When I was a kid, I knew the house was clean because it smelled like fake lemons and pine. But it may not have been as clean as my family thought: The EPA estimates that the air inside our homes can be as more polluted than the air outside, in part because of chemical cleaning products.
Indoor air pollution can lead to serious health problems like allergies and asthma; childhood asthma rates are now at epidemic levels, with more than seven million children affected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s one in 10 kids. So I’ve spent the last few years replacing those familiar from childhood with green cleaning products that I know are safer.
I have a homemade arsenal of cleaners concocted from olive oil, baking soda and vinegar. To my family, vinegar smells clean. I weeded out anything containing ammonia, chlorine, nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), triclosan, DEA, TEA, hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide or sulfuric acid. First to go were labels that showed the words “warning” and “danger” or—god forbid—a skull-and-crossbones.
Because if something is dangerous to put on your skin or eat, then why in the world would you want to put it on something that you touch or eat from?
I also try to avoid artificial fragrances, which can contain hundreds of individual chemical ingredients, including phthalates that have been linked to hormone disruption. That one is tricky because it’s often listed as “fragrance” or even “natural fragrance,” but typically unless a label lists the components of what scents the product—such as lavender essential oil, etc.—then the word “fragrance” means it’s synthetically derived.
I have a homemade arsenal of cleaners concocted from olive oil, baking soda and vinegar. To my family, vinegar smells clean. And that’s a good thing, because grandmother-approved cleaners like vinegar and these other household staples don’t contribute to indoor air pollution, but they still leave your house sparkling.
And they save you money: A $10 investment can clean your house for months—even a year! Want to get started? Follow these steps:
1. Clean your cupboards of anything that contains the toxic substances listed above. Check Earth911.org to find out where to safely dispose of these products.
2. Replace your cleaners with things you can eat: Vinegar cleans surfaces and glass, baking soda makes a great scrub and olive oil leaves wood shiny.
3. If you buy natural cleaners, avoid those that contain “fragrance,” which is a red flag for additional chemicals.