Indoors & Cleaning
42. Clean with reusable cloth instead of paper towels.
The pulp and paper industry, required to make disposable products such as paper towels, is the third largest producer of global warming pollution in the world (source). In comparison to paper towels, cloth is reusable, washable, and often biodegradable when it comes time to replace it. You can even use your old clothes that are too worn to donate as cloth for cleaning purposes. Mirrors and windows will be streak and lint-free when using lint-free cloth and a non-toxic, biodegradable cleaner. A cheap non-toxic formula for streak-free glass surfaces: 1 part water, 1 part distilled white vinegar, 2-5 drops dish soap. Put contents in a spray bottle and wipe.
43. Use a “green” dry cleaner.
Most dry cleaning services use dangerous chemicals such as percholorethylene, tetrachloroethylene, and tetrachloroethene, which degrade air quality and pose health risks to dry cleaning workers and consumers (source). Choose dry cleaners that use phosphorous-free, biodegradable detergents and products. To find out what products your dry cleaner uses, ask them.
44. Use low-VOC paints.
Indoor air is often three times more polluted than outdoor air. A major contributor to poor indoor air quality is the use of paints, stains, and finishes in homes. Oil-based paints are particularly dangerous, as they contain VOCs. Many VOCs have been shown to cause cancer, nervous system damage, and allergic reactions. While water-based paints are generally taken to be safer, they may also pose health risks, particularly to children. Many water-based paints contain propylene glycol and glycol ethers, which have been shown to increase asthma and other respiratory problems in children (source, source).
To reduce negative health effects, choose low-VOC paint and use caution while painting; ventilate by opening windows, use protective gear specified by the label, keep pregnant women and young children away from freshly painted rooms, close paint cans tightly when not in use, and eliminate all sources of flame when using solvent-based paints. Click for more information on safer paint choices and reducing health effects while painting.
45. Test your home for radon, lead, and/or asbestos.
Radon is a natural radioactive gas that is known to cause cancer in humans. It arises from radioactive breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water, and can become airborne in your home (source). To test for radon, look for a radon test kit at your local hardware store. For more information, watch this video on radon home inspection.
Lead poisoning is a disease contracted from exposure to lead-based products. Children are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of lead, even at low levels of exposure. Effects include aggression, behavioral problems, and deficits in attention span, adaptability, learning, and memory. Lead exposure in adults may contribute to high blood pressure, impaired kidney function, fertility problems, and cataracts. If your home was built before 1978, there is a high likelihood that it contains lead paint (source, source). Click for more information on lead safety.
Asbestos is a mineral that was used extensively in the mid-1900s for floor tiles, insulation, shingles, and more. Asbestos exposure can cause chronic and often lethal lung diseases including asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Removal of asbestos should be carried out by a professional. Disrupting asbestos products can cause the fibers to become airborne, where they pose a serious health threat. Sealed-in asbestos should often be left alone, while fraying, cracking, or loose asbestos products may need to be removed or sealed (source). Click for information on asbestos inspection and removal. Or check out this asbestos removal video.
46. Use cleaners and personal care products that are safe for people, animals, and the environment.
Many chemicals in household cleaning products, such as alkalies, acids, and detergents, can cause health problems, decrease air quality, and harm the environment. For instance, fragrances can impact the human endocrine system (source), and phosphates in detergents contribute to algal blooms which degrade the Chesapeake Bay (source). Learn more from our Tips for Green Leaders Natural Household Cleaners Fact Sheet. Click for more information on reducing the use of hazardous products in your home.
Green cleaning product lines can be found at your local natural food store or at most grocery stores. Look for seals such as Green Guard, Green Seal, and Green Clean Institute that help to ensure product safety. You can also make your own green cleaning solutions from safe and cheap household products such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and natural soaps.
Many personal care products, such as lotions, soaps, hair spray, and make-up, have health risks and negative environmental impacts. To reduce these impacts, you can use fewer products, make your own products, check out ingredient labels, buy organic, avoid fragrances and dyes, and go easy on the antibacterial products. While sunscreen is an important product for avoiding skin cancer, it may contain chemicals with health risks. Limit your use of sunscreen by covering your skin with cool clothing in the summer, wearing a hat, and staying under an umbrella in the sun.
Total “Indoors & Cleaning” Green Points: