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Green Cleaning for Healthy Homes

These natural alternatives to harmful chemical cleaners will leave your home refreshed and shining.

| May / June 2018

  • Seemingly innocent cleaning products might be polluting our homes with toxic chemicals.
    Photo by Getty Images/huePhotography
  • If swapping out all of your products at once won't fit within your budget, take it one step at a time.
    Photo by Getty Images/Floortje
  • Laundry detergent especially can be unhealthy and irritating to skin. Try natural alternatives like soap-berry-based products.
    Photo by Getty Images/mollypix
  • When replacing your most toxic cleaning products, remember that one new, all-purpose cleaner might be able to take the place of multiple current products.
    Photo by Getty Images/belchonock
  • Wool dryer balls are cheap, easy to make yourself, and they're reusable alternatives to one-and-done dryer sheets.
    Photo by Getty Images/miromiro
  • With indoor air becoming increasingly more polluted than outdoor air, it's time to make the change to more natural, proven-safe products.
    Photo by Stocksy/Trinette Reed

There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction that comes after the entire house has been cleaned — propping your feet up as you admire the shining countertops, crumb-free floors, empty laundry basket, and windows so clear that the sunlight streams through unimpeded.

But products as seemingly innocent as laundry detergent and glass cleaner are polluting our homes with chemicals that stress our livers and detox pathways, throw off our hormones, and increase our risk of cancer and chronic lung disease. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 21 commonly used cleaning products collectively emitted more than 450 chemicals, a number of which have been linked to asthma, developmental and reproductive harm, or cancer. These chemicals don’t just pollute our homes and compromise our personal health; they also harm the environment and the health of wildlife.

This number is just the tip of the iceberg, though. Of the more than 80,000 chemicals used in commerce today, 20 percent are kept as trade secrets, and only about 200 have been tested for safety. Legal loopholes have allowed companies to use almost any chemical in their products without first providing any safety data. This means that each day we unknowingly use products that are filled with unhealthy ingredients.

As a result, indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities.” With the average person spending about 90 percent of their time indoors, this is certainly alarming. In fact, the EPA and its Science Advisory Board consistently label indoor air pollution as one of their top five environmental health risks.

Making things more difficult is the fact that cleaning product manufacturers aren’t legally required to list ingredients on packaging or elsewhere. So, in most cases, we don’t know exactly which chemicals we’re inviting into our homes via our cleaning products. Though some companies do voluntarily disclose their product ingredients, only about 7 percent include complete ingredient information. Others may use grab-bag terms, such as “fragrance,” “surfactant,” or “preservative,” each of which can represent dozens of different toxic chemicals.

But there’s good news: Armed with the right information, you can easily make your own cleaning products or purchase safe options. We’ve covered homemade cleaning products in-depth in past issues, and you can peruse our entire collection of favorite recipes online at

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