Green Tip – Healthier Spring Cleaning

EDITOR’S NOTE: EACH TUESDAY MY GREEN SIDE BRINGS SIMPLE TIPS FOR GREEN LIVING TO THE CHRISTOPHER GABRIEL PROGRAMWE ALSO HIGHLIGHT A FAVORITE GREEN SITE EACH WEEK. YOU CAN STREAM THE SEGMENT AT APPROXIMATELY 1220PM (CENTRAL) EVERY TUESDAY AT WDAY.COM OR, IF YOU’RE IN NORTH DAKOTA OR WESTERN MINNESOTA, LISTEN ON YOUR RADIO AT AM970 WDAY.

GREEN TIP: When you’re organizing your spring cleaning keep in mind that switching to green cleaning products will improve your health, lessen adverse environmental impacts and save money.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), of the 2,863 most commonly used chemicals only 7% have complete toxicity data and 43% have NO toxicity information available.

The EPA also ranks indoor air pollution among the top environmental dangers, and much of this pollution comes from common cleaning products. Immediate effects of exposure to indoor pollutants can include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as intensified symptoms of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Long-term effects (following long or repeated exposure to indoor pollutants) include respiratory diseases, heart disease, and even cancer.

“With spring upon us, it’s that time when millions of Americans are prepping for a major home cleaning,” according to EWG’s Director of Research, Renée Sharp. “But lurking in many available and widely used cleaning products are highly toxic chemicals associated with a number of serious health problems. The good news is there are plenty of products that will get the job done without exposing you and your family to these hazardous substances.”

Despite the potentially serious consequences of exposure to indoor air pollutants, the government doesn’t regulate or assess the safety (or even labeling) of the vast majority of cleaning products on the market. The EPA, meanwhile, only regulates cleaners that contain registered pesticides. This means that consumers are basically on their own when it comes to choosing safe cleaning products — a task that’s way easier said than done.

Source: Greatist.com and Environmental Working Group.

For reviews of the toxicity of hundreds of household cleaners, check out the Environmental Working Group’s guide at http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners.

Some of my favorite green cleaning recipes/tips:

OVENS:

  • Sprinkle baking soda ¼ inch deep over the bottom of your oven. Spray with water until thoroughly damp, but not flooded. Let sit overnight, add water as necessary to maintain dampness. In the morning, the white baking soda residue left behind is easily wiped off, unlike commercial oven cleaner residue that is intensified the next time you use your oven.

GLASS CLEANER:

  • Mix warm water with either white vinegar or lemon juice in a spray bottle. Reduce waste by using a soft cloth or newspaper instead of paper towels (and they leave a better finish).

FABRIC RINSE/SOFTENER:

  • Add ¼ cup of white vinegar to the washing machine’s rinse cycle to remove detergent completely from clothes, eliminating that scratchy feel. This will not leave your clothes smelling like vinegar!

DETERGENT BOOSTER:

  • To reduce the amount of laundry detergent you need to use, add baking soda or washing soda, which softens the water and increases the detergent’s power.

FURNITURE:

  • Combine 2 teaspoons olive oil, 20 drops of pure essential lemon oil and ¼ cup white vinegar in a spray bottle. Mix well and apply using a soft cloth.

WOOD FLOORS:

  • Apply a thin coat of equal parts oil and white vinegar and rub in well, or;
  • Combine 1/8 cup liquid soap, ½ cup white vinegar or lemon juice, ½ cup fragrant herbal tea and 2 gallons warm water in a large bucket. Mop as usual.

AIR FRESHENERS:

  • Set out cedar blocks, an open box of baking soda or sachets of dried flowers and herbs.
  • Simmer whole spices like cinnamon sticks, cloves or allspice in water on the stove top.
  • Diffuse essential plant oils like lemon verbena and lavender.

ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER:

  • Dissolve 4 tablespoons of baking soda in 1 quart of warm water, or;
  • Mix 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water.

ALL-PURPOSE DISINFECTANT:

  • Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons white vinegar, ¼ teaspoons liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) and 3 cups hot water.

TUB AND TILE:

  • Mix 1 & 2/3 cups baking soda, ½ cup liquid castile soap and ½ cup water. Add 2 tablespoons white vinegar, or;
  • Use half a lemon with a sprinkle of baking soda on it.

Here are three favorites from Jennifer Taggart, The Smart Mama:

  • To clean your garbage disposal (or snow cone machine), make vinegar ice cubes. Just put 1 cup distilled white vinegar in an ice cube tray, fill the balance with water, and freeze. Once frozen, drop a couple down the disposal (or put in the snow cone machine) and run it. The vinegar helps disinfect and the ice helps remove any food stuck on the blades.
  • To clean your microwave, just use lemon slices. Place some in a microwave safe cup or bowl with 6 ounces or so of water. Heat on high for 3 minutes, let sit for 3 minutes (without opening the door), and then open and wipe clean. Crusted food should lift easily and your microwave will smell lemon fresh without hormone disrupting phthalates.
  • Dr. Bronner’s rose liquid castile soap and baking soda. I use this combination as a soft scrub for sinks and counter tops, and also to clean my toilet. Just mix them until you get a consistency you like. I prefer to place them in a old squeeze bottle and stir with a chop stick. If you are cleaning your toilet, just squirt under the rim and let sit. After 5 minutes or so, follow up with some vinegar and let foam. Then flush.

Some great shopping tips:

Look for products with the Green Seal. Green Seal, Inc. is the only organization that comprehensively evaluates non-toxic products. READ LABELS. Companies are not required by law to list all product ingredients so only purchase brands that advertise full ingredient disclosure so you know what you’re bringing into your home.

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

Enviroblog

The Environmental Working Group’s blog. Smart discussion of the latest science and news on toxins in your food, water, and air, and what government agencies should be doing to protect public health. Written by EWG staff.

For more spring cleaning tips and the top cleaners to use and to avoid, visit http://www.ewg.org/release/spring-cleaning-ewg-s-tips-what-use-and-what-avoid.

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