Sign up to receive email updates, action alerts & health tips from EWG. [Privacy]

Safe Cleaning Tips

Greener School Cleaning Supplies: Safe Cleaning Tips

November 3, 2009

Safe Cleaning Tips for Your Home

Our homes aren't safe and clean if the air inside is polluted with chemicals from household cleaners. Follow these simple tips to protect your family's health while you clean your home.

  1. Less is More
    Dilute your cleaning supplies according to instructions and use only what's needed to get the job done.
  2. Open the Window
    Clean with windows and doors open so you don't trap air pollution inside your home.
  3. Use Gloves and Other Precautions
    Cleaning chemicals may harm or penetrate skin and eyes - check warning labels.
  4. Keep Kids Away
    Children are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals. If they like to help, let them clean with soap and water, not toxic cleaners.
  5. Avoid "Antibacterial"
    If your family is generally healthy, there's no need to use potentially toxic "antibacterial" products, according to the American Medical Association. Wash your hands with plain soap and water.
  6. Never Mix Bleach with Ammonia, Vinegar, or Other Acids
    These combinations can produce deadly gases.
  7. Don't Be Fooled by Labels - Buy Certified Green Products
    Label claims aren't always true. Cleaning supplies certified by Green Seal or EcoLogo meet green standards.
  8. Try Natural Alternatives
    Experiment with non-toxic options like vinegar and baking soda.
  9. Take Care with Pine and Citrus Oil Cleaners
    Avoid using these cleaners especially on smoggy days, when the ingredients can react with ozone to produce cancer-causing formaldehyde.
  10. Skip the Biggest Hazards
    Avoid air fresheners, use a baking soda and water paste to clean the oven and tackle toilet stains, and use a mechanical snake to unclog the drain.

In the Kitchen:

  1. Skip the biggest hazards: Oven cleaners Safer alternative: scrub with a baking soda & water paste Corrosive drain cleaners Safer alternative: baking soda & vinegar or a mechanical snake
  2. Fight germs without nasty chemicals: Microwave your sponge Wet it and zap for two minutes to kill germs
  3. More non-toxic ways to fight germs: Wash your hands often with regular soap and water - no need for "antibacterial" soap Wash dishes and clean counters frequently so germs don't collect - and avoid "antibacterial" dish soap Take out the garbage regularly to avoid germs, pests, and bad odors

In the Bathroom:

  1. Skip the biggest hazards: Acidic toilet-bowl cleaners Safer alternative: scrub with baking soda and water Corrosive drain cleaners Safer alternative: baking soda & vinegar or a mechanical snake
  2. Fight germs without nasty chemicals: Focus on the toilet Keep germs isolated by tossing toilet cleaning rags into the wash right away and keeping the scrub brush in an out-of-the-way spot
  3. More non-toxic ways to fight germs: Wash your hands often with regular soap and water - no need for "antibacterial" soap Wipe down showers after each use to prevent mold and mildew
  4. Forgo air fresheners: These only disguise odors, while pumping a bunch of toxic chemicals into the air Safer alternative: Open a window, run a fan, and try to identify and clean up the real source of the smellA box of baking soda is another safe way to eliminate odor

Floors and Furniture:

  1. Sweep and vacuum frequently to remove dust, which often harbors household toxins
  2. Mop with a dilute vinegar solution (e.g. ¼ cup vinegar in 1 quart of water)
  3. Try a microfiber mop to remove dust and dirt efficiently while using smaller amounts of both water and cleaning supplies
  4. Dust with a soft or microfiber cloth and skip dusting sprays
  5. Clean spills promptly