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How to Clean with Non-Toxic “Green” Cleaners

In This Article:

Green Cleaning Solutions

Keeping the homestead in shape is job one for most homeowners. Whether it is cleanup after a project or the routine maintenance a home needs, a homeowner’s work is never done. Unfortunately, some of the tools we use to maintain our happy homes can be toxic.

Modern-day cleaners and detergents contain powerful and potentially harmful chemicals. Additives to increase brightness, kill bacteria, and reduce the need for scrubbing are often caustic to the person cleaning as well as to the rest of the family, pets, and the environment at large.

Take, for instance, those nifty additives called optic brighteners that are commonly added to laundry detergent to make your whites whiter. These fluorescent whiteners don’t actually get the clothes any cleaner, they simply mask the yellowing of fabrics that naturally occurs by absorbing certain ultraviolet rays and then reflecting back visible blue light. This gives garments the appearance of being cleaner, even if they are not. The trouble with this optical illusion is that these brighteners are washed down the drain once the rinse cycle is done and enter the local water supply where they can be toxic to fish. Some people also find that this additive can be irritating to sensitive skin and eyes.[GARD align=”left”]

Along with the ingredients designed to improve the performance of cleaning products, dyes that dress up color and perfumes that help deliver an artificial lemony or piney fresh scent can also be troublesome for a home’s occupants. While some products naturally have a pleasant deodorizing effect, like those that use citrus oil, many cleaners and degreasers have petroleum-based fragrances to mask the smell of the cleaning solvent. This means that while you are cleaning your home of the normal dirt you would expect to find, you are actually introducing new and potentially harmful materials into your living space.

Helping to confound the homeowner trying to keep a healthy home are claims by some products that their cleaning materials are safe because they contain “organic” ingredients. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many cleaning, disinfecting, and degreasing products contain organic solvents that can release organic compounds while you are using them and, to some degree, when they are stored. This means that you are potentially introducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home, not only when you are actively scrubbing but even when these products are sitting under the kitchen sink. Organic in cleaning products doesn’t always mean safe and healthy.

The overall negative health effects of VOCs on a home’s occupants can be staggering. VOCs can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; allergic skin reactions; dyspnea; loss of coordination; nausea; fatigue; dizziness; and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. And the trouble doesn’t stop there—it flows downstream.

Chemicals used within the home for cleaning are almost always dumped down the drain and end up being released into local waters. Phosphates, which are sometimes used in laundry and dish detergents, have been found in increasingly strong concentrations in oceans and lakes. Abundant amounts of phosphates can cause eutrophication and destroy local wildlife habitats. Eutrophication is the scientific term for when an excess of nutrients encourages an unhealthy algae bloom. These blooms create a suffocating, slimy mess for the local ecosystem and, according to the EPA, are now present in 48% of America’s lakes.

Green Cleaning Solutions

If you spend some time reading labels and researching companies, you will be able to find quite a few green cleaning products on the market today. Because of the increased awareness of environmental, health, and sustainable living issues, products catering to the green crowd are becoming more economical and available.

However, if you really want to know what you are spraying on your countertops, nothing beats homemade solutions. The ingredients for healthy cleaning solutions are inexpensive, readily available, and nontoxic. Here is a list of the basics you’ll need before you begin:

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). If you need a reason to believe in the cleansing power of baking soda, just remember that it was the primary cleaning agent used in the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. Baking soda is an effective cleaning agent for three reasons:

1) The crystalline form of baking soda makes for an excellent scrubbing abrasive, but it’s not so abrasive as to harm sensitive fiberglass tub surrounds or tile flooring. In fact, it is the gentle abrasive qualities of baking soda that make it an ingredient in “whitening” toothpastes.

2) It is a natural deodorizer in both its dry and diluted state. This means it can work to neutralize all sorts of odors whether run through the laundry (use a half cup when adding bleach to your wash for the clothes to come out free of the bleach odor) or sprinkled directly on carpets before vacuuming to extract pet odors.

