Have we been Brainwashed by Cleaning Brands?

Have we been Brainwashed by Cleaning Brands?

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These days it’s hard to read a magazine, go grocery shopping, or even catch up on Facebook posts without encountering advertisements that urge you to wonder: “Is my house clean enough?”

Not only do you want a clean living space for your family, you want a healthy one. Many commercial cleaning products have cleansing and germ-reduction properties, both of which are beneficial — but simultaneously, you’ve probably heard that exposure to bleach, ammonia and other chemicals poses its own health risks to you and your family. The following is a quick cost-benefit analysis of a few commonly used cleaning chemicals versus their nontoxic alternatives.

Because of their cost-effective and germ-, dirt- and/or stain-removing attributes, bleach and ammonia are mainstay cleaners both as ingredients in commercial solutions and by themselves. However, in either form, bleach and ammonia can trigger eye, skin and respiratory irritation with each exposure. (According to non-profit research organization The Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, with repeated exposure, bleach also can cause the onset of asthma.) Bleach also is popularly used for its disinfectant properties — but bear in mind surfaces without grime already removed cannot be well penetrated by bleach to kill germs. If you have young children, bleach and ammonia (particularly in open containers) also can pose ingestion risks.

Kids under 6 frequently explore their worlds by taste; although it seems the strong smell of these cleaners would discourage anyone from drinking them, this isn’t always the case. Poison Control Center statistics for 2014 list household cleaners as the second-most common substances implicated in pediatric poison exposures. As a rule, never mix bleach and ammonia with anything but water — when combined with many other cleaning agents (including each other), both substances create toxic fumes.

Other common ingredients in cleaners, such as fragrances, can be problematic as well; some products derive their fresh scent from ingredients called phthalates, which can cause hormonal disruption and/or risk to reproductive organs.

Luckily, depending on the job, there are several non-toxic alternatives that provide worry-free cleaning benefits.

White vinegar not only works wonders breaking down grease, dirt, mineral deposits and odors, it also has considerable disinfectant properties: while vinegar doesn’t have the antibacterial /anti-viral strength of commercial cleaners, it’s a fine choice for everyday wipe downs. (If you need to disinfect surfaces contaminated by raw food known for bacterial contamination, pet mess, or your sick family’s sneezing and coughing, stick to a commercial cleaner.)

Baking soda is another miracle pantry staple for countless tasks, ranging from deodorizing carpets to cleaning stainless steel.

Many other nontoxic and inexpensive items have scrubbing power too — a quick online search yields an abundance of tips for cleaning with lemons, salt, cooking oils and more.

Also available are several types of microfiber cloths, which are designed to trap surface dirt as well as germs with just water, and hydrogen peroxide-based cleaning solutions, which employ this less hazardous ingredient for disinfecting purposes.

In short, commercial cleaners have their place. FDA labeling regulations make it difficult to know the exact details of what is or is not in your average cleaning product, and you can drive yourself crazy trying to track down every bad ingredient. Use commercial cleaners cautiously and judiciously, and you’ll minimize their harm.

Nonetheless, if you can avoid the usual bottle brigade, do so: the costs of frequent exposure to chemicals can outweigh the risk from casual exposure to common germs. So if you have the time and elbow grease, try one or more “old-fashioned clean” approaches for a sparkling home that leaves you breathing easy!

— Submitted by PetalSweet Cleaning, a residential and commercial cleaning company headquartered in Medina.

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