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The average person spends ninety-percent of their time indoors. Contrary to popular belief, indoor air pollution is equally as dangerous as that which you encounter outdoors. Trapped indoor air (especially during winter months, when there is little or no air exchange) is a dangerous and often misunderstood problem.

The majority of cleaning products manufactured today pose serious health risks to both the environment and its user. Long after you've put the spray bottles and containers away, fumes linger, exposing the air you breathe to a variety of toxic fumes. Once indoor air becomes contaminated or stale, it remains that way until fresh air is circulated back in.

What can I do to protect myself against the dangers of chemical cleaners?

1. If you have small children and pets, use common sense. Store containers and bottles of cleaners out of reach. Even trace amounts of caustic cleaners are enough to cause serious injury, and even death. Always have the Poison Control Center's number on hand, just in case.

2. When you do use manufactured products, make sure to supply your home with adequate ventilation. Simple things like opening a kitchen window or turning on a bathroom fan will make a big difference in your quality of air.

3. Read and follow product instructions. Wearing gloves and rinsing exposed skin after cleaning can prevent injury and irritation.

Are there alternatives to cleaning with manufactured solutions?

Of course! Before the days of instant solutions, common household ingredients were used to clean, disinfect, scrub and polish almost everything. Many homemade cleaning solutions often outperform popular manufactured solvents, and are easy to mix and store safely.

What can I use as alternative cleaners?

There are a large variety of mixtures you can create at home. These are the basics:

1. Baking soda cleans, deodorizes, softens water and works as a scouring powder.

2. Lemon juice will cut stains and freshen smells.

3. Vinegar is a mildly bleaching antiseptic. It deodorizes, disinfects, cuts through grease, cleans glass, will remove lime deposits.

4. Dry cornstarch makes for an effective carpet cleaner and deodorizer.

5. Olive oil (mixed with a few drops of lemon oil) will clean leather safely.

6. Margarine is a proven hand cleaner on things like paint, grease and car oil.

7. Remove scuff and heel marks from linoleum with a common pencil eraser.

8. Fix a clogged drain with an equal mixture of baking soda and vinegar.

9. Toothpaste will cleanse and polish silver.

10. Salt makes an excellent scouring powder.

11. A dollop of shaving cream acts as a spot remover on fresh carpet stains and won't leave rugs stiff, like commercial compounds.

12. Mineral oil and the juice of a lemon polishes and washes wood.

Can I mix household ingredients for strength cleaning?

Yes! Unlike traditional cleansers, many of which become toxic when combined, common household ingredients can be safely combined for tough cleaning jobs. A paste made of baking soda and dishwashing detergent, for example, will take brown spots out of stainless steel sinks.

Are there dangers to using homemade cleansers?

While the hazards are minimal, they do exist. Baking soda ingested in large amounts can cause serious problems, for example. Even homemade cleaners should be labeled well, and kept at a safe distance from small children and pets. While you won't encounter any toxic fumes, ingesting too much of anything is never good.

Will natural cleansers damage finishes and coatings on wood and linoleum?

No. Most homemade mixtures are harmless to wood, countertops, wax and no wax floors, carpeting and even windows. And almost all leave no residue, making less work for you.

Trial and error will help you find what combination of products work best for your cleaning jobs. There is no "wrong mixture." Homemade cleaners will go a long way in preventing toxic buildups of air inside your home, keeping you and your family safer, healthier..and just as clean.