When consumers toss unused household chemicals and other hazardous items into the garbage, they wind up in municipal landfills, which often are not equipped to handle this kind of waste.
But keeping cleaning solutions, insecticides and other items around the house has its dangers. According to the Toxic Exposure Surveillance System, a database of U.S. poison center cases, more than 2 million poisoning exposures occur in the United States each year. Almost all of those occur in homes.
One way to control the amount of toxicity in the home is to find alternatives to purchasing harmful products. Many household cleaning products, pest-control chemicals and lawn-care chemicals can be replaced with more natural, less toxic methods.
While there isn’t a natural or less harmful alternative for everything, many substitutes can be used to reduce the amount of hazardous household waste going into the environment.
Using supplies such as baking soda, washing soda (borax), white distilled vinegar, liquid soap or detergent, tea tree oil and spray bottles can transform a home into a non-toxic and healthy haven.
Annie Bond, author of four books on green living and do-it-yourself living, offers a variety of methods for reducing harmful household chemicals. She says non-toxic homemade cleaning formulas not only help protect your family’s health; they can cost about one-tenth the price of store-bought cleaners.
For cleaning, Bond says the “cheapest way to kill bacteria in your home is with vinegar. If you add some herbs, the rate is even higher.” She says to use straight, white distilled vinegar in a spray bottle to kill germs. (If you don’t like the vinegar smell, add a few drops of lavender essential oil.)
Donald Von Jones, a chemist and Lincoln Land Community College faculty member, backs up Bond’s advice.
“Vinegar works because it is an acid,” he says. “ … There are many cleaners made out of household stuff that are just as good.”
Von Jones recommends caution, however, when using common household items instead of cleaning chemicals.
“Everything you have in your home can be toxic if you use it improperly or to excess,” he says.
One source for making sure you don’t end up with an explosion is the book “The Extraordinary Chemistry of Ordinary Things.” A number of reliable resources are available online.
Or, you can follow this list of tips to help you clean your home and save money without using harsh chemicals.
Here are some solutions for reducing hazardous household waste.
Scents and softening
* Air smelling a little funky in your house? Instead of using canned air fresheners, boil cinnamon and cloves to scent the air.
* For a homemade fabric softener, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle.
* Substitute cedar blocks for mothballs to keep those winged insects away from your clothes.
* Instead of a window cleaner, clean windows with a spray bottle filled with 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water.
* Substitute a mixture of 1/2 cup white vinegar with 1/2 gallon of warm water to clean no-wax and tile floors.
* Isopropyl alcohol makes an effective disinfectant when allowed to dry completely.
* For a clean coffee maker, run one cup of vinegar through the machine. Run again with water to rinse.
* Use full-strength white vinegar to eliminate mold and mildew.
* Treat carpet and fabric stains with one part vinegar and seven parts water. Follow up with one part ammonia and seven parts water for stubborn stains.
* Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water as a cleaning solution.
* Baking soda and borax make an effective scouring powder for the tub, sink and toilet. Add vinegar to baking soda for a deodorized toilet.
* Unclog and deodorize drains by pouring 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, and adding 1/2 cup of vinegar, and covering the drain. Let the mixture stand for a few minutes and pour boiling water down the drain.
* Remove lime and mineral deposits from faucets, pots, and pans with a solution made by boiling equal parts vinegar and water. This solution works on aluminum and chrome. Mix with salt and use to clean brass, bronze, and copper.
* Polish silver with a paste of baking soda and water. Rub with a soft cloth, rinse, and polish dry.
* Polish finished furniture with either 3 parts olive oil and 1 part vinegar or 2 parts vegetable or olive oil and 1 part lemon juice.
Garden pest control
* Instead of chemical insect repellents, use products made with cedar wood, orange, eucalyptus, and bay leaves.
* Use herbicidal and insecticidal soap sprays and horticultural oils to control pests.
* Take a lesson from Mother Nature. Think about the use of beneficial predators, such as ladybugs, spiders, praying manti and frogs, which may dine on the bugs you don’t want.
* Use companion plants (marigolds, thyme, garlic) to control insects and furry pests.
* Pull weeds by hand, and get some exercise while you’re doing it.
By Staff reports
GateHouse News Service
Posted Jun 26, 2009 @ 03:08 PM