Household Cleaners

























  See also Institutional/Industrial Cleaning Products.

Air Freshener, Deodorizer, Odour Remover
All-Purpose Cleaner
Anti-static Sheets - see Fabric Softeners
Bleach
Carpet Cleaner
Carpet Deodorizer
Dishwashing Liquid (Hand)
Dishwashing Detergent (Automatic)
Disinfectant
Drain Opener
Dry Cleaning
Dusting
Fabric Softener
Floor Cleaner, Wax, Polish
Floor and Furniture Polish
Glass Cleaner
Heavy Duty Cleaner
Laundry Detergent Soap
Laundry Stain Remover
Laundry Starch
Leather Protector
Lime or Mineral Remover
Metal Cleaner/Polish
Mould and Mildew Cleaners
Oven Cleaner
Scouring Powder
Sink, Tub and Tile
Shoe Polish
Spot Remover
Toilet Bowl Cleaner and Deodorizer
Upholstery Cleaner and Protector
Vacuums
Window Cleaner (see Glass Cleaner)

On a typical cleaning day in a typical Canadian home, levels of chemicals in the indoor air can be hundreds, even thousands of times higher than the outdoor air in the most polluted of cities. In fact, indoor air pollution levels would be high enough to trigger an inspection by health and safety authorities in any workplace setting. (The Nature of Things, CBC-TV 2002). Many chemicals contained in household cleaning products are the same as those used in industrial settings. Many scientists are now becoming concerned that long-term low-level exposure to chemicals may be just as dangerous as short-term high-dose exposures. They also worry that we do not understand the impact of exposure to the cocktail of chemicals found in household air and dust.  Testing for human health effects is normally done on single chemicals. But in the real world, we are all exposed to a variety of chemicals every single day.

Prior to WWII most household cleaning tasks were accomplished using relatively safe ingredients commonly found in most homes. With the proliferation of petroleum-based chemicals after the war, corporations began to manufacture ready-made cleaning products.  Today, most people are accustomed to buying a wide range of products custom-designed for the many surfaces, materials and rooms in their homes.

Most cleaning chores can be easily handled without these toxic products. Everyday ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, salt, lemon juice, vegetable oil, soap, borax, hydrogen peroxide and washing soda can do the job as they did in olden days. Consumer demand and recognition of the hazards of many chemical ingredients are leading more companies to manufacture less toxic cleaning products.

The ingredients contained in conventional petrochemical-based cleaning products are not usually listed on labels.  Many, but not all, less-toxic products will have ingredients listed on their labels.  Following is a list of some of the most common toxic chemicals found in household cleaning products; however there are many others.

Common Hazardous Ingredients in Cleaning Products

Acetone - A neurotoxin, acetone may cause liver and kidney damage, and damage to the developing fetus.  It is a skin and eye irritant.  Found in spot treatment cleaners, mark and scuff removers, and other products.

Aerosol products- Aerosol propellants  may contain propane, formaldehyde, a carcinogen, neurotoxin and central nervous system depressant, methylene chloride, a carcinogen,  neurotoxin and reproductive toxin, and nitrous oxide . Products applied with aeresol sprays are broken into minute particles, which can be more deeply inhaled than larger particles, which may increase their toxic effect.

Ammonia - Undiluted, ammonia is a severe eye and respiratory irritant that can cause severe burning pain, and corrosive damage including chemical burns, cataracts and corneal damage.  It can also cause kidney and liver damage. Repeated or prolonged exposure to vapours can result in bronchitis and pneumonia.  Found in a wide range of cleaning products.  Ammonia will react with bleach to form poisonous chlorine gas that can cause burning and watering of eyes, as well as burning of the nose and mouth.

Bleach: see sodium hypochlorite

Diethanolamine (DEA) - Listed as a suspected carcinogen by the State of California, this chemical is a skin and respiratory toxicant and a severe eye irritant.  Used in a wide range of household cleaning products.

D-limonene - This chemical is produced by cold-pressing orange peels. The extracted oil is 90% d-limonene. It is a sensitizer, a neurotoxin, a moderate eye and skin irritant, and can trigger respiratory distress when vapours are inhaled  by some sensitive individuals.  There is some evidence of carcinogenicity.  D-limonene is the active ingredient in some insecticides. It is used as a solvent in many all-purpose cleaning products, especially 'citrus' and 'orange' cleaners.  Also listed on labels as citrus oil and orange oil.

Ethoxylated nonyl phenol -  Nonyl phenols are hormone disruptors and some contain traces of ethylene oxide, a known human carcinogen.  They are eye and skin irritants.  Used in laundry detergents and other cleaning products.

Formaldehyde - In lab tests, formaldehyde has caused cancer and damaged DNA.  Formaldehyde is also a sensitizer, with the potential to cause asthma. Several laboratory studies have shown it to be a central nervous system depressant. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness and loss of sleep.  While formaldehyde naturally occurs in the human body in minute amounts, it is estimated that 20 per cent of people exposed to it will experience an allergic reaction. Used in a wide range of products, including some furniture polishes. Formaldehyde may be released by other chemicals, eg.quaternary 15.

Fragrance - Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients, most of which are synthetic. Many compounds in fragrance are human toxins and suspected or proven carcinogens. In 1989, the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health evaluated 2,983 fragrance chemicals for health effects. They identified 884 of them as toxic substances. Synthetic fragrances are known to trigger asthma attacks. The US Environmental Protection Agency found that 100% of perfumes contain toluene, which can cause liver, kidney and brain damage as well as damage to a developing fetus. Symptoms reported to the FDA from fragrance exposure have included headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and allergic skin irritation. Clinical observations  by medical doctors have shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes. Fragrance is a common skin irritant.

Methylene chloride - Methylene chloride is a carcinogen, a neurotoxin and a reproductive toxin. On inhalation, it can cause liver and brain damage, irregular heartbeat, and even heart attack. It is a severe skin and moderate eye irritant. Used in stain removers.

Monoethanolamine - This chemical may cause liver, kidney and reproductive damage, as well as depression of the central nervous system.  Inhalation of high concentrations - when cleaning an oven for example - can cause dizziness or even coma.   The chemical can also be absorbed through the skin.  It is a moderate skin irritant, and a severe eye irritant.  Found in many cleaning products, including oven cleaners, tub and tile cleaners, laundry pre-soaks, floor strippers and carpet cleaners. 

Morpholine - This corrosive ingredient can severely irritate and burn skin and eyes, and can even cause blindness if splashed in eyes.  It can cause liver and kidney damage, and long-term exposure can result in bronchitis.  It reacts with nitrites (added as a preservative in some products, or present as a contaminant) to form carcinogenic nitrosomines.  Morpholine is a moderate to severe eye, skin and mucous membrane irritant. Used as a solvent in a number of cleaning products, including some furniture polishes and abrasive cleansers.

Naphthalene - This registered pesticide is listed as a suspected carcinogen in California and is most commonly found in mothballs, and some other pest repellants, as well as in deodorizers.  As a reproductive toxin, it is transported across the placenta and can cause blood damage.  It can cause liver and kidney damage, and corneal damage and cataracts.  Skin exposure is especially dangerous to newborns.

Parabens - Parabens are hormone disruptors. Widely used in cleaning products as preservatives, paraben is usually preceded by the prefixes methyl-, ethyl-, butyl-, or propyl.   Parabens may cause contact dermatitis in some individuals

Paradichlorobenzene - This highly volatile registered pesticide is in the same chemical class as DDT.  It is a suspected carcinogen, and may cause lung, liver and kidney damage.  It is used in mothballs and some washroom deodorizers and urinal blocks.

Phosphoric acid - Extremely corrosive, it can severely irritate and burn the skin and eyes.  Breathing vapours can make the lungs ache, and it may be toxic to the central nervous system.  Found in some liquid dishwasher detergents, metal polishes, some disinfectants, and bathroom cleaners, especially those that remove lime and mildew.

Sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate - This corrosive chemical is a severe eye, skin and respiratory irritant. It may cause liver and gastrointestinal damage, and may be toxic to the central nervous system.  It will react with bleach to form poisonous chlorine gas that can cause burning and watering of eyes, as well as burning of the nose and mouth. It is found in some toilet bowl cleaners and deodorizers, as well as industrial detergents and some institutional dishwashing detergents.

Sodium hypochlorite (bleach) - A corrosive chemical, sodium hypochlorite is an eye, skin and respiratory irritant, as well as a sensitizer.  It is especially hazardous to people with heart conditions or asthma, and can be fatal if swallowed.  It may be a neurotoxin and toxic to the liver.  Found in a wide range of household cleaners.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate  - Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is used as a lathering agent.  This chemical is a known skin irritant. It also enhances the allergic response to other toxins and allergens. The U.S. government has warned manufacturers of unacceptable levels of dioxin formation in some products containing this ingredient.  SLS can react with other ingredients to form cancer-causing nitrosamines

Toluene - Exposure to toluene may cause liver, kidney and brain damage. It is also a reproductive toxin which can damage a developing fetus.

Turpentine - This chemical can cause allergic sensitization, and kidney, bladder and central nervous system damage. It is an eye irritant.  Found in specialty solvent cleaners, furniture polish and shoe products.

Xylene - Xylene has significant neurotoxic effects, including loss of memory.  High exposure can lead to loss of consciousness and even death.  It may damage liver, kidneys and the developing fetus. It is a severe eye and moderate skin irritant.  Used in some spot removers, floor polishes, ironing aids and other products.

Sources:
The Safe Shoppers Bible, David Steinman & Samuel Epstein
Cleaners and Toxins, Labour Environmental Alliance Society, Vancouver BC
Home Safe Home, Debra Lynn Dadd, Tarcher Inc, 1997 includes hundreds of "make your own" recipes.
Non-toxic, Natural and Earth Wise, Debra Lynn Dadd, Tarcher Inc, 1990, includes many "make your own" recipes.
Less Toxic Alternatives, Carolyn Gorman with Marie Hyde, Optimum Publishing,  2002 , emphasis on the needs of the chemically sensitive

Return to Menu
 

Less-Toxic Household Cleaning Products

Air Freshener, Deodorizer, Odour Remover

Far from freshening air, chemical-based air fresheners and deodorizers add dangerous chemicals to the air we breathe. Air fresheners work by using a nerve-deadening chemical that interferes with our sense of smell, by coating nasal passage with an oily film, by masking an offending odour with a different odour, or by deactivating the odour. 

Air fresheners are made from a number of chemicals including formadehyde, a carcinogen and sensitizer, naphthalene, a suspected carcinogen, xylene, a neurotoxin and possible reproductive toxin, butane gas, a neurotoxin, cresol, ethanol, phenol and strong fragrances. Some solid deodorizers include the pesticide paradichlorobenzene, a carcinogen which can also cause liver and kidney damage. Aerosol air fresheners release chemicals as tiny particles which can be inhaled deeply into lungs and transferred into the blood stream. Plug in air fresheners break chemicals into even smaller particles.

The key to freshening air is to remove or dilute the offending odor (by cleaning, ventilation or absorption), not to cover it with another chemical. 

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Air Scense - pump air freshener
  • Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds (contains SLS)
  • Heavenly Fresh  - odour absorber for small places (Canadian Tire)
  • Infinity - Heavenly Horsetail
  • Nok Out - odour destroyer
  • Volcanic Rock deodorizer – made from ionic rock called clinoptilolite-  available from Lee Valley Tools

Tips

  • Baking soda  in an open container will absorb odours in enclosed spaces.
  • Zeolite, a mineral, will absorb odors as well as heavy metals
  • Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove.
  • Place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in room.
  • In homes without air exchange systems, open a window and run a central vacuum for a while to get fresh air in and stale air out.  Or put a fan in a window drawing air out, and open another window to increase air circulation.

Return to Menu
 

All-Purpose Cleaner

Cleaners may contain ammonia, a strong irritant which can also cause kidney and liver damage, butyl cellusolve which is neurotoxic and rapidly penetrates skin, and ortho phenylphenol which is a severe eye and skin irritant. Many all-purpose cleaners contain DEA and TEA which can react with nitrites (added as undisclosed preservatives or present as contaminants) to form carcinogenic nitrosomines which readily penetrate the skin.  Many coloured products are made with carcinogenic coal tar colours.  Hormone disrupting parabens may be used as preservatives. Many cleaners also include fragrances and detergents. Alternative brands may contain d-limonene, a sensitizer which can also cause respiratory distress as well as liver, kidney and nervous system damage. D-limonene is a hazardous substance, although it is derived from a natural source.  We do not recommend it for frequent use.  

 Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
  • Down East - All-Purpose Cleaner
  • ECOgent - General Purpose Cleaner and Stain Removal
  • 20 Mule Team Borax (caution: do not inhale powder)
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Nature Clean - All Purpose Cleaning Lotion
  • Nature Clean - Cream Cleanser
  • Nature Clean - Natural Kitchen and Bath Spray Cleaner
  • Soap Factory  AA5 Concentrate - multi-purpose cleaner

Simply Unscented

  • Shaklee Basic H
Home-made Alternatives

Multipurpose Cleaner

1 tsp. borax
1/2 tsp. washing soda
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. liquid castile soap
2 cups very hot water

Add the first four ingredients to a spray bottle, then slowly add the hot water and shake until dry ingredients are dissolved. Label the bottle.

Vinegar Cleaner
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water

Wipe on, or mix in a non-aerosol spray bottle.


Tips

Microfiber cloths are a new addition to the world of cleaning which can significantly reduce use of chemical cleaning agents. These untreated, reusable cloths are made of polyester and polyamide, spun into tiny wedge shaped strands, 100 times finer than a human hair. They can lift off dirt, grease and dust without the need for cleaning chemicals, because they are formulated to penetrate and trap dirt. There are a number of different brands.  A good quality cloth can last for several years.

Return to Menu
 

Bleach

The main ingredient in chlorine bleach is sodium hypochlorite (chlorine added to lye.) Chlorine is toxic as a skin irritant, and by inhalation.  Sodium hypochlorite can create poisonous chlorine gas if mixed with ammonia (which may be an unlabeled ingredient in some cleaning products) or with vinegar. Workplace safety data sheets warn that sodium hypochlorite may be a neurotoxin and cause liver damage. People with chemical sensitivies report adverse reactions to minute quantities of chlorine.  Sodium hypochlorite readily combines with organic matter to form organochlorines which are highly toxic to aquatic life.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Envirodesic - Hydrox
  • Hydrogen peroxide - drug store dilution.  Use 1/2 cup per wash load.
  • Nature Clean - Natural Laundry Bleach (powder)
  • Nature Clean - Natural Liquid Bleach
  • Oxiclean - oxygen bleach
  • President's Choice - Active Oxygen Bleach
  • Soapworks - Safe Bleach
  • Simply Clean - Oxygen bleach
Home-made Alternatives

  • User 1/2 cup Borax in washer. (Caution: do not inhale powder.)
     
  • Use 1/8 to 1 cup of sodium hexametaphosphate (a mineral powder ) per 5 gallons of water in regular wash cycle and reduce soap by 1/2. Amount depends on hardness of water. As well as whitening, sodium hexametaphosphate can remove accumulated detergent film from laundry.

Tips

  • Sunshine will whiten cotton and linen.
  • Never combine chlorine bleach with ammonia or vinegar.  Extremely toxic fumes will be produced.

Return to Menu
 

Carpet Cleaner

Carpet cleaners can contain perchloroethylene, a known human carcinogen which can have immediate central nervous system (CNS) effects including dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, tremors and disorientation as well as long term CNS effects. Napthalene, which the Condensed Chemical Dictionary describes as "toxic by inhalation" is another common ingredient. Carpet cleaners may also include butyl cellosolve, a central nervous system toxin, propylene glycol methyl ether which is an eye, skin and respiratory irritant, aliphatic petroleum solvent which is neurotoxic and isopropyl alcohol which is carcinogenic at high concentrations. They may also include detergents which can irritate skin, the carcinogen1,4-dioxane, ethanol, ammonia and fragrances. In areas where there is a large quantity of carpet, the amount of chemicals released from carpet cleaners and deodorizers can be considerable.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Down East - All purpose cleaner
  • Earth Friendly Products - Stain and Odour Remover (contains d-limonene)
  • ECOgent - Carpet Cleaner
  • Nature Clean - Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner
  • Nok Out - Odour destroyer
  • Home-made Alternatives
  • Carpet Stain Remover
Home-made Alternatives

Carpet Stain Remover
In a 500 ml spray bottle: Fill one-half the bottle with warm water.  Fill rest of bottle with vinegar, to within one inch from top.  Add 1 tablespoon liquid castile soap. Label bottle.  Spray on carpet stains until stain is soaked.  With a damp cloth, rub the stain out. Apply to stain as soon as possible.

Heavy Duty Carpet Cleaner
Mix  1/4 cup each of salt, borax and vinegar.  Rub paste into carpet and leave for a few hours.  Vacuum.


Tips

It is not necessary to use products designed for carpet cleaning machines. Any less toxic, concentrated heavy duty cleaning liquid will work.  Start off with a small amount of cleanser and adjust if necessary. First fill the tank with water and then put in the cleaner. You need to avoid creating a lot of suds so simply swirl the liquid around in the water until it's distributed. Then shampoo. If using a rented machine, you may want to clean the tank first to eliminate residue from previously used products.

Ask commercial carpet cleaning companies to clean using only water and baking soda, steam, or club soda. Chem-Dry Cleaners in the Halifax area  uses less toxic cleaning solutions for carpets and upholstery.

Return to Menu
 

Carpet Deodorizer

Most carpet deodorizers contain heavy fragrances.

Home-made Alternatives

Sprinkle baking soda on carpet. Let sit a few hours or overnight, then vacuum well.

Return to Menu
 

Dishwashing Liquid (Hand)

Most dishwashing liquids contain detergents, coal tar based colours, and artificial fragrance. They may contain Quarternium 15, an eye and skin irritant which can release carcinogenic formaldehyde. If the label says "Do not use with chlorine bleach", then the product probably contains ammonia. Many dyes are known to be carcinogenic; they can penetrate the skin and be deposited on dishes. Conventional detergents are petroleum-based.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Bioasis Dishwasher Detergent
  • Down East - Dishwashing Liquid
  • Nature Clean - Natural Dishwashing Detergent
  • Seventh Generation - Natural Dish Liquid

Return to Menu
 

Dishwasher Detergents

Many dishwasher detergents contain dry chlorine which is activated when dissolved in water.  Chlorine fumes in the steam that leaks from dishwashers may cause eye irritation and difficulty breathing. Dishwasher detergents may also contain quarternium 15, an eye and skin irritant and an allergen which can release carcinogenic formaldehyde.  Dyes and artificial fragrances are common ingredients. 

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Down East - Dishwashing Powder
  • Nature Clean - Natural Dishwasher Powder
  • Seventh Generation - Automatic Dishwashing Detergent
  • Simply Unscented
  • Shaklee Basic D
Home-made Alternatives

Mix equal parts of borax and baking soda and store in a tightly sealed container. Use 2 tablespoons per load. If you have hard water, double the amount of baking soda in your mixture. For either mixture, use vinegar in the rinse cycle.

Sodium hexametaphosphate can be used instead of dishwasher detergent. The amount required will vary depending on hardness of water.

Return to Menu
 

Disinfectant

It's doubtful whether disinfectants are needed at all for most household uses. Ordinary cleanliness is sufficient to eliminate hazardous bacteria. Soap, water and rubbing (the old "wash your hands" requirement) is the best method to prevent disease. The fad for disinfectants and anti-bacterials is based on a false fear of germs. Homes do not require the same types of cleaning as hospitals, where disease and infection is common.

