For Pollution Prevention Week, Green Your Cleaning Routine

cleaning products


Pollution Prevention Week is September 16-22! Pollution Prevention (P2) means stopping pollution where it starts in order to prevent damage to the environment. Pollution Prevention plays a critical role in saving our planet’s resources and moving toward sustainability.

One great way to prevent pollution in your home is to limit how many harsh chemical cleaners you use. Cleaning products, from window cleaners to kitchen and bathroom sprays for tile, sinks, countertops, etc., expose you — and your family — to a host of harmful chemicals. A recent study found that people who use cleaners every day can suffer lung damage comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Replacing chemical cleaners with healthy alternatives is easy.

This Pollution Prevention Week, try out these 5 easy, DIY cleaning product recipes to reduce the amount of chemicals that end up in your home, and eventually our waterways. You can buy the ingredients in bulk and use them with a reusable spray bottle and cleaning cloths to reduce waste from single-use packaging, paper towels and disposable wipes.

1. Kitchen Cleaners

Many cleaning products used in kitchens contain ammonium compounds that can irritate the skin and lungs. Some products additionally contain butyl cellosolve, also known as ethylene glycol, a compound on California’s Toxic Air Contaminant List for its harmful effects on lungs, kidneys, hormones, liver, skin and the central nervous system.

To clean up greasy messes without chemicals, mix the following ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well:

  • 2 cups of water
  • ½ teaspoon of natural liquid soap (such as Castile)
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda

You can also make a useful disinfectant spray by mixing the following:

  • ½ cup of white vinegar
  • ½ cup of rubbing alcohol
  • ¾ cup of water

After spraying surfaces with the disinfectant, wait 10 minutes before wiping it up.

2. Bathroom Cleaners

Cleaning your bathroom with common products may also expose you to butyl cellosolve. To avoid this chemical, wipe down your bathroom with an all-purpose cleaner made from:

  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 squirt of natural liquid soap

3. Glass Cleaners

Common glass cleaners achieve a streak-free shine with ammonia, which can irritate the lungs, and lead to chronic bronchitis and asthma. An ammonia-free glass cleaner can also achieve streak-free results. Make one using:

  • 2 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol
  • 2 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 2 cups of water

4. Oven Cleaners

Many oven cleaners contain ethanolamine, a skin and lung irritant.

Instead of using this harsh chemical, sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda on the bottom of your oven, spray with water and leave to soak overnight. Scrub and rinse away the mixture the following day.

5. Scrubbing Powders

You might think some tough kitchen and bathroom messes require tough chemical scrubs, but scrubs often contain chlorine, another skin and lung irritant.

Make an effective cleansing scrub by mixing equal parts natural liquid soap and baking soda and adding just enough water until it forms a paste.

A note on fragrances: Many cleaning products contain fragrances to offset the odors of their chemical cleaning agents. Manufacturers are not required to specify the ingredients used to make fragrances, but fragrance chemicals emit a wide variety of VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, which can cause a host of negative health effects, including cancer.

For fresher air, open your windows. The air in your home could contain up to five times the pollutants fresh air does. You may also consider adding some air-cleaning plants to your home.

To eliminate unwanted odors, try leaving out an open container of baking soda, charcoal or cedar chips. All of these materials absorb odor naturally. Essential oils are a healthy way to add pleasant smells to your home. You can put a few drops in any of the above recipes.

For more information on what chemicals to watch out for in your cleaning products, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. You can also find their top-rated products or look up any product or ingredient in their database to find its health rating.

If you decide to ditch your old cleaning products, consider donating them to a local organization that could use them, or give them away for free using a neighborhood-connecting app such as Nextdoor, Craigslist or Freecycle. Otherwise, dispose of them with other household hazardous waste.

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