Add some green to your spring clean

Contributing writerMay 6, 2012 

Spring is here, and nicer weather brings an opportunity to open windows, do some spring cleaning and try new approaches to creating healthier homes.

Some of the benefits of spring cleaning include de-cluttering and clearing out items we don’t need; removing dust, pollen and germs from our homes; and feeling freed up to enjoy other activities as the days become longer. But how you accomplish the cleaning can make a difference.

While a lot of commercials would lead you to believe that you need a special bottle of colorful product to achieve cleaning perfection, few of these products are tested for safety. Many of these products contain harmful chemicals, are poisons, cause skin irritation, cause asthma or cancer and damage the environment.

One of the simplest things you can do when choosing household cleaners is to read the product’s label and follow all safety instructions. Products that are labeled “poison” or “danger” are considered a higher hazard than those labeled “warning” or “caution.”

And the truth is, there are simple materials that you probably already have in your home that are very effective cleaners, and can help save money. Drain, window, all-purpose and floor cleaners can all be produced with a few ingredients and cost a fraction of what commercial products cost.

For instance, you can replace your standard ammonia-based blue window cleaner by filling a clean spray bottle with club soda. Windows will shine, and your nose, lungs, and skin won’t be irritated by the corrosive properties of ammonia. If you’d like more information on environmentally friendly cleaning tips and proven-to-work nontoxic recipes, go to co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehhm/greencleaning.html.

When it comes to dusting surfaces, use a cloth dampened with water instead of a chemical cleaner. Damp dusting keeps pollen, dirt and other potentially harmful things such as heavy metals and dust-borne chemicals from becoming airborne and spreading further through the home.

When vacuuming, use a vacuum with a high-efficiency filter bag if possible, or if using a bagless vacuum, empty the contents of the vacuum into a garbage bag outdoors to keep dust from re-entering the house.

Another excellent and free way to minimize toxins in your home is to take your shoes off at the door. It sounds really simple and it is. By not tracking dirt, germs and chemicals into your home each day, you can limit what comes into your home, making cleaning easier and less toxic.

I hope these tips inspire you to get rid of some unwanted cleaning products sitting around your home. But please don’t pour unwanted chemicals down the drain or dispose of them in the trash. You can conveniently dispose of these items for free at HazoHouse at the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center, 2418 Hogum Bay Road, off Exit 111 in Lacey. HazoHouse is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Tuesday. It is closed Wednesday and Thursday.

Having a clean home that’s also a healthier home, really is a breath of fresh air.

Dr. Diana T. Yu is the health officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Contact her at 360-867-2501 or yud@co.thurston.wa.us

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