Besides being a waste of money, some brands of disinfectants use highly caustic chemicals like sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite and phosphoric acid that can burn eyes and skin. Breathing vapours can burn lungs. Disinfectants may also contain phenols which can damage DNA as well as the liver, kidney and nervous systems, cresol, a suspected carcinogen and respiratory toxin, formaldehyde, a carcinogen, sensitizer and suspected central nervous system depressant, chlorine , a lung irritant, and alcohol. There are more than 300 different active ingredients approved for use in anti-microbial products, ingredients classified by the EPA as pesticides, because they kill microbes. In the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Dr. Elaine Larson wrote that because of potential health risks, antibacterial agents and disinfectants should be reserved for hospitals and home care of patients with suppressed immune systems.

Scientists are also concerned that products containing antibacterial and anti-microbial agents kill beneficial bacteria and contribute to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Not all bacteria will be killed by antibacterial agents. The surviving bacteria are resistant to antibiotics and go on to produce new generations of resistant bacteria. Triclosan, one of the most popular antibacterial agents, creates dioxin, a carcinogen, as a by-product. Triclosan is a derivative of 2,4-D, an herbicide. There is concern that use of antibacterial products may affect human health. A Swedish study found high levels of this bactericide in human breast milk. See also anti-bacterials.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide - drugstore dilution.  Use undiluted..
  • 20 Mule Team Borax
  • Zephiran Chloride 17%  (1 part to 10 parts water)
Home-made Alternatives

Disinfecting/Deodorizing Cleaner
Add 1/2 cup of borax to 4 litres of warm water.

One hospital used this formulation for cleaning for a year. The monitoring bacteriologist reported that the solution satisfied the hospital’s germicidal requirements. (Dadd)

Disinfectant
Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar and 3 cups hot water. For stronger cleaning power add 1/4 teaspoon liquid castile soap. Wipe on with dampened cloth or use non-aerosol spray bottle.

Tea Tree Disinfectant
20 drops tea tree oil (approx. 1/5 tsp. or 1 ml)
20 drops emulsifier
1 cup water or vinegar
Put emulsifier in container. Add oil and blend. Add 1cup water or vinegar.

Cinnamon Disinfectant
12 drops cinnamon oil (approx. 1/8 tsp. or 0.6 ml)
12 drops emulsifier
1 cup water or vinegar
Put emulsifier in container. Add oil and blend. Add 1cup water or vinegar. Shake before using.

Return to Menu
 

Drain Opener

Drain cleaners usually contain sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite, which can cause permanent damage to skin and eyes on contact.  Vapours can burn lungs.  These chemicals are often mixed with ammonia or volatile petroleum distillates. Drain cleaners may also contain dimethylbenzyl ammonium chloride, a severe eye and skin irritant, and dichlorodifluromethane, an eye irritant which is also neurotoxic. Drain cleaners may be fatal if ingested. Biological products containing stabilized enzymes and bacteria are less toxic, equally effective and more environmentally friendly.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Citra-Drain - contains d-limonene
  • Earth Enzymes Drain Opener - available at health food stores
  • TSP
Home-made Alternatives

Drain Cleaner
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup white vinegar
Boiling water

Pour baking soda down drain. Add white vinegar and cover drain, if possible. Let sit for 5 minutes, then pour a kettle of boiling water down drain. (The vinegar and baking soda break down fatty acids, allowing the clog to wash down the drain.) This method can be used weekly to help prevent drain clogs. Do not use this method if you have used a commercial drain opener and it may still be present in the drain. 

Drain Opener
Use a plunger. It may take a number of plunges to unclog the drain. Do not use this method if you have used a commercial drain opener as it may still be present in the drain.

Drain Cleaner and Opener
Use a flexible metal snake. It is usually more effective than chemical drain openers. The mechanical snake may be purchased or rented. Thread it down the clogged drain to push away obstruction.

Return to Menu
 

Dry Cleaning

Conventional dry cleaning fluids contain highly toxic chemicals including tetrochloroethylene (perchloroethylene), a carcinogen,  central nervous system toxicant, and respiratory irritant, naphthalene, a suspected carcinogen and reproductive toxin, toluene which may cause damage to a developing fetus and is neurotoxic, and xylene, a neurotoxin. They also contain benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, all of which are carcinogenic. Many of these substances are also known to cause liver and kidney damage. The US Environmental Protection Agency has noted that fumes from slightly damp dry cleaned clothing are a common indoor air pollutant.  Exposure to these chemicals occurs as they evaporate from clothing into indoor air, and when contact is made with skin. Dry cleaning fluid has a  half life of 40 days. Water process dry cleaning is an excellent alternative.

Less-toxic Alternatives

Roop's Dry Cleaning in Truro, N.S. has a water-cleaning process which can be used for most normally dry cleaned items. You must specify "Water Process" on your order. The cleaning agent they use is fragrance free, and items  cleaned this way have been tolerated by people with chemical sensitivities.  Serves many areas of Colchester and Cumberland counties. Call Roop's to find  out if there is a drop off spot in your area.

Tips

Some clothing marked 'dry clean only' does not actually need to be dry cleaned.  Manufacturers simply want to avoid disgruntled customers who may wash clothes incorrectly.  Generally, you can wash almost anything without harm if you know how to do it properly.  After all, how did people clean wool and silk before the age of petrochemical dry cleaners?

If you must use conventional dry cleaning, remove plastic bag and hang clothes outside or in an area separate from living quarters to encourage evaporation of solvents. This could take up to a week but will be faster the warmer it is.  The best option is to avoid buying clothes that need to be dry cleaned.  Washing clothes yourself and having them pressed by a dry cleaner can provide that crisp look without the chemical exposure, and for less money.

Return to Menu
 

Dusting

Removing dust and dust mites is important, as they are a common trigger of allergic reactions. It's important to dust in a way that really removes dust, rather than raising it into the air where it will resettle later.

  • Microfibre cloths are excellent for dusting. They are untreated and reusable. 
  • The soft attachment on a vacuum can be used to remove dust from hard surfaces, the small hard attachment can be used on upholstered furniture, drapes and mattresses. Make sure the vacuum you use doesn't release particle  ridden air into the room.
  • Sheep's wool dusters will draw dust to them with an electrostatic charge - available from Lismore Sheep Farm, River John, NS, www.lismoresheepfarmwoolshop.com.
  • Dust with a damp lint-free cloth.  Or mix 1 teaspoon olive oil with 1/4 cup vinegar and apply with soft cloth.

