Using less-toxic alternatives around the house
If you weren’t big on sanitizing surfaces before the COVID-19 pandemic, we can be certain you are now.
But how can we ensure that the products we’re using to help keep us from getting sick aren’t going to cause more harm than good?
Many of the legacy cleaning products found on store shelves are ones that we grew up using because maybe our parents or grandparents taught us to, but Derek Hart with Lynchburg Organic Cleaning said many of those products use harsh chemicals such as acids and ammonia.
“In Windex, the purpose of ammonia is to help liquids evaporate quickly so it doesn’t leave streaks. But it’s also really harmful to breathe,” Hart said.
The main factor that prompted Hart to start using organic cleaning products for his company was because his staff was using the cleaning products five to seven hours per day.
“If they’re going to be breathing it in that many hours per day we wanted to use something that was safe and not harmful and wouldn’t cause any breathing problems,” he said.
Of course, it’s worth noting two points: most of us aren’t spending this much time cleaning each day (or at least hopefully not) and there are circumstances where certain cleaners might be warranted. But for everyday cleaning, especially around small children, it’s never a bad idea to look for some less-toxic alternatives.
Here are a few suggestions Hart gives to help keep your home sparkling clean, while staying as “green” as possible:
This is a substance that white blood cells produce to fight off infections. It’s also an active ingredient in electrolyzed water, which is used for green cleaning and is made when electricity is used to change salt, water and vinegar into a cleaner with no harmful fumes, chemicals or residues.
One of these products you can buy is Force of Nature, Hart said.
“We use a commercial version of that since we go through so much of it, but Force of Nature is a brand that makes at-home disinfectant cleaner that you can use and it is not harmful,” he said. “We use it in every house as our main product.”
It’s not just for dishes, but can also be used for soap scum or grease and is safe because it’s typically used on eating utensils, pots and pans. Dish soap can also be used outside of the kitchen and in the shower, Hart said.
“We usually mix it with vinegar and water to create something that suds up really good,” he said. “It works really well at breaking down soap scum.”
This is another favorite for bathroom cleaning because it is unscented and doesn’t emit harmful fumes. It also breaks down soap scum.
Hart suggests using one of these on your shower doors in the bathroom after each shower to help eliminate water stains.
“A lot of times you have to use some sort of a harsher chemical to get water stains off of glass shower doors and just a lot of elbow grease and effort, but if you just add that squeegee step in, it dries off the glass shower doors after each use,” he said.
The squeegee also comes in handy while cleaning glass. It’s a myth that paper towels or newspaper does the best job, Hart said, but a squeegee is what professional glass cleaners use.
Don’t save deep-cleaning chores for once a month. Instead, make sure to wipe off countertops daily so you don’t have to do the heavy duty cleaning down the road.
“With the houses we clean every two weeks, typically there’s not a lot of effort that goes into cleaning their homes because we keep up with it on a regular basis,” Hart said.
He also said to clean stove tops as soon as the surface has cooled and you are finished cooking. For this task, he suggests safely using a razor blade to scrape off hardened residues.
“I would always recommend wiping that down after you’ve cooked and if you’ve spilled something because if you burned something on it, it’ll just stay there for quite a while and it’s hard to get off,” he said.
Check It Out!
The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning is a good resource to help you figure out how your cleaning products compare to others when it comes to toxicity. Just type in your product and see what grade it gets, along with a detailed explanation. Visit: www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners.