List of Recommended Cleaning Products

Common household products that act as effective substitutes for chemical cleaners:

Baking soda cleans, deodorizers, and scours
White vinegar cuts grease, removes mildew and wax build up and kills weeds
Lemon kills household that chariot and removes odors
Cornstarch polishes furniture and removes stains from carpets and rugs
Washing soda removes laundry stains and cleans walls, tiles, sinks and tubs
Unscented soap all-purpose household cleaner

Commit to New Cleaning Habits

Make a strong commitment to informed decision-making when it comes to cleaning your home, your office, your garage and your yard.  One approach is to learn about the dangerous chemicals so that when you are shopping, you can look for only the products that appear to be safe.  The opposite approach is to decide today to only use safe cleaners of the type recommended by BWSC.

Where are They?
Better to stay completely away from the household cleaner section of your grocery store. Learn where the baking soda is, the white vinegar, the lemons, the cornstarch, the washing soda and the unscented soap.

Learn How
Take the time to read "how" to use the safer products but also be patient when learning how to use them in your home.  Your cleaning routines will need to change.

The Good Guide
Begin using the Good Guide website http://www.goodguide.com which helps you find safe, healthy, green & ethical products based on scientific ratings.  You will find your favorite products all listed.  If they rate highly, great.  If they don't, you will be able to find better alternatives.  Note this site does not give general information but rather product information.  Searching on "vinegar" will bring up fish and chips.

The Chemicals
Become familiar with the dangerous chemicals used in cleaning products.  This approach is best for those who are scientifically oriented or just plain curious. Get to know them by scientific name, their toxicity and in what types of products they are used.  Be aware that the complete list of chemicals is a long and complicated list.  Some have immediate toxic effects while others are toxic with buildup.  For some chemicals, the danger comes from mixing with other chemicals not in the cleaning product.

A good place to start is with the Organic Consumers Association  http://www.organicconsumers.org.
An excellent starting report is: "How Toxic Are Your Household Cleaning Supplies?"

Become a fan of the Environmental Working Group.  http://www.ewg.org
Their key issues include consumer products, energy, farming, food, water and toxics.  

They describe themselves as "the nation's most effective environmental health research and advocacy organization.  Our mission is to conduct original, game-changing research that inspires people, businesses and governments to take action to protect human health and the environment."

Begin by Cleaning House

Make a list of all the household cleaners in your home.  In fact, gather them all in one place and begin your research.  Good Guide will be helpful here.  Depending on the rating (separately health, environment and society) and what is important to you, organize your cleaners into groups.  Those you do not want to use again, set aside for Household Hazardous Waste day in your community.  DO NOT throw them into the trash, nor pour them into the sink.

Identify products you might consider purchasing and set aside time for a field day at your local grocery store.  Ask around - friends, family and co-workers - to see if anyone has a product they would recommend.  Again, research before buying.

Good Luck !!  Planet Earth thanks you.

** Sep/Oct 2013 "Currents" from Boston Water & Sewer

Posted: November 20, 2013     Nancy J Conrad

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