3) It plays well with others. Because sodium bicarbonate neutralizes acid qualities, baking soda is ideal when used in combination with lemon for cleaning stains or with white vinegar as a degreaser.

Photo: Heinz

White vinegar (acetic acid). Vinegar is old—really old. This slick solution has been around since the dawn of recorded history and has yet to run out of new and helpful uses. Most white vinegartoday is mass-produced using a rapid ethanol fermentation process. All vinegars are sold in concentrations between 5% and18% acetic acid, with the white or clear vinegar generally being the most potent. A 5% solution is plenty strong for most household tasks.

The cleaning uses for vinegar around the house are almost endless. If it’s dirty, vinegar will probably get it clean, shiny, and smelling fresh. Want a shiny toilet? Toss in a couple cups of vinegar, let it sit for five minutes, and then flush. Soap scum clogging up the clothes washer? Run a cup of vinegar with each load to dissolve it. Lunchbox have a stale smell? Soak a couple paper towels in vinegar and put them in the box overnight. Kitchen sink has a bad odor? Just dump a cup of baking soda down the drain and chase it (slowly) with a half-gallon of white vinegar. Dirty windows and countertops, a greasy kitchen sink, even pet urine and berry stains—vinegar takes care of them all.

Essential oils. Baking soda and vinegar do well to remove smells, but sometimes having a little fragrance in the air makes a home just seem cleaner. Instead of reaching for artificial perfumes, go natural with essential oils. Besides having a pleasant smell, many also pack powerful anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and deodorizing properties that make them ideal for certain household tasks.

Because the oils are derived from plants, they contain no fatty compounds so they dissolve easily and are less likely to leave any residue. To kill bacteria, mold, and germs, use tea tree or eucalyptus. For floors, think lemon, pine, lavender, or oregano, which is a powerful antiseptic. For laundry, consider orange. Citrus oils help get clothes cleaner and also provide a pleasant smell.

Scent-free, dye-free liquid dish soap. There’s nothing special here, just soap. Other ingredients to keep on hand include nonsudsing ammonia and isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). With these ingredients, you can create almost any cleaning solution you would normally buy in the store, without the synthetic additives and toxic dangers. Here are a few basic recipes for better cleansers:[GARD align=”right”]

Window cleaner
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap
5 drops of an essential oil
Mix and shake well before each use. Wipe windows down with a soft cloth.

Scrubbing paste
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap
5 drops of an essential oil (tea tree or lavender for antibacterial cleansing)
Mix the ingredients together to form a toothpaste-like gel and spread it on a sponge. Rinse the surface well after cleaning.

Wood-floor cleaner
1 cup vinegar
1 gallon clean hot water
10 drops of an essential oil (pine or lemon are favorites)
Mix well and mop. Discard when the water gets cold or cloudy.

Keeping your home clean shouldn’t put you, your family, your pets, or the local waterways at risk. Taking advantage of the natural cleaning properties of these basic (and inexpensive) supplies makes for a cleaner and healthier home.

 

How to Clean with Non-Toxic "Green" Cleaners

In This Article:

Green Cleaning Solutions

Keeping the homestead in shape is job one for most homeowners. Whether it is cleanup after a project or the routine maintenance a home needs, a homeowner’s work is never done. Unfortunately, some of the tools we use to maintain our happy homes can be toxic.

Modern-day cleaners and detergents contain powerful and potentially harmful chemicals. Additives to increase brightness, kill bacteria, and reduce the need for scrubbing are often caustic to the person cleaning as well as to the rest of the family, pets, and the environment at large.

