The Real Dirt on Clean

Written by: Denise Gaskell

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You know that healthy feeling you get after cleaning the house? Sorry to spoil it, but you may have just made your home dirtier. You wouldn’t let your kids play with toxic chemicals, so why would you let the baby crawl over a floor that’s just been wiped with them?

How dangerous?

  • More than 90% of poison exposures happen at home.
  • Chlorine bleach is the top household chemical involved in poisoning.
  • A person who spends 15 minutes cleaning shower walls could inhale three times the “acute one-hour exposure limit” for glycol ether-containing products.
  • Common cleaners emit fumes that potentially increase the risk of kids developing asthma, the most common chronic childhood disease.
  • One in 13 school-aged children has asthma. Rates in children younger than five have increased more than 160% from 1980 to 1994.
  • Children are highly vulnerable to chemical toxicants. Pound for pound of body weight, children drink more water, eat more food and breathe more air than adults. Thus children will have substantially heavier exposures than adults to any toxicants in water, food or air.
  • If your home is like the average U.S. home, you generate more than 20 pounds of household hazardous waste each year (the EPA designates toilet cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, oven cleaners and bleach as hazardous waste). 

Ingredients to look for:

  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Butyl cellosolve (2-Butoxyethanol)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Bleach (sodium hypochlorite)
  • Ammonia
  • Sulfamic acid
  • Petroleum distillates
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Lye (potassium hydroxide)
  • Morpholine

Four simple ways to get clean

Here are some easy ways to make your family safer and your home healthier. And what’s good for your home is good for the earth and everyone else on it.

1. Get the dirt. Educate yourself about what you bring into your home:

2. Have a clean-for-all. Put on gloves and get rid of the nasty stuff in your home. Local waste collection services have guidelines for proper household hazardous waste disposal, as well as collection sites for paint, batteries, cleaners, etc. Please don’t toss this stuff in the garbage.

3. Welcome healthy into your home. Examples include:

  • Cleaners that are truly cleaner. Consider products that are nontoxic, natural, biodegradable, concentrated and hypoallergenic.
  • Fresh air. Open your windows to reduce indoor air pollution.
  • Essential oils instead of air fresheners.
  • Plants. Besides being nice to look at, they can absorb harmful gases and help clean the air.
  • Organic cotton bedding. Avoid standard bedding treated with chemicals.
  • Floors made of recycled and renewable resources.
  • Healthier paint—low VOC paint.

4. Clean up our collective home. Use:

  • Compact fluorescent lighting, which lasts longer. (Recycle properly when burned out.)
  • Energy Star-rated appliances. Save money and energy.
  • A low-flush toilet. Replace the largest user of water in your house!
  • Low-flow showerheads. Same pressure. Less water.
  • Your flicker finger. Turn off lights and appliances when you’re not using them.
  • Gray water system. Install one to recycle used household water for your lawn.
  • Tankless water heater. Save money, energy and space.

Armed with this information, please consider reviewing the products in your home and remove anything toxic. If you have already made green changes to your cleaning regimen, kudos to you! Now, go tell some friends; it may improve their health. For more information visit

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Posted on April 18, 2013 at 12:31 PM