Being Well

Spring Cleaning Tips for Keeping Your Home Fresh and Healthy

Some household cleaners are proven to be hazardous to your health. Kick off this spring by finding natural alternatives to the cleaning products you're used to. It's amazing what a little lemon, vinegar and baking soda can do!

There’s no better way to shake off the winter doldrums than by getting your living space fresh and clean, and the following spring cleaning tips can help you do just that. Although there are many cleaning products that promise to banish dirt and grime, some come with a price to your health. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) says chemical exposure is a risk factor for cancer, including ingredients found in common cleaning products, disinfectants and air fresheners.

Chemicals in cleaning products get released into the air when the products are used, and residue gets left behind on surfaces. To ensure you clean your home in the least harmful ways, here are some spring cleaning tips.

Harmful Ingredients to Avoid

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) names two chemicals specifically found in cleaning materials as possible cancer-causing agents: formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane. The former is a chemical that’s present in building materials as well as cleaning products, nail polish and air fresheners. When exposed to formaldehyde, you may experience respiratory problems, allergic reactions or nausea, according to the National Cancer Institute. Keep that in mind if you use nail polish remover for cleaning other surfaces besides your nails. On the label, it may be under a different name, so watch out for formalin, methanal, oxymethyline, urea, 1,3-Dioxetane, Quanterium 15 or methylaldehyde, says the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy.

1,4-dioxane is found in some laundry detergents and can cause similar side effects, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EWG also recommends staying away from alkylphenol ethoxylates, found in some degreaser cleaners, because of a link to breast cancer. The best way to determine if your cleaning products are safe is to read the labels and look for these ingredients. Aside from avoiding harmful chemicals, there are other spring cleaning tips that can help you keep a healthy home.

Seek Out Alternatives

The EPA has an extensive list of cleaning products that are safe which is a great start if you’re looking for alternatives. Simply searching the web for spring cleaning tips is also a great way to seek alternative cleaning agents. When cleaning your wood, try Earth Friendly’s furniture polish to avoid harsh, possibly dangerous cancer-causing chemicals. Clorox makes a Green Works collection of all-purpose cleaners, soaps and other cleaning products that are derived from mostly natural ingredients. Want to pay store-brand prices? The grocery chain, Wegmans, has a line of EPA-approved cleaners, and Target’s Up & Up cleaners include detergents that are safer than the standard laundry products that tend to contain formaldehyde.

Make Your Own Cleaners

You can make effective cleaning products yourself with ingredients you already have at home. Vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice go far in many household cleaning jobs. You can make a basic cleaner for most surfaces with baking soda and warm water. Use one tablespoon of baking soda per cup of water and mix thoroughly. Pour cleaner on a sponge and wipe down items or areas to be cleaned.

It’s also easy to make your own glass cleaner. You need two cups of room temperature water, 1/2 cup of white or apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol. Not only is this preparation inexpensive, the alcohol can help kill germs. Spray and then wipe surfaces with a dry, lint-free cloth.

According to Good Housekeeping, lemon and salt combine to make a great stain remover for clothes, cutting boards, butcher blocks and more. This powerful but safe combo also removes tarnish from brass and can make your chrome bathroom fixtures shine!

Kimberley Sirk
Kimberley Sirk