Take, for instance, those nifty additives called optic brighteners that are commonly added to laundry detergent to make your whites whiter. These fluorescent whiteners don’t actually get the clothes any cleaner, they simply mask the yellowing of fabrics that naturally occurs by absorbing certain ultraviolet rays and then reflecting back visible blue light. This gives garments the appearance of being cleaner, even if they are not. The trouble with this optical illusion is that these brighteners are washed down the drain once the rinse cycle is done and enter the local water supply where they can be toxic to fish. Some people also find that this additive can be irritating to sensitive skin and eyes.[GARD align=”left”]

Along with the ingredients designed to improve the performance of cleaning products, dyes that dress up color and perfumes that help deliver an artificial lemony or piney fresh scent can also be troublesome for a home’s occupants. While some products naturally have a pleasant deodorizing effect, like those that use citrus oil, many cleaners and degreasers have petroleum-based fragrances to mask the smell of the cleaning solvent. This means that while you are cleaning your home of the normal dirt you would expect to find, you are actually introducing new and potentially harmful materials into your living space.

Helping to confound the homeowner trying to keep a healthy home are claims by some products that their cleaning materials are safe because they contain “organic” ingredients. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many cleaning, disinfecting, and degreasing products contain organic solvents that can release organic compounds while you are using them and, to some degree, when they are stored. This means that you are potentially introducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home, not only when you are actively scrubbing but even when these products are sitting under the kitchen sink. Organic in cleaning products doesn’t always mean safe and healthy.

The overall negative health effects of VOCs on a home’s occupants can be staggering. VOCs can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; allergic skin reactions; dyspnea; loss of coordination; nausea; fatigue; dizziness; and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. And the trouble doesn’t stop there—it flows downstream.

Chemicals used within the home for cleaning are almost always dumped down the drain and end up being released into local waters. Phosphates, which are sometimes used in laundry and dish detergents, have been found in increasingly strong concentrations in oceans and lakes. Abundant amounts of phosphates can cause eutrophication and destroy local wildlife habitats. Eutrophication is the scientific term for when an excess of nutrients encourages an unhealthy algae bloom. These blooms create a suffocating, slimy mess for the local ecosystem and, according to the EPA, are now present in 48% of America’s lakes.

Green Cleaning Solutions

If you spend some time reading labels and researching companies, you will be able to find quite a few green cleaning products on the market today. Because of the increased awareness of environmental, health, and sustainable living issues, products catering to the green crowd are becoming more economical and available.

However, if you really want to know what you are spraying on your countertops, nothing beats homemade solutions. The ingredients for healthy cleaning solutions are inexpensive, readily available, and nontoxic. Here is a list of the basics you’ll need before you begin:

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). If you need a reason to believe in the cleansing power of baking soda, just remember that it was the primary cleaning agent used in the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. Baking soda is an effective cleaning agent for three reasons:

1) The crystalline form of baking soda makes for an excellent scrubbing abrasive, but it’s not so abrasive as to harm sensitive fiberglass tub surrounds or tile flooring. In fact, it is the gentle abrasive qualities of baking soda that make it an ingredient in “whitening” toothpastes.

2) It is a natural deodorizer in both its dry and diluted state. This means it can work to neutralize all sorts of odors whether run through the laundry (use a half cup when adding bleach to your wash for the clothes to come out free of the bleach odor) or sprinkled directly on carpets before vacuuming to extract pet odors.

3) It plays well with others. Because sodium bicarbonate neutralizes acid qualities, baking soda is ideal when used in combination with lemon for cleaning stains or with white vinegar as a degreaser.

Photo: Heinz

White vinegar (acetic acid). Vinegar is old—really old. This slick solution has been around since the dawn of recorded history and has yet to run out of new and helpful uses. Most white vinegartoday is mass-produced using a rapid ethanol fermentation process. All vinegars are sold in concentrations between 5% and18% acetic acid, with the white or clear vinegar generally being the most potent. A 5% solution is plenty strong for most household tasks.

