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BETTER LIVING: 10 Household Products to Ditch NOW

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Making the change to a greener cleaning routine is a great choice for you, your family, your pets, and the Earth. If you're not sure where to begin, take a look at my list of the Top Ten Products you should Toss - and why.

1. Bleach

Chlorine bleach, in its numerous incarnations, is the subject of 40% of calls to poison control centers across the nation.  It's also incredibly hazardous to the environment: its industrial use results in the creation of dioxins, a family of chemicals which are among the most toxic and carcinogenic known to man. Instead of chlorine bleach in your laundry, use powdered or liquid oxygen bleach to whiten and brighten. Oxygen bleach works well for cleaning most surfaces, too.

2. Disinfectants

If they kill germs – which are single-celled organisms – they’ll kill your cells too. You may not notice the absence of a few cells here and there, but cell damage can add up to major harm over years of exposure. Also, there is evidence that overuse of antibacterial products can compromise your immune system, and encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.

3. Drain Cleaner

These preparations are highly caustic, and are corrosive to skin and mucous membranes. They can also be fatal if swallowed, and inhalation of fumes can cause injuries to the mouth, nose, and throat. Why subject yourself to that if you don’t have to?  Grease clogs can usually be broken up by pouring a kettle full of boiling water down the drain.

4. Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Bleach, caustics, phosphates, and petroleum based surfactants are some of the nasties in conventional toilet bowl cleaners – and you’re sticking your face right over the fumes while you scrub. Protect your health and the environment by sticking to an enzyme-based bowl cleaner.

5. Tub and Tile Cleaners

Like toilet bowl cleaners, tile cleaners often combine bleach and caustic chemicals. Toss the harsh stuff and try oxygen bleach, white vinegar and lemon juice, or an enzyme-based cleaner to power through tough shower residue.

6. Air Fresheners

Most air freshener sprays use ‘Liquefied Sweetened Petroleum Gas’ to deliver that fresh chemical scent into the air. Ditto for those plug-ins.  If you want your home to smell fresh, try burning natural soy candles scented with essential oils, or incense made from natural resins (I like Nag Champa).

7. Laundry Detergents

Chemical fragrances are considered proprietary formulas and are not tested by the FDA (or by anyone but the chemical companies) for safety. With the exception of air fresheners, laundry detergents contain more of these questionable chemicals than any other product in your home. Also, petroleum based surfactants (read, bubbles and degreasers) can be hazardous to you and to the environment.  Natural, phosphate-free, biodegradable laundry detergents get your clothes just as clean, without all the side effects.

8. Floor cleaners

Studies show that we absorb half of all substances that contact our skin. And a lot of skin contacts your floors – bare feet, baby’s knees, Spot’s tongue. Why use chemicals that can leave residues for you to track through the rest of your home? A citrus-based cleaner and degreaser is great for floors, and totally non-toxic.

9. Automatic Dishwashing Powders/Liquids

You wouldn’t put bleach in your food – or petroleum derivatives, phosphates, or untested chemical fragrances – so why use them on your dishes? Choose enzyme-based, petroleum- and phosphate-free automatic dishwashing detergents.

10. Glass Cleaners

Why use toxic ammonia when warm water and white vinegar work just fine? Or, look for glass cleaners with plant-based surfactants; most of them double as surface cleaners.

Other cleaners to watch out for: wood floor polish, oven cleaners, dusting sprays, and ‘fabric refreshers’.    

You don't have to take my word for it: you can go to the Household Products Database and see for yourself what’s in your current products.  The more you learn, the more you'll agree that cleaning green is the best choice for you and your family.

Candita Clayton is the founder of Your Life Organized and author of Clean Your Home Healthy. Visit her online, here.

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Disinfectants are used to destroy germs on surfaces, such as kitchen counters and cutting boards where salmonella, e.coli and listeria may be lurking. Used properly (it only takes 1 tbsp. of bleach in one gallon of water, for example), disinfectants can help prevent foodborne illness.
The Water Quality and Health Council addresses some common myths about bleach at http://www.disinfect-for-health.org/myths-chlorine-bleach.

Comment #1 by Mary Ostrowski on 2011 09 15

Great article. We have added it to our Resource Center @ ecoDistributionGroup.com

Comment #2 by Amy Hanley on 2011 10 02

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