Return to Menu
 

Fabric Softener

Fabric softeners are designed to reduce static in synthetic fabrics. They serve no purpose with natural fabrics. Fabric softeners may contain quarternary ammonium compounds (quats) and imidazolidinyl, both of which are known formaldehyde releasers. For about 5% of people, quats are an extreme sensitizer. They may cause a variety of asthma-like symptoms, including respiratory arrest. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chronic fatigue and a variety of other symptoms. In lab tests formaldehyde has caused cancer and damaged DNA. Both quaternium and imidazolidinyl can cause contact dermatitis. Fabric softeners work by leaving a residue on the fabric which never completely washes out. It can cause allergic reactions through skin contact and inhalation. Fabric softeners may also contain carcinogenic coal-tar dyes, ammonia and very strong scents. When fabric softeners are exposed to hot water, heat from dryers or ironing, vapours may be emitted which can be deeply inhaled, increasing their impact.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Dryerballs - Eliminate static cling, soften clothes, reduce drying time. No chemical residue, no plants, no scents. Purchase Dryerballs through EHANS' Dryerball Fundraiser project and support this website. http://www.environmentalhealth.ca/summer07dryerballs.html
  • Static Eliminators - no chemical residue, no plants, no scents.
  • Nature Clean - Natural Fabric Softener.

Simply Unscented

  • Because conventional fabric softeners contain so many harmful chemicals, even if they are free of added scents, they are not a good choice for less-toxic living. 
     
Home-made Alternatives

Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar, baking soda OR borax to the rinse cycle to soften water and reduce static cling.

Laundry discs or balls (reusable) soften water and help reduce static cling.

A ball of aluminum foil in the dryer can reduce static cling without adding chemicals. 

You may be able to dramatically reduce your use of fabric softener and still get the desired effect. One person reports she puts a dab of liquid softener on a damp washcloth, places it in her dryer and reuses the same washcloth for many loads without adding more softener.  One bottle of softener lasts her years.


Tips

To reduce static in synthetics, run dryer on “air dry” or “no heat” setting when laundry is almost dry, then hang clothes up until completely dry. This will also reduce the need for ironing.

Return to Menu
 

Floor Cleaner, Wax, Polish

Conventional products often contain mineral spirits and petroleum solvents, both of which are neurotoxic and can cause severe eye and skin irritation as well as Stoddard  solvent which is also neurotoxic. Petroleum solvents may contain traces of carcinogenic benzene.  Some wax removers with ammonia contain tripropylene glycol monomethyl ether which can cause narcosis and kidney injury with repeated and prolonged skin exposure.  

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Down East  - All purpose Cleaner
  • Microfibre mop - use with plain water ( Expensive but a real revolution in mop technology. Rinses cleaner than other mop heads and saves money by eliminating cleaning products. Safe for hardwood floors.)
  • Nature Clean - Natural Floor Cleaner
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate) can be used to eliminate  built up dirt and grime. Use with care, it can dull or remove finishes on wood.
     
Home-made Alternatives

Floor Cleaner
Add 1 cup of vinegar to a pail of water.

Stronger Floor Cleaner
1/4 cup washing soda
1 tablespoon liquid castille soap
1/4 cup vinegar
8 litres hot water

Mix well to dissolve washing soda

Wood Floor Cleaner
1/4 cup liquid castille soap
1/2 to 1 cup vinegar
8 litres warm water

Wood Floor Polish I
1/8 cup olive oil or other vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon vodka

Wood Floor Oil Polish II
Rub with olive oil.

Wood Floor Wax
1 cup olive, almond or walnut oil
1/2 cup vodka
30 - 40 grams grated beeswax
40 - 55 grams carnauba wax (depends on hardness desired).

Put oil and the waxes into a wide-mouth glass jar or tin can and set in pot of simmering water.  Stir gently until waxes are dissolved. Remove from heat and add vodka, mixing well. Allow to harden. Use a rag to rub into the wood. If the rag "drags" too much, dip it into a tiny bit of oil.

Return to Menu
 

Floor and Furniture Polish

Floor and furniture polishes can contain nitrobenzene, a carcinogen, reproductive toxin and central nervous system toxicant which can be absorbed through the skin, phenol, a carcinogen and severe skin irritant, as well as propane, butane gas, aliphatic naptha, petroleum distillates, white mineral oil and turpentine which are all neurotoxins, and may also be eye or skin irritants. Polishes may contain morpholine, a severe irritant which may cause kidney damage, as well as ammonia, detergents, and synthetic fragrance,  Aerosol products create microscopic particles that can be inhaled deeply into lungs and transferred to the bloodstream. Some products contain carcinogenic formaldehyde and nitrosamines.  

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Clapham’s Beeswax Salad Bowl finish, Furniture Polish (Lee Valley Tools or www.claphams.com)
  • Earth Friendly Products - Furniture Polish (contains d-limonene)
  • Guitar/violin polish - unscented, available in music stores
Home-made Alternatives

Polish with plain olive oil, almond or walnut oil.

Polish with food grade mineral oil. Although it is petroleum based it is non-volatile and relatively safe. Available in drug stores.

Furniture Polish
1 cup olive oil, almond or walnut oil
1/2 cup vinegar or lemon juice

Shake well and apply a small amount to a soft rag.  Spread evenly over furniture surface.  Polish with a dry cloth.

Return to Menu
 

Glass Cleaner

Most glass cleaners are made of ammonia, a strong irritant, and coal tar dyes. Some contain butyl cellusolve, a neurotoxin, alchohol, naphtha, and glycol ethers.  Some contain wax.  Aerosol products create small particles which are more likely to be inhaled or irritate eyes. Consumer Reports found plain water to be more effective than half the glass cleaners on the market.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Down East - All purpose cleaner
  • Microfibre  cleaning cloth -Cleans with water only. 
  • Nature Clean - Natural Window and Glass Cleaner
Home-made Alternatives

Eyeglass Cleaner
A microfibre eyeglass cloth and plain water does an excellent streak-free job and eliminates the need for any chemical cleaners.

Window Cleaner I
1/2 tsp. liquid castile soap
3 Tbsp. vinegar 
2 cups water

Add ingredients to non-aerosol spray bottle and mix gently. Label bottle.

Window Cleaner II
A half-and-half mixture of water and vinegar poured into a refillable non-aerosol spray bottle.
Lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar for those who cannot tolerate vinegar.

Return to Menu
 

Heavy Duty Cleaner

Heavy duty cleaners may contain petroleum distillates which are neurotoxic and are eye, skin and respiratory irritants. They may contain traces of carcinogenic benzene.

Less Toxic Alternatives

  • Kosher Soap - a medium duty cleaner
  • Citra Solv - contains d-limonene
  • Nature Clean - Patio Furniture and Pool Cleaner (contains d-limonene)
  • Nature Clean - Spray Cleaner (contains d-limonene)
  • Simply Clean - Professional Super Cleaner
  • That Orange Stuff - contains d-limonene
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate) - removes grease and oil residues, also moulds and mildew
  • Borax
  • Use a higher concentration of a less toxic all purpose cleaner, like Down East or Nature Clean
Home-made Alternatives

Strong All-Purpose Cleaner
1 teaspoon liquid castile soap
1 teaspoon TSP
1 teaspoon borax
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 litre hot water.

