||How much of
your day is spent indoors? Inside your own home? If
you're like most Americans, you spend up to 90 percent of
your life in an enclosed, indoor location - and more than
half of that inside your own home. Strangely enough, our
concern for environmental health doesn't always translate
into a concern for a healthy indoor environment as well
as a healthy outdoor environment.
The overall health of a home is usually
affected by not one, but many sources of pollutants. Add
heat, humidity, and modern-day, energy-efficient
construction practices to the picture, and the
concentrations of existing pollutants dramatically
increase. In an effort to save energy and make our homes
energy-efficient, we've tightened them up, which means
we're sealing in our homes many chemicals found in common
That's the bad news. The good news
is that the process of detoxifying your home is simpler
than you might think. While larger and more unwieldy
environmental problems loom all around us, preventing and
reducing the risks associated with exposure to
pesticides, household cleaners, and other sources of
toxic chemicals can be done by anyone, at any time.
Cleaners, polishes, and pesticides
are significant sources of toxics in the home. When these
must be brought into your home, be sure to use and
dispose of them according to directions on the label.
Chemicals in cleaners and polishes are often a mixture of
complex, unnamed compounds. Some contain strong acids
(drain cleaners) or bases (oven cleaners). Do not use of
dispose of these together. Others may contain petroleum
distillates knowns as "grease cutters."
Avoid detergents with mercury,
phosphates, and heavy metals, such as arsenic and zinc,
which can cause persistent problems in both indoor and
Consider these one dozen ways to use
non-toxic alternatives in your home:
- Surface Cleaner:
For tile and bathroom fixtures, use baking soda
dissolved in water, applied on a damp cloth. For
cleaning your toilet bowl, use baking soda and
vinegar or lemon juice and borax. Cola that has
gone flat can be poured in the bowl, left to sit
for one hour, brushed, and flushed.
Opener/Cleaner: Pour boiling water directly
down your kitchen drain, not into the basin,
twice weekly to prevent clogs. Use a drain
trap/strainer to catch food or hair. To clear a
clogged drain, use a metal snake or plunger.
- Oven Cleaner:
Clean your oven often with baking soda (mix three
tablespoons soda with one cup warm water). Rub
gently with steel wool. Use oven liners or
tinfoil to catch spills. Sprinkle salt on spills
while oven is still warm. When the oven cools,
scrape and wipe the area clean.
Bleach: Use dry bleach, borax, or washing
soda to whiten clothes. Never combine bleach and
ammonia together, as they produce a toxic gas.
Borax is also a good grease cutter.
- Window Cleaner:
Apply vinegar and water (two teaspoons vinegar to
one quart water), squeegee off, and dry with a
soft cloth or newspaper.
Floor Cleaner/Wax: Mop with one cup of white
vinegar mixed with two gallons of water to remove
dull, greasy film. Add a small amount of skim
milk to the rinse water. This will shine the
- Rug and Upholstery
Cleaner: Club soda works well as a stain
remover as does a solution of water and vinegar
(1/4 cup each). Upholstery shampoo can be made by
combining 6 tablespoons of mild soap flakes, 1
pint of boiling water, and 2 teaspoons of
household ammonia. Mix and whip the mixture with
a beater. Brush only the foam into the soiled
upholstery. Be sure to wash kitchen utensils
completely after use.
Polish: Polish with one teaspoon lemon oil or
almond oil dissolved in one pint of baby oil.
Wash with oil soap or Castile soap and water.
- Spot Removers: Use
club soda to remove fruit juice, tea, gravy,
ketchup, and mud; cold water immediately for
blood; lemon juice for ink, and perspiration;
beaten egg whites for spots on leather. Use the
oil from crushed walnuts to conceal nicks and
Polish: Avoid polishes which contain
trichloroethylene, methylene chloride, or
nitrobenzene. Instead, rub shoes with lemon juice
and buff with soft cloth.
- Metal Polish
(Aluminum, Brass, Copper, Silver): Soak
silver in one quart of boiling water with one
teaspoon baking soda or cream of tartar, one
teaspoon salt, and a piece of aluminum foil.
Polish with toothpaste and rinse. Pour lemon
juice or vinegar and salt over copper and rub.
For brass, use one-half teaspoon salt and
one-half cup white vinegar with enough flour to
make a paste let it sit 25 minutes to 1
hour. Wipe clean. Soak aluminum in one quart
boiling water with two teaspoons cream of tartar.
Control: For an effective insect spray, blend
six cloves of crushed garlic, one minced onion,
one tablespoon dried hot pepper and one teaspoon
pure soap in four quarts hot water. Let the mix
sit one to two days and then strain it before
using. To control roaches, place bay leaves
around cracks in the room. Set out a dish of
equal parts baking soda and powdered sugar or
equal parts of oatmeal flour and plaster of
Paris, or chopped bay leaves and cucumber skins,
or crushed tobacco and water. As for ants, pour a
line of cream of tartar, red chili powder,
paprika, or dried peppermint leaves at point of
entry. To control fleas, give your pets
brewers yeast, garlic tablets, or vitamin B
and wash them regularly in herbal baths prepared
with fennel, rue, or rosemary to repel fleas from
animals. Finally, cedar chips, newspaper, and
dried lavender are good substitutes for moth