Toxic Cleaning Agents & Safer Alternatives to Toxic Cleaning Agents

As we’re looking for shortcuts to better enable us to clean, scrub, and remove stains, we’re also stocking our cupboards with an alarming array of toxic substances that, among other things, can cause respiratory problems and damage the nervous system, kidneys, skin, and eyes. While commercials may show happy kids dancing down the street in super-white clothes and bouquets of flowers blossoming from plug-in air fresheners, what they don’t discuss are the hazards inherent in these chemical cleaning agents.

The most obvious risk from household cleaning products, of course, is that of accidental poisoning. But simply keeping cleaners out of a child’s reach doesn’t necessarily mean the child is shielded from dangerous toxic exposures. Don’t expect labeling to tell the whole story, either. Key works works such as “caution” refer only to immediate hazards. Potential long-term effects are not required to be listed on the packaging. (1) A study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safely Commission on home chemicals found more than 150 that are linked to allergies, birth defects, cancer, or psychological abnormalities.

Fortunately, there are effective alternatives available, and they’re a lot easier to substitute for commercial chemical cleaner than you might think. After all, before consumers were lured by the promise of scrubbing bubbles, dancing detergent, and pine scented floor cleaners, they somehow did manage to keep things clean and fresh-smelling. Your home and clothes can likewise be scrubbed and deodorized using today’s labor-saving appliances, but without having to resort to toxic and often caustic cleaning liquids and powders. See list below for a list of safer alternatives to toxic cleaning agents:

Instead ofChlorine bleach. The most common accidentally swallowed cleaning agent is bleach. Chlorine is a lung and eye irritant. In addiction, when chlorine is mixed with ammonia or another acidic cleaning agent, even vinegar, a highly toxic gas is released.

Why not tryNonchlorine dry bleach or a hydrogen peroxide-based liquid bleach.

Instead ofDishwashing detergent. Phosphates that end up in lakes, rivers, estuaries, and oceans after they do down your drain act as fertilizers, causing algae to grow faster, which then pollutes the water.

Why not tryA vegetable oil-based soap for hand-washing dishes or an automatic dishwasher soap that’s low in phosphates, such as Seventh Generation Brand.

Instead ofDrain cleaner. Drain cleaners are among the most dangerous products you can bring into your home. They are corrosive and can cause blindness if splashed in the eyes and chemical burns if swallowed.

Why not try… 1. ) The easiest method of preventing a clogged drain: a strainer. Most bathroom sinks get clogged by hair. 2. ) Cleaning the drain with a long, thin plastic device with sharp “hair catchers” running up the sides, available in hardware stores. Work it down into the drain and slowly pull it out. It may take several tries, but it does work! (Keep it away from kids, however, as it’s sharp.) 3. ) Pouring a handful of baking soda and 1/2 cup vinegar down the drain, then covering the drain for 15 minutes to seal in the carbon dioxide gas. The bubbles should loosen the clog. Rinse with 2 quarts of boiling water and follow with a plunger.

Instead of Furniture polish. Many furniture polishes contain petroleum distillates, which are very dangerous is swallowed.

Why not... 1. ) Polishing unvarnished wood surfaces with almond, walnut, or olive oil. Work the oil in well, then wipe off the excess, as oily surfaces attract dirt. 2. ) Polishing varnishing wood with a mild vegetable oil or soap. 3. ) Revitalizing old furniture with linseed oil (flaxseed oil). 4. ) Washing painted wood with a mixture of 1 teaspoon of washing soda and 1 gallon of hot water. Rinse with clear water. 5. ) Removing watermarks from wood furniture by rubbing toothpaste on the spot and polishing with a soft cloth.

Instead ofOven cleaner. Conventional oven cleaners are among the most dangerous of household products, since they are corrosive and can cause chemical burns if accidentally swallowed.

Why not try1. ) Mixing 1 part vinegar with about 4 parts water in a spray bottle. Spray onto the cool oven surface and scrub. Use baking soda or a citrus-based cleaner on stubborn spots. 2. ) Mixing together in a spray bottle 2 tablespoons of liquid soap (not detergent), 2 teaspoons of borax, and enough warm water to fill the bottle. Make sure the borax completely dissolves to avoid clogging the squirter. Spray on the mixture, holding the bottle very close to the oven surface; leave on for 20 minutes; then scrub with steel wool and a nonchlorine scouring powder.

Instead ofToilet bowl cleaner. Avoid solid toilet bowl deodorizers that contain paradichlorobenzene, a chemical that causes cancer in animals. Also watch out for acid-containing toilet bowl cleaners, which should never be mixed with anything containing chlorine.

Why not try… 1. ) Pouring in 1 cup of borax mixed with 1/2 cup of white vinegar and leaving it overnight (be sure to close the lid to keep out thirsty pets and curious kids). 2. ) Removing strains with a paste of lemon juice and borax. Let the paste sit for about 20 minutes, then scrub the stain with a bowl brush.

Instead ofTub and sink cleaner.

Why not try... 1. ) A nonchlorinated cleanser such as Bon Ami. 2. ) Removing tough stains with a citrus-based cleaner used at full strength (not diluted.) 2. ) Baking soda, which is abrasive. 3. ) Removing mineral deposits around faucets by covering them with strips of paper towels soaked in vinegar. Let the strips sit for 1 hour and then wash the porcelain.

SOURCE: Enviro$en$e, a part of the Environmental Protection Agency Web site

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