Thursday, February 12, 2009

Now Cut That Out Part One

There are certain chemicals or cleaning supplies that you just shouldn't have around your house. They are hazardous, not good for the environment and easily replaced. Bleach is one of those chemicals. The darling of the cleaning industry isn't all just shiny whiteness.

Breathing in the fumes of cleaners containing a high concentration of chlorine can irritate the lungs. This is particularly dangerous for people suffering from heart conditions or chronic respiratory problems such as asthma or emphysema. And the risks are compounded when the cleaners are used in small, poorly ventilated rooms, such as the bathroom. Chlorine is also a highly corrosive substance, capable of damaging skin, eyes, and other membranes. Chlorine was listed as a hazardous air pollutant in the 1990 Clean Air Act, and exposure to chlorine in the workplace is regulated by federal standards.

Chlorine bleach is also bad for the environment. Toxins produced as a result of bleach use build up in the environment, cause dangers to the water supply, kill fish, harm animals, and get back to people through the food chain.

It's not that hard eliminate chlorine bleach from your household. You don't need it to clean and you don't need it to whiten your clothes.

To help whiten clothes you can add one-half cup of baking soda or washing soda in with your laundry detergent. Also, if you want to take out the yellowing or graying of your white clothes you can add 1/4 cup white vinegar to your water in your laundry.

For a good all around cleaner, use a paste of baking soda and water for counters, showers, tubs and toilets. Good old distilled white vinegar will eliminate 99% of bacteria.

Here's an all-purpose cleanser recipe from the book Green Up Your Clean Up by Jill Potvin Schoff.
2 Tablespoons baking soda
liquid dish soap or castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner's)

Put baking soda in a widemouthed container and mix in the liquid soap a little bit at a time until you have a nice foamy paste. Use this paste to clean. If you have a heavy-duty job let the paste sit 10-15 minutes and then spray on vinegar to rinse. If you are working with a surface that is sensitive to acids (such as tile), rinse off the vinegar immediately.

It is important for our health and the environment's health to change the way we clean. Luckily it isn't that hard to do once you learn how. As a first step, eliminate cleaning products that contain bleach and using chlorine bleach as a clothes whitener. Try a homemade cleaner or at least buy a cleaner from your health food store that is made in an environmentally friendly way. We'll continue this series in upcoming blogs in our quest to have a healthier, happier home.

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