Replace your toxic household cleaners with safe, effective substitutes while saving money and treading more lightly on the environment

provided by the Environmental Health Coalition for the San Diego Regional Household Hazardous Materials Program
an Diego's homes and garages are full of toxic and hazardous products. Paints, pesticides, lye, acids, and solvents are examples of the products that can be dangerous to your family [see story] and pollute the environment when they are thrown away. Many of these items are not even needed. Safer alternatives can be substituted for many of the more toxic cleaning products. To help you to make the switch to safer products and alternatives, the Environmental Health Coalition has developed this information for the San Diego Regional Household Hazardous Materials Program.
The variety of household cleaning products on the market today is overwhelming. There are products on the shelves for every possible cleaning need, and we are encouraged through advertising to buy all of them. How would we get by without all of these?
Probably quite well. In fact, we might be better off. Many cleaners contain hazardous chemicals that can cause health effects ranging from minor skin irritation to possible cancer, aggravation of allergies and respiratory disease, or reproductive disorders. Many cleaners also pose physical hazards: some are flammable, some are caustic, and some can cause dangerous reactions when mixed.
If all that weren't enough, many cleaners also pollute the environment. When used in the large quantities that our society does, everyone's use of detergents, solvents, aerosol propellants, dyes, perfumes, and fillers add up to a large load of pollutants for our water, land and air.

The home safe home solution

It's simpler, safer, and more economical. When shopping, look for new, environmentally-friendly brands. [ref. ad on the back page]. And less toxic household cleaners can be made at home from a few simple ingredients. Ingredients for safer cleaning and air freshening include: See the recipes using the ingredients, below.

Why change?

Some chemicals in cleaners may be hazardous to your health during routine use, even though exposure is only to small amounts in the air or on your skin. You can reduce the risk to your health by avoiding products containing the chemicals listed below.
Organic chemicals:
Organics affect the central nervous system, liver, and kidneys; many are flammable, and a few are suspected carcinogens. "Petroleum distillates" in polishes and sprays, perchloroethylene in spot removers, mineral spirits in paint thinner, and p-dichlorobenzene in moth balls are all examples of organic chemicals.
Strong acids or bases:
These are corrosive to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, and can react with other household chemicals. Acids are found in tub, tile, and toilet cleaners and in rust removers. Lye found in oven cleaners and hypochlorites found in chlorine bleach are examples of high-pH corrosive substances.
Phenols and alcohols:
These poisonous and flammable chemicals are the active ingredients in most disinfectant products.
Synthetic detergents:
Although not highly toxic, these cleaners are the household chemicals most frequently ingested by children. "Real" soaps made from animal fat or vegetable oil are an order of magnitude less toxic. Look for the word "soap" on the label.
Cleaners may also contain added dyes, perfumes, fillers, aerosol propellants, and traces of ammonia and formaldehyde. And keep in mind that hazardous wastes are produced in manufacturing all the different chemicals contained in these elaborate formulas; they generate waste problems even before you buy them!
Call or write Environmental Health Coalition at (619) 235-0281, 1717 Kettner Blvd., Ste. 100, San Diego, CA 92101, to order fact sheets on Garden and Indoor Pest Control, Paint Products, Household Cleaners, Pool Chemicals, and Automotive Products.
The San Diego Regional Household Hazardous Materials Program (information hotline 619-338-2267) is a community service provided by the County of San Diego, the City of San Diego, and the Encina Waste Water Authority. The program services include community events, regional collection services and centers, community education programs, school curriculum development, recycling of hazardous wastes, and identification of less toxic alternatives.

Recipes for Alternatives to Toxic and Hazardous Household Products

General notes and safety precautions

Avoid Using               Use More Often 
Aerosols                  Pump sprays
Chemical drain openers    Plunger, or metal snake 
Gasoline (as degreaser)	  Water-based degreaser
Moth balls                Cedar chips or herbal sachets
No-pest strips            Fly paper
Rust remover              Steel wool
All-Purpose Household Cleaner
Add 1 teaspoon liquid soap and 1 teaspoon T.S.P. to 1 quart warm water.
This solution can be used for a multitude of cleaning jobs including counter tops and walls. Look for new eco-friendly brands (see ad on back page).

Chlorine Bleach
Use a hydrogen peroxide-based bleach.

Degreaser (engine and tool)
Use a water-based cleaner, well diluted, in place of kerosene, turpentine, and commercial engine degreaser. Look for "nonflammable," "nontoxic," "store at temperatures above freezing" as label clues to water-based products.

Degreaser (kitchen)
Add 2 tablespoons t.s.p. to 1 gallon hot water.
Use a nonchlorinated scouring powder with abrasive scouring pad or fine steel wool. Look for "BCD" the first degreasing product to receive a "Green Seal" certification.

Rarely, if ever, needed in households. If you must, add 1 oz. chlorine bleach to 1 gallon water for inanimate surfaces. Keep out of the reach of children.

Fabric Softener
Use natural fibers to reduce your need for fabric softeners.

Floor Cleaner
Vinyl floors: Add 1/2 cup vinegar to 1 gallon water.
Wood floors: Damp mop with mild liquid soap.

Furniture Polish
Not essential. Simply wipe clean with a slightly damp cloth. If you do polish, use mineral oil.

Oven Cleaner
Add either 2 tablespoons of baking soda or T.S.P. or washing soda to 1 gallon of water and scrub with very fine steel wool. Wear gloves and rinse well. For very baked-on spots, try scrubbing with pumice (available at hardware stores).
As a last resort, use an aerosol oven cleaner that says "No caustic fumes."

Glass Cleaner
Add to a spray bottle: 1/2 teaspoon liquid soap, 3 tablespoons vinegar and 2 cups water. For very dirty windows, add more soap.

Laundry Detergents
Best: Use laundry soap in place of detergents and use 1/2 cup washing soda as a softener (available in laundry section). Look for new eco-friendly brands (see ads on back page and on page 43). Use detergents with no added bleaches or softeners.

Mildew cleaner
For mild cases, scrub with baking soda. In more severe cases, scrub with T.S.P. and do not rinse off except in food areas.

Scouring powder
Use baking soda or a nonchlorinated commercial scouring powder.
Spot removers
All work best when applied to fresh stains. Try one of the following solutions:
All purpose: Make a paste of water and baking soda or washing soda. Soak the stain and let dry prior to washing as usual. Check for colorfastness first.
Blood: Pour 3% hydrogen peroxide solution directly on the stain, before rinsing with water. Then wash as usual.
Ink: Apply a paste of lemon juice and cream of tartar; allow it to dry, then wash as usual.

Toilet bowl cleaner
Scrub with nonchlorinated scouring powder and a stiff brush. For removal of hard water deposits, pour in vinegar or a commercial citric acid-based toilet bowl cleaner. Allow to sit several hours or overnight, then scrub.

Tub/Tile Cleaners
Use nonchlorinated scouring powder or baking soda.

Air Freshening Tips
Leave open boxes of baking soda in refrigerators, closets, and bathrooms.
Use flowers, herbs, and spices to add subtle fragrances to indoor air.