The cleaning uses for vinegar around the house are almost endless. If it’s dirty, vinegar will probably get it clean, shiny, and smelling fresh. Want a shiny toilet? Toss in a couple cups of vinegar, let it sit for five minutes, and then flush. Soap scum clogging up the clothes washer? Run a cup of vinegar with each load to dissolve it. Lunchbox have a stale smell? Soak a couple paper towels in vinegar and put them in the box overnight. Kitchen sink has a bad odor? Just dump a cup of baking soda down the drain and chase it (slowly) with a half-gallon of white vinegar. Dirty windows and countertops, a greasy kitchen sink, even pet urine and berry stains—vinegar takes care of them all.

Essential oils. Baking soda and vinegar do well to remove smells, but sometimes having a little fragrance in the air makes a home just seem cleaner. Instead of reaching for artificial perfumes, go natural with essential oils. Besides having a pleasant smell, many also pack powerful anti-bacterial, antiseptic, and deodorizing properties that make them ideal for certain household tasks.

Because the oils are derived from plants, they contain no fatty compounds so they dissolve easily and are less likely to leave any residue. To kill bacteria, mold, and germs, use tea tree or eucalyptus. For floors, think lemon, pine, lavender, or oregano, which is a powerful antiseptic. For laundry, consider orange. Citrus oils help get clothes cleaner and also provide a pleasant smell.

Scent-free, dye-free liquid dish soap. There’s nothing special here, just soap. Other ingredients to keep on hand include nonsudsing ammonia and isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). With these ingredients, you can create almost any cleaning solution you would normally buy in the store, without the synthetic additives and toxic dangers. Here are a few basic recipes for better cleansers:[GARD align=”right”]

Window cleaner
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap
5 drops of an essential oil
Mix and shake well before each use. Wipe windows down with a soft cloth.

Scrubbing paste
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap
5 drops of an essential oil (tea tree or lavender for antibacterial cleansing)
Mix the ingredients together to form a toothpaste-like gel and spread it on a sponge. Rinse the surface well after cleaning.

Wood-floor cleaner
1 cup vinegar
1 gallon clean hot water
10 drops of an essential oil (pine or lemon are favorites)
Mix well and mop. Discard when the water gets cold or cloudy.

Keeping your home clean shouldn’t put you, your family, your pets, or the local waterways at risk. Taking advantage of the natural cleaning properties of these basic (and inexpensive) supplies makes for a cleaner and healthier home.

 

Mold Control & Prevention Tips

Moisture control is the key to mold control. The following tips will help prevent moisture, condensation, and water problems throughout the house:

testing mold removal

Water stains on ceiling are tested for mold before repair and painting.

• When water leaks or spills occur, act quickly. If wet or damp materials or areas are dried within 24 to 48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases mold will not grow.

• Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.

• Make sure the ground slopes away from your home’s foundation so that water does not enter or collect around it.[GARD align=”left”]

• Keep air-conditioning drip pans clean and drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.

• Keep indoor humidity low. If possible, keep relative humidity below 60 percent, and ideally between 30 and 50 percent. Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter—a small, inexpensive ($10 to $50) instrument available at many hardware stores.

• If you see condensation or moisture collecting on windows, walls, or pipes, immediately dry the wet surface and remedy the moisture/water source.

• Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers, stoves, and kerosene heaters to the outside where possible.

• Employ air conditioners and/or dehumidifiers when needed to reduce humidity. Increase the air temperature to reduce condensation.

• Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering. Use exhaust fans or open windows when cooking, running the dishwasher, or washing dishes.

• Cover cold surfaces, such as cold water pipes, with insulation.

Get Pre-Screened Local Toxic Materials & Mold Removal Help

Mold Control & Prevention Tips

Moisture control is the key to mold control. The following tips will help prevent moisture, condensation, and water problems throughout the house:

testing mold removal

Water stains on ceiling are tested for mold before repair and painting.

• When water leaks or spills occur, act quickly. If wet or damp materials or areas are dried within 24 to 48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases mold will not grow.

• Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.

• Make sure the ground slopes away from your home’s foundation so that water does not enter or collect around it.[GARD align=”left”]

• Keep air-conditioning drip pans clean and drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.

