Tops April 2016 Green Tips: Cleaning up the Indoor Pollution

Spring is here and we all want our indoor environments at home, work and school, to be as healthy as possible. Did you know that a season of indoor cooking and heating can increase the indoor pollution levels of fine particles, carbon monoxide, and other toxic chemicals by 1,000%?  For example, exposure to VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) may affect the lungs, brain, and nervous systems. VOCs are found in everyday items like air fresheners, mothballs and deodorizers, nail polish remover, hair spray, and pressed wood products. One of the easiest ways to undo the effects of toxic chemicals in the home is to stop using them to clean! Here are a few tips on natural and non-toxic cleaning ideas:

  • Let houseplants clean the air in your home. Since the air inside your home is often more toxic to your health than the air outside, try these plants and please note that some are best kept away from pets. Aloe Vera, (which also has medicinal properties); Spider plants (nearly impossible to kill); Gerber daisies (which come in a variety of colors); Snake plant (also known as “mother-in-law’s tongue”, which filters formaldehyde out of the air); Chrysanthemum (which filters benzene); English Ivy; Chinese Evergreen (which filters more toxins as time goes on); and Bamboo Palm.
  • Try greener cleaning products. We know that the EPA ranks indoor air pollution as a top environmental danger, so get rid of the toxic cleaners and try brands like Seventh Generation, Method and Biokleen. These companies make full lines of earth-friendly household cleaners and are readily available at your favorite stores. You can also easily make your own non-toxic cleaning products using everyday items like distilled white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and olive oil. For example, vinegar gently eliminates soap scum and grease. Lemon juice cleans mold and mildew. Baking soda has virus-killing abilities as well as cutting through grease and grime while also deodorizing surfaces. Look online for free recipes for do-it-yourself cleaning products.
  •  Stop using paper towels. We know they seem convenient, but converting to using cloth napkins, rag bags and microfiber cloths offers far more benefits than the supposed convenience of using disposable paper products. Ditching the paper towels will save you money, spare a tree, reduce the waste you send to a landfill, as well as decrease the pollution caused by their production, packaging and transportation. Instead, make rags out of old towels, pillowcases and other cotton fabrics. Rewash and reuse!
  • Rethink your laundry habits. There are many ways to clean your clothes and be green. You can save the dryer for the winter; why not take advantage of spring by drying your clothes on a line? If aesthetics are an issue, look into retractable lines that can easily disappear when not in use. Front-loading washing machines, especially those with Energy Star labels, use only half as much water and energy as top-loading and older models, so if you’re in the market for a new machine, consider one of those. If your washer is still in good working order, be sure to wait until you have a full load and wash your clothes in cold water on the shortest available cycle.

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