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Use safer cleaning products

Prevention starts at home. These simple tips will reduce your family’s exposure to hazardous chemicals commonly found in the home.

Tip 1: Use non-toxic products

The best way to avoid chemicals of concern is to use fewer products and in smaller amounts.

Check labels carefully and choose environmentally friendly products that don’t use some of the most harmful chemicals – or even make your own. There are just five essential ingredients that can clean almost anything:

White distilled vinegar is a good all-purpose cleaner that disinfects, de-odourises and dissolves hard water scale.

Lemon juice can be used as a cleaner to cut grease, polish metal, and lighten stains.

Baking soda neutralizes odours and makes a good sink, bath, oven and countertop scourer.

Washing soda is baking soda’s stronger cousin. It requires the use of gloves and more rinsing, so save this cleaner for extra-stubborn stains.

Borax is a good mould and mildew solution and can also be used in place of washing soda as a cleaner. This alkaline mineral is found online and in most chemists.

Note that although washing soda and borax are natural minerals, they’re also caustic, and borax is toxic if swallowed. Keep them out of reach of children!

Household cleaning recipes:

All-purpose cleaner: Mix 1/2 teaspoon of washing soda, 2 teaspoons of borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar and 3 to 4 cups of hot water in a spray bottle. Shake well. For extra cleaning power, add 1/4 teaspoon of plant-based, liquid soap to the mixture.

Disinfecting cleaner: To make the recipe above a disinfecting cleaner, add 4 tablespoons of white vinegar.

Laundry cleaner: For brighter whites or to remove odours, add a cup of vinegar or 1/2 a cup of strained lemon juice to the rinse cycle of the wash. You can also add 1/2 cup of washing soda as a detergent booster.

Window cleaner: For sparkling, streak-free windows, make a solution of 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar. 

Metal cleaner: To remove tarnish from brass, copper, bronze and aluminium, rub them with sliced lemons sprinkled with baking soda.

Furniture cleaner: Use 1 teaspoon of olive oil per 1/2 cup of vinegar. Mix together in a bowl and apply with a soft, damp cloth.

Floor cleaner: Use 1/4 cup of washing soda, 1 tablespoon of liquid soap, 6 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 9 litres of hot water on linoleum and non-waxed floors. For wooden floors, use 1 cup of vinegar in a bucket of hot water.

Oven cleaner: To clean extra-greasy ovens, mix together 1 cup of baking soda and 1/4 cup of washing soda, then add enough water to make a paste; apply the paste to oven surfaces. Let it soak overnight then lift off the grime and rinse surfaces well. (If you’d prefer not to use washing soda, try making a paste with only baking soda).

Bath, tile and sink cleaner: Mix just under 2 cups of baking soda, 1/2 cup of liquid soap and 1/2 cup of water. Mix thoroughly then add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Apply immediately, scrub and wipe. For a mildly abrasive scouring scrub, just use baking soda and plant-based, liquid soap.

Toilet cleaner: Pour 1 cup of borax into the toilet before going to bed. Scrub and flush next morning.

Drain cleaner: To de-grease and de-odourise drains, pour in 1/2 cup of baking soda followed by 1 cup of vinegar; let bubble for 15 minutes and rinse with hot water.

Freshener: Sprinkle baking soda on carpets before vacuuming. Sprinkle a cup into the bottom of the rubbish bin.

Tip 2: Choose fragrance free cleaning products

Fragrance can contain dozens of chemicals, including hormone-disrupting phthalates, synthetic musks and ethylene oxide.

Fragrance manufacturers avoid labelling their products by claiming the formulas are trade secrets. It’s safest to opt instead for washing powder, air fresheners or cleaning products that are fragrance-free or contain natural fragrances, such as essential oils.

Tip 3: Use alternatives to bleach

A big change you can make is to use non-chlorine alternatives to bleach for household cleaning and clothes washing.

Choose toilet paper, tissue and office paper labelled "Processed Chlorine Free" (PCF).

Read more about the chemicals in your home.

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