Green Spring Cleaning

Green Spring Cleaning

Spring is upon us and the ancient urge to purge is right along with it. One of the most simple and satisfying ways to get your spring cleaning buzz on, is to do an assessment of your actual cleaning products.

Many of the antibacterial products heavily marketed and expensively packaged for consumers, clean no better than soap and water. They can also breed some forms of “super bacteria” that become resistant to regular cleaning with soap and water. A key component of many anti-bacterial soaps and cleansers is triclosan. Studies have increasingly linked triclosan to a range of health and environmental effects, from skin irritation, allergy susceptibility, and dioxin contamination to destruction of fragile aquatic ecosystems. The contents of many chemical cleaners leave residues on surfaces and toxins in the air, and then later leach into the environment and ground water.

Here are some common major brand cleaning ingredients and their potent effects on human health:

  • Ammonia: Eye and lung irritant, dangerous and poisonous when mixed with bleach.
  • Formaldehyde: Intense irritant and suspected carcinogen.
  • Hydrochloric Acid: Can burn skin and is a severe digestive irritant if swallowed. Subtle and dangerous.
  • Sodium Hydroxide (Lye): Poisonous and corrosive, fatal if swallowed.
  • Paradichlorobenzenes: Highly irritating to mucous membranes, very toxic.
  • Butyl Cellosolve: Easily absorbed by the skin, and can cause harm to liver, kidneys and nervous system.
  • Ethanol: An alcohol, extremely flammable, and if ingested can cause severe digestive upset, nausea, vomiting and even death.

Reading labels is a must so you can choose safer products for your home, but an even better way to make sure you are green cleaning is to get back to basics and make your own cleaners out of non-toxic and ingredients that may already be in your cabinets:

  • lemon juice
  • baking soda
  • white distilled vinegar
  • biodegradable liquid soap (such as castile)
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • tea tree oil
  • cream of tartar
  • Antiseptic essential oils. Good choices are pine, sweet orange, lemongrass, rose, clove, birch, thyme, cinnamon, rosemary, and eucalyptus.

Try these tips to get started today:

Swap out your chlorinated products – think toilet cleaners, dishwashing detergents and chlorine based disinfectants – with natural alternatives. Hydrogen peroxide, for example, is an excellent and truly safe, stain remover. Just blot or spray, allow to sit for five to ten minutes and wash normally.
  • Lemon and sunlight are other awesome choices for removing stains on clothes.
  • Baking soda can be sprinkled on laundry and on carpets as an odor remover.
  • Take other green cleaning efforts for your home by examining your chemical exposure to off-gassing of industrial solvents through carpets, furnishings, casework and toxic structural materials (such as formaldehyde and asbestos)
  • Remove old wall to wall carpeting made from petroleum fibers and replace with eco-friendly and non-toxic bamboo or cork flooring, or even go down to the subflooring and simply stain and polish the existing concrete. Area rugs should be made from natural fibers such as cotton, wool, or grasses. Vinyl flooring can be replaced with real linoleum (made from linseed oils extracted from flax)
  • Use No- or Low-VOC paints for the walls
  • Avoid brand-new particle-board or faux-wood furniture, shelving, and storage cabinets as the glues and adhesives used in them are highly toxic and can off-gas for years. Try sourcing vintage or second-hand furniture that is made from solid woods and that will last longer.
  • Investigate potential mold issues (test kits are inexpensive and available online), especially in basement areas.
  • Assess A/C and heating units, and fireplaces for efficiency and cleanliness (change filters often and get professional inspections – usually less than $100 – every few seasons)
  • And as always, the greenest cleaning you can do is to donate any unused items you are purging out of your closets and garage to homeless shelters, Goodwill or other organizations that will give them a second life for those in need. Avoid contributing to the landfill problem and be of kind service to your fellow humans.

Randi Ragan

Holistic wellbeing expert, green-living entrepreneur, and author Randi Ragan is the founder of GreenBliss EcoSpa, Los Angeles’ only award-winning mobile spa and wellness service. For over twenty years, Ragan has led yoga and spiritual retreats, created experiences for healing and wellbeing and guided groups and individuals with rituals and ceremonies to mark life milestones. Her new book, A Year of Living Mindfully, grew out of her popular blog, Randi Ragan’s The Mindful Living Almanac (Twitter feed @randiragan). All her work strives to provide readers with ideas, tips, and inspiration for creating a mindful, sustainable life.