Good for grease and mildew. Wipe on or use non-aerosol spray bottle.

Return to Menu
 

Laundry Detergent

Most detergents are derived from petrochemical ingredients. They may contain bleaches, synthetic whiteners, and chemical fragrances, even in some so-called "fragrance free" brands. Some detergents may contain ammonia, ethanol, napthalene and phenol.  Many liquid brands contain ethoxylated alcohols which can be contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane.  Detergent residues on clothes and bed linens can be a source of skin irritation, and lingering scents from scented products can cause respiratory and other reactions in both the user and others.   Petroleum-based detergents cause more household poisonings than any other household product, (when eaten by children.) Laundry soaps, available as bar soaps or flakes, are usually made from natural minerals and fats and tend to be less toxic than conventional detergents.

Less Toxic Alternatives

  • Kosher Soap - bar soap can be grated into wash water
  • Down East -Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Nature Clean - Natural Laundry Liquid
  • Nature Clean -Natural Laundry Powder
  • Seventh Generation - Natural Laundry Detergent (powder)
  • Simply Clean - Gentle Wash (fine fabrics)
  • Soap Factory - Heavy Duty Laundry Detergent
  • Soap Factory - Laundry Miracle
  • Soapworks - Laundry Soap Powder
Simply Unscented
  • President's Choice - Ultra Laundry Detergent
  • President's Choice - Ultra Liquid Laundry Detergent
  • Sunlight Sensitive Skin Liquid (no dyes or scents)
  • Ultra-Tide - laundry powder
Home-made Alternatives

Laundry Whitener
Add up to 1/2 cup of 20 MuleTeam Borax or Arm & Hammer Washing Soda to washer.
Use sodium hexametaphosphate, amount depends on water hardness


Tips

You can often reduce the recommended quantity of detergent by half or more and still get clothes clean. Experiment to find the right amount, which will differ for mildly soiled and heavily soiled clothes. This can decrease detergent residue in clothes, decrease your exposure, decrease chemicals released into the environment and save you money. 

To get chemicals out of new clothes soak for a few hours or overnight in large container of water with either

  • 1/2 cup coarse non-iodized salt (Can destroy elastic if left too long )  
  • 1/2 cup baking soda. It will take a few rinses to fully remove baking soda. Baking soda may fade colours.

or

  • 1 cup vinegar

Soaking for an hour or two in coarse salt will also remove musty smells from cotton clothes which haven't been worn for a while.

Return to Menu
 

Laundry Stain Remover

Some conventional products contain benzene, toluene and xylene, all neurotoxins, as well as formaldehyde, a carcinogen, and chlorine, a sensitizer.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
  • Best Kosher soap - for light stains
  • Nature Clean - Laundry Stain Remover
  • Oxyclean - oxygen bleach
  • Simply Clean - Stain Remover
Home-made Alternatives

Stain Remover I
1/2 cup ammonia
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup baking soda
2 Tbsp. liquid castile soap
2 litres water

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. Spray liquid onto the stain and let sit for a few minutes. Launder as usual.

Stain Remover II
1/4 cup borax
2 cups cold water

Soak clothing in mixture or apply with sponge.  Baking soda or washing soda can be added to this mixture for additional power to remove odours, mould and grease.

Grease Stains
Add one can of Coke to washer for severe grease stains.


Warning

Do not mix ammonia or vinegar with chlorine bleach.  Toxic fumes are created.

Return to Menu
 

Laundry Starch

Avoid aerosol products.  Fine droplets of spray can be inhaled deeply into lungs and transferred to the bloodstream. Spray starch is mostly cornstarch, but some brands may contain formaldehyde, phenol, and pentachlorophenol.

Home-made Alternatives

Light-coloured Clothing Starch
Dissolve 2 or 3 teaspoons of cornstarch in 1 pint of water.  Pour into refillable spray bottle.

Dark-coloured Clothing Starch
Dissolve 2 or 3 teaspoons of cornstarch in 1 cup of water.  Add 1/2 cup black tea. Pour into refillable spray bottle.

Return to Menu
 

Leather Protector (for shoes or boots)

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Clapham’s - Leather Protector www.claphams.com
  • Clapham’s - Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish (a possible leather protector for people with sensitivities)
  • Newfoundland Bee Company - Leather Waterproofer and Conditioner www.newfoundlandbeecompany.com 709-686-5212
  • Dubbin - Shoe Protector
Home-made Alternatives

Leather Protector
1 ounce (weight) beeswax
1/2 cup safflower oil, almond, walnut, or olive oil , or food grade mineral oil (petroleum based).

Place beeswax with oil in a glass jar, and place in microwave on low or in a double boiler. Never put directly on burner, beeswax is very flammable. When wax is melted, remove the mixture from heat and stir. Apply to shoes when mixture is warm. Using a hair dryer or heat lamp as you apply protector will help keep it soft enough to apply and help it sink into leather.

Safflower oil is more polymerizing than other oils, but others can be used successfully (e.g.: Grapeseed oil).

Return to Menu
 

Lime or Mineral Remover

Some lime removers contain highly caustic sodium hypochlorite and phosphoric acid which are very irritating to lungs and dangerous for people with asthma and heart disease.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • TSP (trisodium phosphate)
Home-made Alternatives

Lime Remover Paste
Add enough water to baking soda to make a paste.  Scrub with a hard bristled brush or tooth brush.

Lime and Mineral Deposit Remover
Soak a rag in vinegar. Apply rag to lime deposits around faucet. Leave on for approximately one hour. Deposits will be softened and can be easily removed.

Shower Heads
Clean shower heads clogged with mineral deposits with undiluted white vinegar. Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar in a plastic bag and secure the bag to the shower head with a rubber band. Let stand from 2 hours to overnight, then rinse and buff the fixture to a shiny finish

Kettle Descaler
Boil one part vinegar with two parts water in kettle for 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly then boil full kettle of water for 15 minutes to remove vinegar residues.

Return to Menu
 

Metal Cleaner/Polish

Conventional products may contain contain ethylene glycol, a neurotoxin, reproductive toxin and respiratory irritant, which can cause kidney blood and possibly liver damage and which is absorbed through the skin. They may also contain ammonia, a respiratory irritant,1,1, 1-trichloroethane which is a neurotoxin and eye and skin irritant, and TEA, which can combine with preserving agents to form carcinogenic nitrosomines. Synthetic fragrances may also be an ingredient in these products.  Many tried and true recipes for home-made metal cleaners/polishes are available. See Debra Lynn Dadd’s Home Safe Home and  Non-toxic,  Natural and Earthwise  for additional recipes.

