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Monday, November 3, 2008

Clean and Green

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Educator, Urban Sustainability

OK, cleaning the home is not really everyone’s favorite job, which is why it is called houseWORK and not housePLAY. But consider the potential human and environmental impacts added to the insult of having to undertake this regular chore. Many common household cleaners contain substances that can lead to a potentially harmful indoor environment.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency ( Americans spend an average of 90 percent of our lives indoors. Couple that with the evidence that indoor environments can be more polluted that the air in industrial cities, perhaps it is time to consider protecting our indoor environment!

From the laundry room to the toilet bowl, we can purchase products to keep our whites their whitest and that kill 99.9% of germs. This puts us in contact with some materials that have to be safely handled due to potential risks. To name a few: Sodium hydroxide is found in some oven cleaners, and some drain cleaners contain a powerful caustic which can cause burns to the skin and eyes. Chlorine might be found in laundry and dishwasher products and is another cleaner that should be handled carefully. Furniture polishes, air fresheners, carpet shampoo, and cosmetics can impact our indoor air quality in the comfort of our homes.

UF researchers have compiled a list of green alternatives to some of the above products. The publication can be found at: It covers not only alternative cleaners, but practices that can help prevent the need for some more toxic substances in the home.

Of course there are many green cleaning products on the market as well, with more added everyday. These less-toxic or non-toxic products have traditionally been more expensive than their non-green counterpartsbut the increased demand has begun to lower prices on green alternatives.

To ensure the product you wish to purchase really is green, be sure to read “Greenwashing: Be Aware" in the Thinking Green E-newsletter

Hazardous Household Chemical Disposal:
Hazardous Household Substances: Alternatives That Are Relatively Free of Toxic Effects:


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