Living “green” and exploring ways we as individuals can protect the environment from pollution and degradation, and protect ourselves from environmental hazards, have become more common priorities for families around the country. And while some may still entertain the cliché image of a hippie or treehugger when they think of someone who lives green, the reality is that families from all backgrounds are doing their part.
To some, it's surprising that I am a self-proclaimed “greenie” who is also a physician practicing modern Western medicine. In fact, I find that my goals as a pediatrician — ensuring a healthy childhood and adulthood for my patients — are perfectly compatible with my environmentally conscious values.
Many parents who want to live a more natural lifestyle ask me about safe and effective nontoxic cleaners they can use in their homes.
As a mother, I also have concerns about using potentially toxic cleaning chemicals in my house, knowing my baby spends a lot of time scooting (and doing face plants) on the floor and putting everything in her mouth.
In my own home, I use nonchemical, common household items to create my own cleaners, and recommend these to my patients as well.
These are some of the safest and most inexpensive options for cleaning your home:
- Floor cleaner: For thorough cleaning of tile and linoleum floors, add about ½ cup white vinegar to a bucket of hot water and use for mopping.
- Glass cleaner: Put a half-and-half mix of water and white vinegar, or lemon juice, in a spray bottle. Spray on windows and wipe.
- All-purpose cleaner: Combine ½ cup white vinegar and ¼ cup baking soda into ½ gallon of water.
- Furniture polish: Mix 1 cup olive oil with ½ cup lemon juice into a spray bottle. Shake, then spritz onto a cloth and wipe onto wood furniture. Polish dry with a fresh cloth.
- Tarnish remover: Use lemon slices or fresh lemon juice to cut through mineral deposits and tarnish, and to clean rust stains around faucets and drains.
- Degreaser: Sprinkle cornstarch on greasy countertops and around the stove. Let the cornstarch soak up the grease and just wipe off.
I also recommend several other easy and inexpensive strategies to create a safe and nontoxic home environment:
- Remove shoes when entering the house: This will prevent tracking dust, which can contain lead and other toxic heavy metals, into your home.
- Vacuum frequently: Especially if you have carpets.
- Buy green cleaners: When purchasing cleaning products, be sure to choose chemicals that are “GreenSeal” or “EcoLogo” certified whenever possible.
- Check labels: As a rule, use cleaning chemicals that are chlorine bleach free, phosphate free, non-petroleum-based and chemical fragrance free.
Using fewer and less-toxic chemicals for home cleaning has safety benefits for your family and improves indoor air quality. It also has the benefit of limiting chemicals released into the environment, as well as being cost effective. A win-win-win for the doctor, greenie, and mother in me!
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