It's Spring Cleaning Time — How to Make it Greener This Year

It’s Spring Cleaning Time — How to Make it Greener This Year

The arrival of spring brings warmer weather, flowers popping up, birds chirping, and . . . spring cleaning! While it’s probably not your favorite thing to do during the new season, spring cleaning is a great time to start “greening up” your life.

Many people have a plethora of cleaning products in their homes, but most of the conventional cleaning products we’ve used for years — or even decades — are actually considered toxic and are linked to numerous health and environmental concerns.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American home contains 63 hazardous chemical products, which can equate to 10 gallons of harmful chemicals being used in your house on a regular basis! Many cleaning products are petroleum-based, and only 30 percent of the petrochemicals available for home use have been tested for exposure to human health and the environment.

If you want to learn more about the potential health and safety issues associated with cleaning products you already use, check out the Household Products Database that is maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

When purchasing new cleaning products, be aware that some items available these days are advertised as “natural” or “eco-friendly,” however, label claims aren’t always accurate. When choosing a cleaning product from the shelf at the store, look for products certified through Green Seal or EcoLogo that have met reputable, established green standards.

Learn more about the Green Seal label at www.greenseal.org

Learn more about the Green Seal label at www.greenseal.org

Of course, the best way to keep chemicals out of your cleaning routine is to switch over to using natural ingredients. A few key items — vinegar, baking soda, lemons — can take the place of nearly every cleaning product you currently use, and also save you lots of money! Did you know that you can remove a coffee stain with an egg yolk, polish your shoes with olive oil, or use toothpaste to give silver utensils that extra shine? An extensive list of cleaning recipes from Kane County Recycles is available here. To learn more, try taking the Tips for a Greener Home Quiz or watch a Green Guide video from National Geographic.

The Environmental Working Group offers these additional cleaning tips for a healthier home:

  • Never mix bleach with ammonia, vinegar, or other acids – combinations can produce deadly gases.
  • Open the window – clean with windows and doors open so you don’t trap volatile chemicals inside your home
  • Use gloves and other precautions – cleaning products may harm or penetrate skin and eyes, so check warning labels and follow all of the instructions!
  • Keep kids away – children are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals. If they like to help, let them clean with plain dish soap and water instead of toxic cleaners.

Finally, remember that the household products you already own—particularly those labeled with words like flammable, toxic, corrosive, or reactive—should be disposed of properly through the household hazardous waste collection program.

Happy spring cleaning!