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Cleaning Green on Earth Day and
Every Day

By Mara Strom

Did you ever notice how your throat starts to itch and your eyes begin to burn when you clean your bathroom without cracking a window first? Did you ever pour dishwasher detergent on your hands by accident, only to end up with a skin rash the next day?

The caustic ingredients in store-bought cleaning products are wrecking havoc on our skin, airways, and even central nervous systems. A new study from the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that at least one in seven cases of adult asthma can be directly attributed to cleaning and deodorizing sprays. If you have young children at home, the danger is even greater -- since their tiny developing bodies are especially susceptible to the dangers of household cleaners.

Beyond the damage to out families, cleaning chemicals are also endangering Mother Earth. When we flush them down the drain or toilet, they directly enter the water table. Over two-thirds of U.S. streams are now contaminated. Chlorine-based products such as bleach are especially dangerous. When bleach is dumped into the water system, it creates organochlorines -- chlorine-dioxin toxins that put our reproductive, neurological and immune systems at risk.

Even the manufacturing of these cleaning products is anything but "clean". The majority of store-bought floor polishes and degreasing cleaners, for example, are made with petroleum-based solvents. Petroleum is not only dangerous to our mucous membranes, it's also completely un-biodegradable and requires a disproportionate number of natural resources to manufacture.

The marketplace is quickly realizing the heavy health and environmental costs of mainstream cleaning products. That's why so many companies are now offering "green" alternatives -- although the persistent warning labels on the bottles do make you wonder just how green they really are?

A number of eco-cleaning companies have entered the market as well. But while these greenies may be good for the environment, their products aren't quite as green for your wallet. At double the price (or more) of traditional bleach- and ammonia-based products, green cleaners are hardly a frugal option.

In short, the environmental, health and financial costs of using store-bought cleaners (mainstream or otherwise) are dubious at best. The good news is that there is an alternative: Making your own green cleaners at home. A few simple cleaning recipes will have your home shining like never before -- at a fraction of the cost and without all that coughing and itching.

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