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The Best Non-toxic Ways to Clean Your Home


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.

Non-toxic Solution

  • 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 "solvent-free."

Non-toxic Cleaners: Off the Shelf or Do-It-Yourself

Growing awareness and demand by ecologically-minded consumers, as well as parents motivated to keep their family healthy, has led to an explosion of environmentally friendlier and non-toxic products. There are many products in this category – from laundry detergents and fabric softeners to multi-surface and floor cleaners, to tile and bathroom cleaners -- that are convenient and safer for people and the planet.

While some are indeed safer, others are unfortunately “green-washed,” marketed as natural while still including suspect chemicals.

Get in the simple practice of looking at product labels to see if the cleaning manufacturer is clearly disclosing all ingredients. If it is not, you can check the manufacturer's web site, but it could mean the manufacturer is trying to hide a particular suspect ingredient.

Third party “ecologos” and product labels can sometimes be confusing, even misleading. For independent reviews, use Consumer Report’s to find out what claims on labels really mean and if they’re actually regulated. You can also use the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Household Products Database to look up specific products and find out their ingredients. Likewise, you can check out a company’s web site – many are being much more transparent than in the past. Or contact them to find out what’s inside.

Some people may choose to make their own cleaning products. It's surprisingly easy, cheap, and for most ordinary household jobs, do-it-yourself cleaning products can be as effective as anything you'd buy at the store. It’s easy, inexpensive, and for most ordinary household jobs, do-it-yourself cleaning products can be as just as effective.

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What do you use most often to clean kitchen counters?