I’m a big fan of a clean home, and I know I’m not alone. In the New York Times this week, there’s even a whole article about people who love to clean their homes before holiday parties or guests, or just because. Though you may not see “Neat Freak” as a badge of pride, most people do like to keep their homes tidy and neat, especially when they’re on view to friends, family and nosy neighbors. But one thing we don’t all think about is if the products you are using are safe, healthy, and sustainable. Before you go on a cleaning spree, be sure to check the products you use for harmful chemicals and toxic ingredients and follow the rest of the tips Jeffrey Hollender and Alexandra Zissu have listed in their book Planet Home to make sure your house is clean and healthy:
- Look for warnings. Avoid any product that has the words “danger,” “poison,” “toxic,”“hazardous,” or “flammable” printed on the label. They are dead giveaways that there are harmful chemicals inside. Be sure to check the front and back labels, including the fine print.
- Check the listed ingredients. Avoid anything with no ingredients listed or that lists chemicals with known or probable chronic or acute toxicity
- Check to see if the product is fragranced. Stay away from synthetic fragrances, which may contain hormone-disrupting phthalates (see page 341). Most products claiming to have the “fresh scent” of “morning air” contain synthetic fragrances. Fragranced products (including perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning products, and candles) can also release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your home environment. Many VOCs from cleaning products, such as formaldehyde, are known to be hazardous air pollutants and can have short- and long-term health effects. Look for labels that read “VOC-free” or “free from dyes and fragrances.” If you want a fragrance, seek out products that are scented naturally with essential oils.
- Think about what the performance claims are telling you. These are the selling points clearly stated on the front label. Products claiming to “whiten” likely contain bleach, and products claiming to “brighten” usually contain optical brighteners. Use the Ingredients Guide to see what you’re really getting with that “streak-free shine,” and to learn why an ingredient is or is not hazardous.
- Do a sustainability check. Choose products in packaging made with the highest PCR(post-consumer recycled) content and that can be recycled or reused. As for the products themselves, buy ones that are biodegradable or compostable and claim to be “petro-chemical-free,” “nontoxic,” or “septic-safe.”
- Go to seventhgeneration.com and download the Label Reading Guide. It will help you better understand the ingredients in cleaning products and their risks
Check out an excerpt from Planet Home here. What other tricks and tips do you have for cleaning?
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