Wednesday, September 26, 2007

chemical free cleaning

We are moving in October and our new home will be chemical
free as much as humanly possible. I particularly like the suggestion
of getting plants to clean the air...

Eco-friendly cleaning products Keep your home -- and our Earth -- clean with natural solutions that are kind to the environment.

By Dayna Boyer

If spring cleaning conjures images of blue toilet bowl cleaner and white surface cleaners, it's time to think green. From the chemicals in standard cleaning products that are washed down the drain and into our water supply to non-reusable packaging and personal exposure to toxic solutions, there are plenty of great reasons to opt for natural cleaning products.In 1988, the government of Canada released the "Environmental Choice" Eco-Logo, a mark that brands cleaning products that improve energy efficiency, reduce hazardous by-products, or use recycled materials, among other criteria. The logo is three doves intertwined to form a green maple leaf.

Environmental Choice has approved 1,400 products for household use. The cleaning products they approve must follow strict limits and requirements for phosphates, chelating agents, aquatic toxicity and biodegradability. Look in your kitchen cupboards to find just about everything you need to make your home sparkle. Not only are these products less taxing on the environment, and helpful for people with sensitive skin, but they're also lighter on your budget.

The three best ingredients to get your home spotless without using chemicals are lemons, baking soda and vinegar. And a little elbow grease never hurts.


Nothing says spring like the refreshing scent of citrus. But there's no need to run out and buy chemical-laden lemon-scented cleaning products -- just check the produce section of your grocery store for real lemons. Because lemons are acidic, you can use them to eat away at just about any hard surface stain in your house, so they make a great chemical-free cleaner and a great way to reduce your impact on our water sources. "

Around 54,000 tonnes of general purpose cleaners are used in Canadian homes each year," says Tanya Ha, author of the book Greeniology -- a good reason to cut back. To cut back on the amount of chemicals you use to clean, create your own all-purpose cleaner.

Ha suggests the following mixture:
• one teaspoon of baking soda
• one teaspoon of soap
• a squeeze of lemon
• 1/4 litre of water

Baking soda

Spring is also the time of year to open all the windows and doors and get some fresh air into your house. Baking soda makes an excellent scrub when used with water or lemon concoctions, and it also absorbs smells instead of just masking odour. Keep a box of baking soda in fridges, shoes, closets and any place you store garbage.

Instead of using caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) to unclog drains, use baking soda to prevent your drains from clogging. The salts produced by caustic soda, says Ha, "are harmful to our freshwater ecosystem. It's much better environmentally to prevent drains from becoming clogged in the first place.

Once a week put 1/4 cup of baking soda down the drain followed by 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Allow the two to fizz for a couple of minutes, and then flush with a few litres of hot water."


While vinegar may not smell so appealing in powerful doses, it can dissolve grease and disinfect hard surfaces of your home. Plus, the smell goes away when it dries. Fill a spray bottle with half water and half vinegar to create a tough cleaning product. Always dilute vinegar because it can be too harsh on some surfaces when used on its own.

Chemicals in your cleaners

Besides saving money and the environment by using natural cleaning products, there are also many health benefits. Three of the most common chemicals used in household cleaners are: formaldehyde, ammonia and chlorine. Formaldehyde is used in many cleaners, paints, and waxes, says Amilya Antonetti, author of Why David Hated Tuesdays, and it continually releases toxic vapors into the air. This can lead to headaches, dizziness, and insomnia. A natural way to eliminate these vapours in your home is by getting an aloe vera or golden pathos plant, which will absorb the toxins, she says.

Ammonia is also found in many cleaners, and it can be extremely irritating. Inhaling it can cause headaches and nausea and burn the inside of your lungs, causing asthma, Antonetti warns. You must be cautious when cleaning with ammonia-based products not to mix them with a bleach-based product, because the combination creates mustard gas (first used in World War I), which can be fatal in high doses.

However, one of the most dangerous chemicals (often found in bleach) is chlorine. This chemical has been linked to cancer, miscarriages and birth defects, says Antonetti. It was also one of the main ingredients in Agent Orange, used to defoliate forests during the Vietnam War. Partly due to the many household chemicals being used to clean the home, the Environmental Protection Agency says that the quality of indoor air is often worse than outdoor air. There are many indoor plants you can buy that help absorb toxins, such as the spider plant, which absorbs carbon monoxide.

So, load up on baking soda, lemons, and vinegar in bulk on your next trip to the grocery store and spring-clean your way to an environmentally friendly home.

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