• Keep indoor humidity low. If possible, keep relative humidity below 60 percent, and ideally between 30 and 50 percent. Relative humidity can be measured with a moisture or humidity meter—a small, inexpensive ($10 to $50) instrument available at many hardware stores.

• If you see condensation or moisture collecting on windows, walls, or pipes, immediately dry the wet surface and remedy the moisture/water source.

• Vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers, stoves, and kerosene heaters to the outside where possible.

• Employ air conditioners and/or dehumidifiers when needed to reduce humidity. Increase the air temperature to reduce condensation.

• Run the bathroom fan or open the window when showering. Use exhaust fans or open windows when cooking, running the dishwasher, or washing dishes.

• Cover cold surfaces, such as cold water pipes, with insulation.

Get Pre-Screened Local Toxic Materials & Mold Removal Help

Mold Cleaning Guidelines

The tips and techniques discussed here will help you clean up your mold problem. Professional remediators may use other methods.

Keep in mind that mold may cause staining and cosmetic damage, and its removal may not return the area or item to its original appearance.

• First, identify the source of moisture, and fix the plumbing leak or other water problem. Dry out the affected area or item completely.

• Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water and allow to dry thoroughly.

• Absorbent or porous materials such as ceiling tiles and carpeting may have to be disposed of if they become moldy. Mold can grow on or fill in the crevices of porous materials, so the mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely.

• Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces before cleaning and allowing them to thoroughly dry. Paint applied over moldy surfaces is also likely to peel.[GARD align=”left”]

• If you are unsure about how to clean a moldy item, or if the item is expensive or of sentimental value, consult a specialist. Specialists in furniture repair and restoration, painting and art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, and fire and water restoration are listed in the telephone directory. Be sure to ask for and check references. An affiliation with a professional organization is also a sign of expertise.

How will you know the mold remediation process is complete? You will know your cleanup has been thorough when there are no moldy odors, signs of water damage, or visible mold or mold growth. In addition, people inhabiting the space should have no health complaints or physical symptoms.

Natural Gas & Toxin Detectors

 

In This Article:

Duct Detectors

Water heaters, furnaces, stoves, cooktops, gas fireplaces, and other appliances that utilize natural gas as a fuel can present serious safety hazards if they malfunction.

If natural gas leaks into your home, just turning on or off a light switch can be enough to ignite the fumes and cause an explosion. Low levels of escaped gas may not be harmful to your health, but a severe gas leak can replace all the oxygen in a room, leading to asphyxia. And carbon monoxide, which is released when natural gas is burned, is toxic to breathe.

Combustion gasses from natural gas heating systems are the leading cause of carbon monoxide deaths in the United States. Fortunately, you can buy devices that will detect natural gas or carbon monoxide. Here we look at the natural gas detectors; for information on carbon monoxide detectors, see Carbon Monoxide Detectors Buying Guide.

In its natural form, methane, commonly known as natural gas, is odorless. Gas companies add an ingredient, called mercaptan, to give it a detectable sulfur odor that resembles raw garlic or rotten eggs. This odor is strong enough to be easily detected by most people but individuals with a diminished sense of smell may not recognize it. A natural gas detector is important for these people because it will sound an alarm in the event of a natural gas leak.

Natural gas detectors are designed to sound an alarm when the gas is at or below 25% of the Lower Explosive Limit (LEL). These detectors will not detect fire or smoke but only a leak of natural gas.

Duct Detectors

Ionization Duct Detector

A duct detector samples air passing through fans, blowers, and air- conditioning systems, preventing the spread of toxic gases throughout the protected area. This type of smoke detector monitors the HVAC air traveling through ductwork by means of a photoelectric sensor. It has the advantage of being able to sample a much greater volume of air than an ordinary smoke detector can.

Duct detectors are often included in the installation of ventilation and exhaust ductwork of facilities with mainframe computers and tape drives. Duct detectors, however, are not a substitute for smoke detectors that provide early warning detection.

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