Cleaning Products to Use Cautiously or Avoid
If we thought really carefully about the kinds of cleaning products we purchase for our homes before going into the store, we would never buy anything again. While food products are getting more and more regulated with each passing day, the same cannot be said for cleaning ones. Most companies are not required by law to list every ingredient used in their products; in fact, the most some of these contain is a short list of ingredients and a toxicity label, alongside measures to be taken in case of accidental ingestion. According to a study made by the NYC Poison Control Center, 85% of labels on cleaning products are inadequate, because they do not list the long-term health and environmental effects of the usage of certain substances.
It is necessary for homeowners to know what kinds of substances they are absorbing as well as releasing into the environment, and how to best avoid them.
Among the five worst cleaning products to have in the home are:
• Toilet cleaners: These products are much more abrasive and toxic than regular bathroom cleaning products, as they contain acids that can be irritants or even corrosive. Toilet disinfectants, especially, pollute the water (their active chemicals go straight into the drain) and are dangerous for children, who, if left unsupervised, might be attracted to their bright coloring and ingest or touch them.
• Oven cleaners: These products usually contain caustic soda (sodium hydroxide), which can cause chemical burns shortly after exposure. It is very important to follow the instructions on the safety labeling to the letter if one must use oven cleaners to remove built-up grease, although this build-up can be avoided by cleaning the oven shortly after each use, before it cools down completely.
• Drain openers and clog removers: Some of these products are extremely dangerous to both the environment and our organisms. This is due to them containing chemicals like sodium hydroxide and sulfuric acid, which can cause burns or tissue damage if ingested. It can even cause permanent blindness if splayed onto the eyes. While they are efficient in removing clogs and opening stuck drains, they can be easily avoided; simply by preventing the drains from getting stuck to begin with, and by installing removable pipes and valves. That way, one can simply remove the affected area in case of a clogged drain. If this is impossible, then try other mechanical drain-opening methods, like using a plunger or a drain snake (also called an auger) or less toxic chemical methods, like:
a) Baking soda: Prepare this amazing drain cleaner by mixing 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and ½ cup of cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) in a bowl. Then pour ¼ cup of this mixture at a time down the drain, followed by 2 cups of boiling water. Make sure to wait for about a minute before repeating the process. Although this method may take a few tries to work, it will surely help out.
b) Washing soda or soda crystals: Since washing soda (sodium carbonate) is more alkaline than baking soda (with a pH of 11), it can be useful for opening those really clogged drains where the baking soda has not made much of a difference. Simply pour one cup of the washing soda down the clogged drain and wait a while until it sets on the clog. Then, use the baking soda method above until your drains are completely open. However, never used this method if you have already used a commercial drain opener, as both chemicals would react strongly and such could damage the pipes. Also, washing soda damages PVC piping in the long run, so do not use it often if that is the case.
• Disinfectants and antibacterial cleaning products: Many of these products are useless, and some of them are even counterproductive for maintaining a sterile environment. Furthermore, some of them contribute to bacteria developing antibiotic resistance, and thus must be used with caution, sporadically, or avoided completely. Simple detergent will be enough to eliminate most bacteria from surfaces.
• Air fresheners: Some of these products contain solvents that are toxic and can cause a lot of damage to the organism. Many also can trigger asthma attacks or worsen them if they are already present, and can cause migraines or bronchitis in people sensitive to these substances. The best way to keep a room smelling fresh is to open the windows and let the air flow.
So, in general, it is best to have just a general multipurpose cleaner to keep your home clean, or use natural alternatives like baking soda and vinegar. And, never forget, plain old water and soap; the universal cleaners.