Home-made Alternatives

Aluminum Cleaner
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 litre water

To clean aluminum cookware, combine ingredients in cookware. Bring solution to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Wash and dry as usual.

Brass and Copper Polish I
Lemon juice
Baking soda or cream of tartar

Make a paste about the consistency of toothpaste. Rub onto brass or copper with a soft cloth. Rinse with water and dry.

Brass, Copper, and Pewter Cleaner II
Mix equal parts salt and vinegar, then thicken with flour. Polish.

Chrome and Stainless Steel Cleaner
Dip soft cloth in undiluted white vinegar. Wipe surface.

Rust Remover
To remove rust rub with fine steel wool dipped in vegetable oil. The finer the steel wool used, the less noticeable any scratches will be.

Removing Tarnish from Old Copper and Brass
To remove tarnish from copper and brass work, while retaining it's aged charm, lemon and salt can be used. Add a little lemon juice to a small pile of salt, take a cloth and polish the copper or brass. After removing the tarnish, rinse, and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.

Iron Cleaner
To clean the bottom of an iron, heat it on highest setting. Meanwhile, pour a small amount of salt onto a sheet of wax paper. When the iron is hot, vigorously run it back and forth over the salted wax paper. This will not only clean off melted fabric, etc. from the bottom of the iron, but leave the iron gliding as smoothly as when new.

Silver Polish

  • Toothpaste can be used as a silver polish.
  • For silverware, place silver on a piece of aluminum foil in a pot, then add 3 inches of water 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt.  Boil for a few minutes, rinse and dry.
  • For jewelry, fill a glass jar half full with thin strips of aluminum foil.  Add 1 tablespoon salt and fill with cold water.  Keep covered. To use, drop items in jar for a few minutes, rinse and dry.

Return to Menu
 

Mould and Mildew Cleaners

Mould and mildew cleaners can contain formaldehyde, a carcinogen and sensitizer, phenol, kerosene, pentachlorophenol,chlorine and fungicides. The Environmental Protection Agency has classified more than 300 different active ingredients found in antimicrobial products including mould and mildew cleaners as pesticides. Although labels often warn that these cleaners can be hazardous as eye irritants,  they are often sold as aerosol sprays, creating fine mists which can be deeply inhaled or contact eyes. See also, anti-bacterials 

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Borax
  • Hydrogen peroxide - drug store dilution.  Apply full strength.
  • Nature Clean - Natural Laundry Bleach (powder)
  • Nature Clean - Natural Liquid Bleach
  • Nature Clean - Natural Kitchen and Bath Spray Cleaner
  • President's Choice - Active Oxygen Bleach
  • Soapworks - Safe Bleach
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate)- available at hardware stores
  • Zephiran Chloride
Home-made Alternatives

Strong All-Purpose Cleaner
1 teaspoon liquid castile soap
1 teaspoon TSP
1 teaspoon borax
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 litre hot water.

Mix in a refillable spray bottle. Good for grease and mildew.


Tips

  • To keep mould under control wash area with a mixture of borax , TSP, zephiran chloride  or vinegar  and water to inhibits mould growth. Stronger solutions of the same substances will kill mould.
  • Ultra-violet light (blue bulb) will kill mold.
  • Wash with very strong black tea and let dry.

Return to Menu
 

Oven Cleaner

Conventional oven cleaners create toxic fumes that can burn eyes, skin and internal organs.  Lye and ammonia are often the cleaning agents and they are especially dangerous in aerosols.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Citra Solv - all-purpose cleaner and degreaser  (contains d-limonene)
  • Nature Clean - Natural Barbeque and Oven Cleaner (contains d-limonene)
  • That Orange Stuff - (contains d-limonene)
Home-made Alternatives

Oven Cleaner I
In a spray bottle, mix 2 tablespoons liquid castile soap, 2 teaspoons borax and warm water to fill bottle.  Dissolve completely. Spray on, keeping nozzle close to oven surface. Even though these are natural ingredients, it is best to wear goggles and rubber gloves. Leave solution on for 20 minutes, then scrub with nylon scrub pad and baking soda.

Oven Cleaner II
Scrub with paste of liquid all purpose cleaner and scouring powder.

Make a paste of baking soda and water and spread on oven interior. Leave overnight with oven door closed. Remove with sponge or nylon scrub pad. SOS pad can be used to remove stubborn bits.


Tips

While oven is still warm, sprinkle water on the spill, then sprinkle salt on it. When the oven cools down, scrape the spill away and wash the area.

Warning

D’limonene is a sensitizer. Use with caution. Ventilate well.

Return to Menu
 

Scouring Powder

Most scouring powders contain bleach, a sensitizer, crystalline silica, a carcinogen, and oxalic acid dihydrate, an allergen. All three substances are also strong irritants.  Bleach can upset the balance in septic tanks by killing helpful bacteria.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Baking Soda
  • Bon Ami Scouring Powder (not available in Canada, available in US grocery stores)
  • Down East - Scouring Powder
Home-made Alternatives

Homemade Scouring Powder
1 cup baking soda
1 cup borax
1 cup regular salt

Combine ingredients and keep in tightly closed container.

Microfibre cloths can be used in many situations to remove grime without chemicals. They are especially good on tubs, sinks and stoves because they won't scratch the surfaces, but the tiny wedge shaped fibers will cut through dirt. 

Return to Menu
 

Sink, Tub and Tile

Sink, tub and tile cleaners can contain ammonia and dimethyl ethylbenzylamonium choride, both strong irritants, ethylene glycol, a neurotoxin and reproductive toxin which may also cause kidney and liver damage, sodium orth-phenylpenol, a carcinogen and irritant, and trisodium nitrilotriacetate, a carcinogen.  Some brands use highly caustic chemicals like sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and phosphoric acid that can burn eyes and skin.  Breathing vapours can burn lungs.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Arm & Hammer  - Washing Soda
  • Down East Cream Cleanser
  • Down East Scouring Powder  (use sparingly on scratchable surfaces)
  • Energy-Wipe - microfibre cleaning cloth
  • 20 Mule Team - Borax
  • Nature Clean - Natural Kitchen and Bath Spray Cleaner
  • Nature Clean - Tile and Bath Cleaner
  • Nature Clean - Tub and Tile Cleaner
Home-made Alternatives

Tub and Tile Cleaner
Mix 1/4 cup baking soda with 1/2 cup white vinegar.

Homemade Spray Cleaner
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water

Wipe on, or use non-aerosol spray bottle.

For tough bathroom surfaces such as shower walls, increase cleaning power by removing sprayer element and heating the solution in the microwave until barely hot. Spray shower walls and allow to stand for 10 to 15 minutes, then scrub and rinse. The heat helps soften stubborn soap scum and loosens hard water deposits.


