Most people like to live in a clean home. But when we clean our homes, are we actually exposing ourselves, our families, and our housemates to harmful substances? Are we contributing chemicals to our water supply? Are we creating unnecessary waste in the process? Here are some things to consider to tidy our homes in a truly clean manner:
Reduce the use of harmful chemicals. Read the labels before you buy! Avoid products with Warning, Danger, or Poison, as they are more toxic. Certain products such as antibacterial cleaners, air fresheners, and toilet bowl cleaners may contain especially harmful ingredients that can be avoided by opting for safer alternatives like homemade remedies. To avoid waste and lots of toxins in your home, it is best to use fewer products and buy only as much as you need. Choose a multi-purpose cleaner that will save money and storage space, and turn to baking soda and vinegar for the rest.
Reuse your neighbor’s leftovers! Through the Santa Clara County Community Reuse Program, you can drop off your unused or leftover paints, cleaners, garden products, automotive products, propane and butane tanks, pool chemicals, and other reusable products. They are not considered hazardous waste if they can be reused. County residents can view and pick up free products that they find use for in their own homes. On top of a great opportunity to save money, this reduces the amount of pollutants that would escape into the environment through improper disposal.
Recycle old t-shirts as cleaning rags rather than buying and disposing of endless amounts of paper towels. T-shirts with holes, dish towels no longer acceptable for the kitchen, extra cloth not put to use--all of these things can be put to good use for wiping down counters, cleaning mirrors, dusting, etc. You’ll save money and divert waste by avoiding disposable paper towels, put old things to new use, and you’ll never run out!
Respect the labels on your cleaning products. As mentioned, the words Caution, Warning, Danger and Poison indicate that a product is hazardous, while labels like Chemical-Free, SF Approved, and Green Seal designate it has less or no toxins. If you have leftover hazardous product to dispose of, bring it to a hazardous waste drop-off site. However, it is best to avoid buying these in the first place, or when possible, to use the product up if you already have it! Many cleaning products contain harmful ingredients that should not be thrown in the landfill or poured down the drain.
Contributed by Claire Ryan '14, Intern, Residence Life