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Friday, June 10, 2005

Begin your spring greening

Everyone faces the same issue when it comes to spring cleaning, where to begin. Should you start upstairs and work down or begin with the kitchen, bedrooms or baths, perhaps the garage or better yet- maybe the garden, after all that, at least, is outdoors and now with spring here and pleasant weather why not just throw open the windows, air out the house and spend an afternoon in the Sun. Sounds like a plan.

The EPA has determined that indoor air pollution is one of America's foremost health risks. On average we spend 80-90% of our time indoors with the windows shut, the air recirculated and filtered. Household cleaners emit large amounts of chemical residue that persists on surfaces and in the air within your home. These chemicals over time contribute significantly to indoor air pollution. So we thought we would re-examine the annual rite of spring cleaning by taking a look at the basic tools of the task and see if we couldn't green up the process and at the same time let in some fresh air.

To start your Spring Greening begin by sorting the cleaners you use by their function and set aside any that duplicate one another. For instance if you use a separate surface cleaner for kitchen counter tops and bathroom counters, eliminate one. They likely will have more or less the same ingredients. Continue this elimination process until you have just one cleaner for each type of surface area in the house. Floors for example where you may have several surfaces: carpet, tile wood etc. Other surfaces include walls, windows, appliances, bathroom fixtures, kitchen fixtures, furniture and laundry. If your home is like most households you are down now to just a handful of cans bottles and boxes. Put the set asides in a box and store them safely away from children and pets. We'll tell you how to safely recycle these later in this article.

You'll notice that the main ingredients in the remaining cleaners are water, inert propellants, and a combination of ammonias, alcohols, ethanols, alkalies, bleaches and acids along with a bewildering assortment of perfumes, colorings - oh, and a whole litany of product warnings, cautions and liability disclaimers. Eliminate the items that use spray propellants, most propellants are mildly to dangerously toxic and have an unfortunate chemical reaction when exposed to sunlight that breaks the compounds into gas components harmful to the atmosphere. Now you are left with two types of cleaners, liquid and dry. You may still have several versions of each however, for instance a liquid soap for dishes and a liquid laundry detergent, they may look and even smell similar but they're not interchangeable.

On the other hand you may find that other cleaners can be used for more than one purpose. For instance glass cleaner makes a perfectly suitable countertop cleaner and a little dry laundry detergent mixed with cold water to make a paste will clean tub and tile surfaces. With some experimentation you will be able to further reduce your collection of cleaning products. To help you get started we've included this list of natural cleaning materials their uses and some easy substitutes made from common non toxic ingredients that will green your home. You might want to save a copy for future reference.

For some more tips on improving air quality both indoors and out go to Earth 911. And, as promised, what to do with all those excess cleaning products. Do not dispose them down the drain or send them to a landfill, rather donate them to local charity organizations such as soup kitchens or church run shelters which will in turn be able to safely dispose of the materials through local government recycling programs. For more information go to the National Agricultural Safety Database.

If you are searching for 'green' cleaning products that are ready made rather than making your own we suggest a visit to

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