Keeping your home clean doesn't require weapons of mass disinfection,
experts tell WebMD. Antibacterial and harsh cleansers are usually unnecessary,
and some raise concerns about our health and the environment.
These products don't work any better than their natural or non-toxic
counterparts, and they damage the environment and potentially place our
long-term health at risk.
"The antibacterial soap we buy in the store doesn't clean hands or
reduce the spread of illness any better than regular soap," says Allison
Aiello, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of
You can keep your home just as clean for much less money, safeguard your
personal health, and even protect the environment by going back to the
Chlorine Bleach: What Are the Alternatives?
Chlorine bleach is one of the oldest cleaners. It's also one of the
harshest. Chlorine bleach kills germs on contact, and isn't much friendlier to
your skin, if accidentally splashed. Manufacturers include chlorine bleach in a
wide variety of cleaning products as well as some laundry and dishwasher
Bleach is also renowned for its mold-killing ability, but it's not the only
way to kill mold and mildew. Hydrogen peroxide or vinegar also works to kill
Because it's used so frequently, chlorine bleach is the most common cleaner
that kids accidentally swallow. And chlorine poses another special danger: when
mixed with ammonia -- another common ingredient of cleaning products -- and
acidic cleaners, such as toilet bowl cleaners, the mixture releases poisonous
gasses. Since it's hard to know what's in every product, it's best to simply
not mix cleaning products at all. While it's safe to pour old cleaning products
down the drain, don't pour more than one at a time.
Use a hydrogen-peroxide-based bleach in your laundry instead of chlorine
bleach. Hydrogen peroxide kills mold and mildew, sanitizes counters and cutting
boards, and removes stains from counters.
For household cleaning, opt for chlorine-free products to eliminate the
risks. Specifically look for "chlorine-free" on the label. Use one
product at a time, and rinse surfaces thoroughly.
A simple tip: Keep an old toothbrush to scrub counter and those
hard-to-clean tile corners.
Ammonia: Avoiding Hazardous Fumes
Want a clue to ammonia's hazardous properties? Consider its well-known harsh
smell. Undiluted ammonia is highly irritating to the eyes and respiratory
system. Because it does everything from cutting through grease to cleaning
windows, ammonia is found in a wide range of conventional cleaning products.
There are other ways to clean that are just as effective.
Look for "green" and non-toxic cleaners that don't contain
chlorine, alchohols, triclosan, triclocarbon, lye, glycol ethers, or ammonia.
Choose ones that say "petroleum-free," "90% biodegradable in 3
days," or "phosphate-free."
Choose safer products that say "petroleum-free,"
"biodegradable," "phosphate-free," "VOC-free," and