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How to Keep Your Spring Cleaning Earth-Friendly
04-07-2021 | Armbruster

How to Keep Your Spring Cleaning Earth-Friendly

Ahhh! The sweet smell of spring in the air! Time to throw back the shades, open the windows, and enjoy some fresh air after the long cold winter. The world is coming alive with scents, sounds, and sights that make our hearts sing. When springtime comes, we want to give our homes the fresh start we see in the world around us. That means spring cleaning! Spring cleaning isn’t just about keeping a clean house. It’s a ritual that’s steeped in history, culture, religion, and maybe even our biology. Cultures all over the world incorporate clearing away the cobwebs with springtime religious events. In our efforts to get things sparkling, though, we unintentionally introduce pollutants into our homes by using chemical cleaning products. No doubt, chemical cleaners work wonders on grease, grime, mold, and other nasties we find lurking about. The problem? Many of these chemicals have lasting health and environmental impacts. Chemical cleaners can irritate the lungs, eyes, and nasal passages. They stick around in the environment, too. When we rinse cleaners down the sink or toss paper products used in cleaning with chemicals, those chemicals can persist in the environment. First Step---Avoid Toxic Ingredients You run out of bathroom cleaner, and you’re ready make the switch to a greener cleaner. How do you know what to look for? First, see if the ingredients are listed on the package. Ingredients used in household cleaners are largely unregulated. Manufacturers are only required to disclose ingredients that are known to be potentially harmful or are active disinfectants. If there is no agreed-upon research that a particular ingredient is harmful, then the manufacturers don’t have to disclose that they are using it. Nevertheless, you will often find a list of ingredients. Here are some cleaning ingredients to avoid: Fragrance or parfum: The formula used to make a product’s scent is considered proprietary, and manufacturers are protected from sharing it with competitors. Unfortunately for consumers, that means that dozens of chemicals could be hidden under the category of fragrance. Phthalates: A group of chemicals that are commonly found in products with fragrances. Phthalates accumulate in the body, and most of us have at least some level of them (as confirmed by urine tests). Phthalates are believed to affect children and babies in utero more seriously. Research is exploring links to cancer and reproductive health issues. Triclosan: Registered as a pesticide, triclosan is the active ingredient in anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners. It’s considered an endocrine disruptor and can cause muscle weakness. Parabens: Parabens mimic estrogen in the body and are linked to breast cancer. VOCs: Volatile organic compounds are gases that are released from a variety of products. If you smell a lemon-y scent, it could be VOCs off-gassing in your home. VOCs are also what you smell when you paint a room. Even if you like it, it’s not so great for your lungs. VOCs can irritate the eyes and nose and cause nausea and nervous system damage. Watch carefully for greenwashing. Greenwashing is when companies add random eco-terms that have no regulatory standard to their product. Just because a bottle says “eco-friendly” doesn’t mean it is. The good news is you aren’t stuck using these kinds of cleaners. There are cleaners that are healthier for you and the planet. Some you can mix up from stuff you already have in your pantry. Green Cleaning Straight from Your Pantry Sitting quietly on your pantry shelf are the all-stars of green cleaning. Baking soda, vinegar, salt, and lemon can clean a whole lotta messes! Leslie Reichert, author of The Joy of Green Cleaning, is a big proponent of keeping it simple. Her book is filled with recipes using baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, and essential oils to clean everything from a dirty tub to baby toys. She even uses ketchup and cream of tartar for cleaning copper pots. (A good rule of thumb for cleaning ingredients is, if you can eat it, it’s probably eco-friendly.) A couple of quick and easy mixes to try: Countertop spray: A few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle. Fill bottle ½ full with warm water. The next time you clean add a bit of warm water to heat it up. Can be used on door handles and linoleum floors, also. Stainless steel sinks: Baking soda scrubs off stuck-on foods easily. Dust sink with a little baking soda and let it sit to absorb odors. Pour some baking soda down the drain at night to absorb any odors that linger in the drain. Windows: Vinegar to the rescue! Add a ½ cup of vinegar and a ½ cup of water to a spray bottle. Wipe with a lint-free cloth. Not a DIYer? No problem. We’ve scoped out a few resources for finding eco-friendly cleaners. A Company with Nothing to Hide You may have heard of a little show called Shark Tank, where entrepreneurs pitch ideas to potential investors. One of the show’s most successful deals involves a company bent on changing the way we clean. Blueland’s cleaners come in the form of cleaning tablets. You pop a cleaning tablet in a refillable glass bottle and mix with water. (The tablets, the size of a nickel, reduce the overall carbon footprint of the product). The tablets sell for as low as $2 each. You can save money by forgoing Blueland’s “Forever” glass bottles and reusing one already in your home. Blueland lists all of the ingredients in their products on their website. Some products are made solely from naturally-derived ingredients; some have a few synthetic ingredients. Blueland stays away from the heavy hitters, such as triclosan, parabens, and VOCs. Companies that are trying to be eco-friendly will be this transparent about what’s in their products. Websites That Sell Eco-friendly Cleaners Even the tree-huggers among us don’t have the time to research every product we buy to ensure it’s eco-friendly. That’s why it’s nice when someone has done the legwork for you! Here are a few websites that vet the products they sell so you don’t have to. EarthHero EarthHero wants to make sustainable shopping the new normal. They look at things like product packaging, materials, and product ingredients. You can find eco-friendly cleaners, home goods, and items to support a zero-waste lifestyle. Grove Collaborative Grove Collaborative is first retailer to become plastic-neutral---meaning any plastic they use, they offset by helping pull plastic from the oceans. They’re hoping to be completely plastic-free by 2025. In the meantime, they are a one-stop shop for healthier home cleaners and personal care products. The Mighty Nest The Mighty Nest is similar to EarthHero and Grove. They have lots of products to support a greener lifestyle---cleaners, reusable shopping bags, and food storage containers to name a few. They also have a subscription service with a surprise. You join the service for $11 per month. Then, they send you an item that they choose every month equal to that amount or more.   Need help with a move? Contact us or schedule a virtual survey to see how we can help.   Other resources for green cleaning information: https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/identifying-greener-cleaning-products https://www.epa.gov/greenerproducts/identifying-greener-cleaning-products https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/cleaners_and_health/#.WrFYbWrwaUl https://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/#.WpocZJPwZ24  
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