Green Living: Greener Cleaning

If you want to know what is in your cleaning products, and what might be a potential health risk for your family, pets and the environment, I suggest you do some homework.

I started at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services database listing ingredients in common cleaning products with potential health effects and safety and handling instructions.

To help American consumers select less-toxic choices, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a safety rating that permits certain consumer products to carry the Design for the Environment (DfE) label.

According to the EPA, “When you see the DfE logo on a product it means that the DfE scientific review team has screened each ingredient for potential human health and environmental effects and that — based on currently available information, EPA predictive models, and expert judgment — the product contains only those ingredients that pose the least concern among chemicals in their class.”

I have issues with the words “least concern” and “based on currently available information” but at least the DfE rating is based on a consistent scientific approach.

All good-sized supermarkets offer cleaning products with the DfE label. You can use the links above to investigate ingredients before you buy.

Here’s where I net out on chemical safety: while one particular chemical might be rated as “safe” for most people, pets and places, I have concerns about the accumulated load of chemicals we all breathe and consume in regular life. Plus, some of us are hardier than others. It just makes sense to lighten the load where possible.

Even better than buying green is to make your own cleaning solutions.

Use plain white vinegar for cleaning, disinfecting and shining and baking soda for scrubbing. Due to its high acidity, white vinegar can be used straight to combat germs and mildew and diluted half-and-half with water to clean countertops and hard surfaces.

Adda few drops of essential oil to a vinegar and water mixture in a spray bottle for a personalized scent.

Baking soda is an effective, gentle abrasive cleaner when mixed with water into a paste. Let time do the hard work by leaving it on overnight for baked-on food or stains.  A neat tip is to put baking soda into a shaker designed for pizza cheese, so it’s handy and ready to use.

Bleach is the big guns, meant to be used sparingly, cautiously, diluted and in a well-ventilated area. Never mix bleach with anything other than water. Bleach’s best partner is time. You can get the same results with a one-tenth bleach solution as with straight bleach if you let the diluted solution sit for 10 minutes. Mix up just what you need for each cleaning session because diluted bleach breaks down after 24 hours. Remember to rinse the cleaned area with water, taking care not to let the bleach solution touch your skin. More safer bleach use tips.

If you come to my house, I can’t promise that my counters will be spick and span, but at least they will be safe and clean.

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