Isn’t it ironic that we actually contaminate our air when we use harsh chemicals—some of which are carcinogens—to “clean” our homes? Ammonia can trigger asthmatic attacks, and harsh oven cleaners and drain openers can cause terrible damage to children who come into contact with them. “Every year we have these dreadful third-degree burns of the throat and esophagus because kids got into cleaners under the sink,” Landrigan says.
Better alternative: Take any cleaner whose ingredient list reads like a chemistry textbook to a hazardous waste disposal center in your municipality and replace the cleaners with ecofriendly ones that have simple, natural ingredients.
Better yet, save tons of money and pull out Grandma’s homemade cleaning concoctions, including:
• A general cleaning solution of one part white vinegar and nine parts water will kill 90 percent of bacteria and many spores, explains germ expert Donna Duberg, assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at Saint Louis University. Spray it on and let it dry to a nice shine on its own. The best surprise about distilled white vinegar? “Store brands work just as well as brand names,” says Duberg. “You can buy a gallon for $1.89 and make more than 10 gallons of cleaning solution. The only other thing you need is a spray bottle.” When you’re finished using a vinegar cleaning solution, dump it down your garbage disposal or toilet for bonus odor control.
• For a window glass cleaner, mix one part white vinegar with one part water and spray. Duberg says you even can use newspapers instead of paper towels to wipe the glass clean and save money.
• When cleaning in the kitchen after prepping meat, use hot, soapy water first (we like simple, unscented castile soaps) and then follow with the vinegar-water solution. For more great cleaning tips, check out green-living guru Annie Bond’s book, Home Enlightenment: Create a Nurturing, Healthy, and Toxin-Free Home (Rodale, 2008).