Nasty, nasty chemical cleaners: the top 10 criminals

Undoubtedly, any one of us could look in a cupboard and under the sink and find bottles and cans of household cleaners that contain the harshest and most toxic of chemicals.  But do we really need them?

Don’t get me wrong… I want my house clean and germ-free too, but what if the means to that end requires us to spray, scrub and wash surfaces that we touch… that our kids touch countless times every day… with harsh chemicals? Kinda sounds like we’re defeating our purpose!

Knowing the worst household offenders is the best place to start making this change.  So here is the condensed rap sheet on those “bottled criminals”:

  • Bleach – can cause irritation & burns, and edema or coma if ingested
  • Mold & Mildew Cleaners – contents include known carcinogens and chemicals that can cause fluid in the lungs, memory loss and shortness of breath
  • Oven Cleaners – can cause irritation & burns, and effect reflexes and tissue if ingested
  • Ammonia – damaging to eyes, respiratory tract and skin
  • Air Fresheners – commonly contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen
  • Dishwasher Detergent – contains highly concentrated/highly poisonous chlorine in a dry form
  • Laundry Products – contains elements that can cause liver damage and can irritate and/or burn skin, eyes, mucous membranes and the respiratory tract
  • Carpet & Upholstery Shampoo – contains a known carcinogen that damages the kidneys, liver and nervous system, plus irritants & burning contents
  • Toilet Bowl Cleaners – contents can damage kidneys and the liver, irritate skin and eyes, and cause edema or coma if ingested
  • Drain Cleaners – contains elements that can damage kidneys, liver & the digestive tract, and depress the nervous system

Are you scared yet?  I know I am! If you want more details and the actual chemical contents, click here, but I assure you, you won’t like what you read.  It convinced me that I really, really need to give up a bunch of these commercial cleaners!

So… what to do? I say the answer is in three little words: distilled white vinegar.  It has more uses than you can imagine — it’s safe, it’s environmental and it’s inexpensive.

We already know that it can clean a clogged drain like a champ, but did you also know it can: cut grease, brighten your laundry, remove mineral deposits and stains, clean tarnished metals, remove carpet stains, clean the floor, remove stains from clothing and (what we all want)… kill germs and sanitize! will give you 75 ways to use and formulate vinegar for everyday cleaning and 20 tips for using vinegar with your laundry!  I’m impressed!

The only other thing that comes to mind is “do they sell vinegar in barrels” (!?!).

“Mom the Plumber”: the green way

Friday is grocery store day.  As usual, I asked my husband about any requests and he called down from upstairs, “Yea.  Drano.  Bathroom sink is clogged again!”

Oooo.  Drano = chemicals.  I can’t go there again!

So, I “Googled” before the trip and found a green remedy that I wanted to give a try.   Drano wasn’t added to the list, but baking soda and white vinegar was.

That evening I gave it a go.  A half cup of baking soda went in first, followed by a cup of hot vinegar.  It turned out to be a great science experiment for the kids too!  Our son came in, holding his nose and said “eeew!  Watt dat ‘mell?!?!”  (Turns out they sound pretty cute with a clamped nose and the hot vinegar isn’t high on their list of yummy smells!)  Our daughter joined us as we poured in the vinegar.

It started bubbling and foaming and working its magic.  Our kids responded with a collective “Keeeewl!” – noses still plugged!  It was amazing… and gross.  Brown slimy gick started rising to the top of the vinegar and I started cringing at the nastiness that had built up down there, but I was glad it was apparently working.

After the vinegar drained, we did it all over again…(more “Keeeewls!”).  After that, I plunged the drain, ran some hot water, and lo and behold…clear drain!  Victory!.. and NO CHEMICALS!

Turns out this is a great practice to just regularly clean and maintain the drain, to even prevent clogs. This was also a great learning experience for me.  There are often green solutions for everyday problems and all it takes is a bit of legwork to help you find an alternative to try.

So next time your drain gets clogged, don’t Drano… just baking soda & vinegar-o!