Commercial household cleaners often contain harsh chemicals. Non-toxic, non-chemical alternatives such as baking soda, borax and distilled white vinegar are not only healthier, but also cheaper to buy and use. If you do use commercial cleaning products, there are a number of less toxic alternatives which can be found at organic and natural grocery stores, co- ops, and many larger conventional stores as well. Organic and biodegradable products are generally the safest. Natural products tend to be the next safest, with conventional cleaners and disinfectants being the least safe. Look for CAUTION, WARNING and DANGER as signal words, and buy the least-toxic products you can find. Of the three, products labeled CAUTION contain the least toxic ingredients.Practical advice and safer alternatives for common cleaning applications:
Laundry Detergents Only use laundry soaps labeled “fragrance free,” and choose dish and laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners that are plant-based (corn, palm kernel, or coconut oil). To remove stains from clothing, try soaking fabrics in water mixed with borax, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, washing soda, or white vinegar. Fabric can be softened by adding one- quarter cup of baking soda to the wash cycle.
Soap Popular in liquid form, antibacterial soaps are helping to promote growth of resistant bacteria, according to a 2000 World Health Organization report. Instead of using antibacterial soap, wash hands thoroughly with plain soap and warm water.
Disinfectants and Scouring Powders Scrubbing sinks, tubs, and countertops with a paste of baking soda and water effectively removes dirt rings and some stains; if that doesn’t work, try a paste of washing soda and water, and be sure to wear gloves.
Glass Cleaners For cleaning windows, fill your own spray bottle with water and either one-quarter cup white vinegar or one tablespoon lemon juice to cut grease.
Drains A plunger “snake” plumbing tool should first be used to bring up as much of the clog as possible, giving cleaning products room to work, or perhaps eliminating the need for them entirely.
Oven Cleaners Coat oven surfaces in a paste of water and baking or washing soda and let stand overnight, then scrub off the paste while wearing gloves.
Toilet-Bowl Cleaners Use the simple, non- chlorine scouring powders and creams listed above.
Furniture and Metal Polishes Polish furniture with a mixture of one teaspoon olive oil and one-half cup white vinegar, or look for solvent-free products that use mineral or plant oils. Silver can be kept clean with toothpaste. Copper can be polished using a cloth dipped in white vinegar or lemon juice with salt dissolved in it; just rinse with water when you’re done. You can shine brass with a paste made from one teaspoon salt, one cup white vinegar, and one cup flour.
Dry Cleaning Most dry cleaners use perchloroethylene (PCE or “perc”), which is a known carcinogen and frequently found in contaminated groundwater. Try to minimize exposure to dry-cleaning chemicals by having your clothes laundered. When necessary, patronize a progressive fabricare professional who uses innovative wet cleaning techniques to remove stains without damaging delicate fibers.
Pesticides are poisons designed to kill insects or other pests. They can cause severe reactions in humans as well, ranging from nerve damage to cancer or even death. Fortunately, many pest problems can be controlled without chemicals, by using a combination of good housekeeping, home maintenance, and least-toxic pesticide applications. If infestations are present use safer products such as boric acid, diatomaceous earth or baits with growth regulators. Pests go where they find food, water and undisturbed shelter. Practice good home maintenance to eliminate most pest problems.
• Clean regularly and reduce clutter.
• Put away all food immediately (in sealed jars if necessary).
• Eliminate water where it doesn’t belong. Fix all leaks. Reduce humidity.
• Seal all gaps and cracks.
• Be sure water drains away from the foundation.
• Don’t raise the soil level around the foundation when you prepare
planting beds and keep soil at least 12 inches from any wood products.
• Keep trees and bushes pruned away from the foundation, roof, and walls.
• Remove all construction debris.
• Don’t store firewood near the house, and don’t keep it longer than one season.
• Keep exterior in good repair. Caulk and seal any cracks, seams, and holes in the foundation, house exterior, and duct work.
Be sure all operable windows have well- fitting screens in good repair.
Inspect for signs of termites such as mud tubes or tunnels on outside of foundation and soft spots in wood, especially beams.
• Keep plants healthy--they’ll be less vulnerable to insect attack.
• Choose a wide variety of native plants. This deters pests and attracts helpful bugs.