It’s upon us: the rite of spring cleaning. Time to break out the cleaning supplies and get ready for a headache. Headache? Maybe so.
What you may not realize is that you could be stocking hazardous materials in your home — up to 10 gallons’ worth. Toxic chemicals linked with a variety of health problems are found in many common household cleaning supplies and materials, from glass cleaner to paint.
While few of us enjoy cleaning, there’s no reason to risk our health in the name of cleanliness. Making simple, green changes to your spring-cleaning habits can make big differences to your health, the health of the planet and your wallet.
Here are 10 Tips:
1: Toss the Chemical Air Fresheners
Spring is here and it makes us want to throw open the windows and breathe in the scent of fresh-cut grass. Unfortunately, all winter inside our homes we breathed in chemicals that have been linked to developmental and sex-hormone abnormalities as well as cancer.
The culprit? Air fresheners. They’re used in about 75 percent of homes, to the tune of $2 billion a year.
This spring, consider tossing the chemicals and trying natural fresheners like baking soda or essential oils. Trade in the flowery-scented aerosols and freshen the air in your home with cut flowers.
Or, just simply open the windows.
2: Go Paperless
Families throw away almost 2,500 pounds of paper every year, and if you’re like most of us it’s mostly made up of junk mail. End the flow of bulk mail, direct marketing, credit card solicitations, catalogs and even unwanted phone books by opting out — a quick search online will bring up sites to help.
Additionally, converting your home office to a paperless office will reduce the annual paper pounds. Do you really need to print out that email? And with one more step, signing up for paperless billing, you’ll not only save paper but time spent filing.
3: Clean Up Your Dirty Laundry Habits
With spring cleaning comes laundry, lots of laundry. Before you start a load, think about this: Each load of laundry done in a top-loading washing machine uses about 40 gallons of water — and a typical dryer sucks up about five kilowatts of electricity each hour it runs.
One simple step to dealing with dirty laundry is to install a clothesline, either in your basement or backyard. Some clothing, such as jeans, and other laundered items don’t need to be washed with each wear or use and can be aired out and used again. When you do wash, wash on the cold cycle and air-dry on your newly installed clothesline.
4: Be Smart about water
You use about 100 gallons of water every day. The thirstiest water consumer in your house is the toilet, followed by the shower or bath. There are a few easy tricks to reduce your water consumption and reduce your carbon footprint.
To tame the toilet, use a toilet dam. A toilet dam prevents as much as 20 percent of the water in the tank from flushing down the drain. Although you can buy them in stores, reusing a plastic bottle does the trick.
Taking shorter showers is an obvious way to reduce your water consumption, but if you go one more step and install a low-flow showerhead, you stand to use 50-70 percent less water while you lather.
And finally, turn off the water as you brush your teeth.
5: End Energy Leaks
Most of us keep our appliances plugged in all the time. Our cell phone chargers, TVs and computers are all ready and waiting for us to need them. While they wait, they’re in standby mode, and standby mode is not the same as off. During standby mode electronic devices leak energy. By unplugging devices when you’re not using them: Make it simple and buy a few power strips
6: Spruce with Eco-Friendly Paint
Spring weather may make you think about outdoor allergies, but what are you breathing inside your house? Indoor air pollution contributes to respiratory illnesses, headaches, nausea and cancer.
What’s the cause?
Well, the paint in your house may be one of the big culprits. Household paint contains thousands of chemicals, 300 known to be toxic. Some of the most hazardous are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and release toxins into the air for as many as six years after application.
What can you do when your walls need a spruce? Choose low-VOC paint. Low-VOC paints are water-based and because they aren’t made with toxins they don’t smell — and chances are they’re available in your color palette.
Wondering what to do with the mismatched socks you’ve accumulated, or your old college t-shirts? Turn them into rags for cleaning and dusting.
Scrubbing your shower with an old T-shirt means you keep both the shirt and the disposable wipes out of the landfill. Win-win.
As you declutter and clean for spring, look around for other ways to stretch your resources. Use old newspapers to clean the windows. Replace air conditioning and furnace filters with washable alternatives. Not everything has a second life, but take a second look before disposing of it.
8: Change Your Lighting
Conserve energy and help the planet with a twist of your wrist: replace incandescent light bulbs in your home with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).
9: Make Your Own Cleaning Products
While many of us choose the most powerful chemical cleaner on the market to make our mildew disappear, ingredients such as plain soap, water, vinegar, baking soda, salt and lemon juice have been proven just as effective, and safer for you and the environment.
10. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
One of the joys of spring cleaning is getting rid of stuff. Boxes of it. Don’t just toss all those boxes into the trash, sort them: recycle, donate, yard sale and trash.