Tips

  • Use abrasive cleaners sparingly.  Abrasives scratch enamel  over time, causing more dirt to collect.
  • Flat nylon scrubbing pads with a liquid cleanser clean well without scratching.
  • Microfibre cloths are especially good on tubs, sinks and stoves because they won't scratch the surfaces, but the tiny (finer than silk) wedge shaped fibers will cut through dirt. Where there is a lot of dirt build up, they can be used with a small amount of cleaner.

Return to Menu
 

Shoe Cleaners and Conditioners

Shoe Polish

Shoe polishes often contain neurotoxic petroleum products that can be absorbed through skin or inhaled. These neurotoxins may include  turpentine, which can also cause allergic sensitization and serious irritation of kidneys, Stoddard solvent, also an irritant, and heptane. These products may also include carcinogenic dyes, as well as butyl acetate and dipropylen glycol methyl ether, both of which are eye and skin irritants.

Less toxic shoe polishes are almost non-existent. If using conventional polishes, apply in a well ventilated area, keep newly polished shoes in a well ventilated area until smell decreases, and keep polishes and brushes in a closed container. Dispose of rags after use.
 
Home-made Alternatives

Shoe Shine

  • For a spur-of-the-moment job, rub leather shoes with the inside of a banana peel; then clean and buff with a paper towel or napkin.
  • To remove dirt and salt - Use a slightly damp cloth, then rub shoes with olive oil or Vaseline
  • Leather care - rub with olive oil to reduce drying and cracking

See also Leather Protector

Return to Menu
 

Spot Remover

Spot removers are often made with highly toxic petrochemical solvents including toluene and xylene which are neurotoxic and can cause reproductive damage, tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene) which is carcinogenic, neurotoxic and an eye and kin irritant, and petroleum distillates which can cause eye, skin and respiritaory irritation and is neurotoxic. They may also include petroleum spirits, sodium dithionate, TEA, and 1,1, 1-trichloroethane.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Earth Friendly Products - Stain and Odour Remover (contains d-limonene)
  • ECOgent - General Purpose Cleaner and Stain Removal
  • Natural Chemistry Stain and Odor remover
Home-made Alternatives

General Spot Remover
1/4 cup borax dissolved in hot water.  Let cool.  Sponge on fabrics or carpets.

Homemade Pre-treating Stain Remover
1/2 cup ammonia
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup baking soda
2 Tbsp. liquid soap
2 litres water

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle. Shake well before each use. Spray liquid onto stain and let sit for a few minutes. Launder as usual.

Spills and satins should be cleaned immediately for best results.

Club soda will remove many stains.  Rub into spot and clean off with a sponge.  For tougher stains, mix baking soda with club soda.

Return to Menu
 

Toilet Bowl Cleaner and Deodorizer

Many toilet bowl cleaners are often highly caustic and form toxic gases when mixed with water.  They can contain ammonium chloride, a corrosive, 1,4-dichlorobenzine, a carcinogenic pesticide which can cause liver and kidney damage, hydrochloric acid, whose vapours can cause coughing and breathing difficulties, and sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate which is a severe eye, skin and respiratory irritant, which can form carcinogenic chlorine gas. Sulfate-based products containing sodium sulfate or sodium bisulfate may cause asthmatic attacks.

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Hydrogen peroxide - drug store dilution
  • Nature Clean - Natural Laundry Bleach (powder)
  • Nature Clean - Natural Liquid Bleach
  • Nature Clean - Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner
  • President's Choice - Active Oxygen Bleach
  • Soapworks - Safe Bleach
Home-made Alternatives

To remove mineral buildup, put 1-2 denture cleaner tablets in bowl and let sit overnight, then clean .

Pour 1 cup of borax and 1/4 cup vinegar into toilet and let sit overnight before scrubbing.

Pour one can of Coke in toilet.

Use undiluted white vinegar to scrub the inside of the toilet bowl. First dump a bucket of water into the toilet to force water out of the bowl and allow access to the sides. Pour undiluted white vinegar around the bowl and scrub with a toilet brush to remove lime, stains and odor.

Return to Menu
 

Upholstery Cleaner

Upholstery cleaners may contain similar products to dry cleaning solutions. They may contain perchloroethylene, a known carcinogin and central nervous system toxicant and naphthalene, a suspected carciinogen considered "toxic by inhalation"  (Condensed Chemical Dictionary). They may also contain ethanol, ammonia and detergents. Aerosol products should especially be avoided. 

Less-toxic Alternatives

  • Down East - All purpose cleaner
  • Earth Friendly Products - Stain and Odour Remover (contains d-limonene)
  • Nature Clean - Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

Home-made Alternatives

Upholstery Cleaner
1/4 cup liquid castile soap
3 tablespoons water

Blend in bowl and rub foam into upholstery with a cotton cloth.  Rinse with a sponge.


Tips

Use a steam cleaner with plain water or a less toxic cleaner to clean upholstery.

Purchase furniture with covers that can be removed and washed or dry cleaned using water process. Beware of stain resistant fabrics as chemical coatings are often formaldehyde based, which can cause problems for sensitive people.

Return to Menu
 

Vacuums

Vacuum cleaners work by sucking air, along with dirt and debris, into a paper or cloth filter bag.  In theory, dirt and debris stay in the bag while the air is exhausted back into the room.  However, a large percentage of the particulate matter (very fine particles) is often blown back into the room, depending on the quality of the vacuum cleaner.  Particulate matter can contain dust mite fragments and feces, soil, lint, human and pet hair, human and pet dander, mould spores, pollen grains and pesticide residues.  Vacuuming can provoke allergic and asthmatic attacks in susceptible people. A good quality vacuum is especially important where there is carpeting, as carpet can store a large amount of contaminants.

Best

  • Central Vacuums - Central vacuums vented outside eliminate the problem of recirculating particulate matter.  The motor can be located away from the main living area, reducing noise and any fumes created.  Central vacs can be vented indoors but outdoor venting is cleaner and healthier.
  • HEPA-Filtered Vacuums - Many vacuums now use HEPA filters.  HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Arresting.  These filters are made of synthetic materials so that most particulate matter cannot pass through.  There are varying qualities of HEPA vacuums.  People with severe allergies will want a true HEPA vacuum while people interested in capturing just moulds and pollens can opt for a less expensive HEPA-like vacuum. (Some older vacuums can be retro-fitted with HEPA filter attachments.)
  • More efficient vacuum cleaner bags, designed to capture more of the particulate matter, can be purchased to fit some regular vacuums from vacuum cleaner shops.

Any vacuum filter is only as good as the seal around the filter  which prevents leakage.

Return to Menu
 

Window cleaner
- see glass cleaners

Site Map     Printer-friendly Version   (c) 2004