A 20-year longitudinal study conducted by scientists at the University of Bergen in Norway has found that using cleaning products can be as harmful as smoking 20 cigarettes a day. Do you know what's in your cleaning products? There is no current law in the US that states that companies have to disclose what is in their products.
Cleaning is essential to protecting our health in our homes, schools and workplaces. However, household and cleaning products—including soaps, polishes and grooming supplies—often include harmful chemicals. Even products advertised as "green" or "natural" may contain ingredients that can cause health problems. Some cleaning supplies can even be flammable or corrosive. Fortunately, you can limit your exposure to those risks. Read all labels and follow instructions when using cleaning products.
How can cleaning supplies, household products affect health? Many cleaning supplies or household products can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause headaches and other health problems, including cancer. Some products release dangerous chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Other harmful ingredients include ammonia and bleach. Even natural fragrances such as citrus can react to produce dangerous pollutants indoors.
VOCs and other chemicals released when using cleaning supplies contribute to chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches. Studies are underway to assess how these chemicals affect people who have asthma and other respiratory illnesses (1). However, past studies link exposure to chemicals from cleaning supplies to occupational asthma and other respiratory illnesses (2,3).
Cleaning supplies and household products containing VOCs and other toxic substances can include, but are not limited to:
How can you prevent harm from cleaning and household products? Read all labels on cleaning supplies and household products before you buy them. Choose products that do not contain or have reduced amounts of VOCs, fragrances, irritants and flammable ingredients. Avoid using air fresheners altogether.
Manufacturers are not obligated by U.S. law to list all ingredients in consumer products (4). Products that are labeled "green" do not necessarily mean they are safer. Do a little research on the product from a reliable source. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a list of products that meet its Safer Choice requirements for cleaning and other needs. They include cleaning products for home and vehicles.
As a safer cleaning alternative, warm water and soap often will do the trick, especially at home. Baking soda is good for scrubbing. A mix of vinegar and water can clean glass.
When using cleaning or household products, keep the area well ventilated. Open windows and doors. Never use cleaning products in a small, enclosed space.
After a lot of research, this is why here at Ways + Means Cleaning we use all non-toxic supplies whenever possible. For some of the messier jobs, we may have to use harsher products but we'll discuss this with you if the need arises. You can rest assured that when you hire us, we're using products that are safe for you, your family and your pets.
The Organized Home this week celebrated the art of casual tidiness with stories on relaxed, uncluttered, summery spaces. Have a look.
Above: First tip for mastering the art of casual tidiness: Mix inexpensive storage solutions with more high-end items. Case in point, Ikea shelves and brackets in a tiny kitchen are suspended just above a handmade ceramic vase (holding wooden spoons) by Michelle Quan. See Bookmark for Next Summer: 7 Storage Ideas to Steal from a High/Low Beach Shack for details. Photograph by Kate Sears.
Above: This airy laundry room has storage to spare. See Steal This Look: A Well-Equipped Laundry Room in Somerset to find similar products. Photograph courtesy of Light Locations.
Above: A few weeks ago The Organized Home spotlighted the Remodelista Considered Design Awards winner in the Best Kitchen Organization category. This week it featured one of the runners-up. See Steal This Look: The Modern Farmhouse Pantry (a Remodelista Considered Design Awards Finalist). Photograph by Delbarr Moradi.
When it comes to common household pests, they enter homes in search of three things: water, food and shelter. They can find entry points through almost any size opening, including tiny cracks and crevices or holes as small as a dime in the structure’s exterior. Once inside, pests, such as rodents, cockroaches, ants and spiders, will find a hiding or nesting spot — the most common rooms being the kitchen, bathroom, basement and attic.
Whether it’s dry foods in the pantry, crumbs on the counter or under the fridge or food scraps in the trash can, all are items rodents, ants and cockroaches are looking for. Once they’ve discovered the goodies, they will keep coming back, contaminating kitchen surfaces and food and posing health and property hazards.
Not only do sinks and bathtubs provide a never-ending source of moisture for pests, the pipes provide a good travel pathway from the outside or throughout the house. Cockroaches, house centipedes and silverfish can often be found in the bathroom.
The Attic and Basement
Usually these rooms house boxes, papers and insulation and at times are filled with moisture, which is why homeowners tend to discover rodent and spider infestations there. Rodents are also capable of destroying insulation in attics and chewing through walls, baseboards and electrical wires, increasing the risk of fire.
The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) reminds homeowners that there are many effective pest-proofing measures they can take to discourage unwanted guests from taking shelter in these places:
* Immediately wipe up any crumbs or spills from countertops, tables, floors and shelves.
* Wipe down kitchen appliances and clean under them.
* Store food in airtight containers, and dispose of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles.
* Run your garbage disposal regularly.
* Don’t let dirty dishes pile up and stand in the sink.
* Don’t leave pet food and water bowls sitting out for long periods of time.
* Occasionally, inspect sinks, toilets and tubs for any leaks or drips.
* Give bathrooms a thorough cleaning by scrubbing the floors with disinfectant cleaner, and wiping down the inside of drawers with warm soapy water.
* Check to ensure that shampoo, lotion and soap bottles are secure and no contents have spilled out of their containers.
* Replace loose mortar and weather stripping around the basement foundation.
* Store items in basements and attics in sealed, plastic containers off of the floor.
* Keep attics and basements well ventilated and dry. Use a dehumidifier and install gutters or diverts as needed.
* Eliminate all moisture sites, including leaking pipes and clogged drains.
Get in touch with us if we can help you stay up on your regular household cleaning to keep these pests away.