Did you know that once every two and a half minutes someone calls a poison control center to report exposure to a household cleaning substance?1 Over half of these calls involve the exposure of a child under five years old.2 Most of us have several different kinds of toxic substances in our homes, including cleaning supplies, paint thinner, pesticides, etc. Not only are these products toxic while inside your home, if not disposed of properly, they can also be toxic to the environment. Never dump hazardous substances down a storm drain; these drains lead straight to the river! A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want to swim in it, don’t dump it!
How do you know if a substance is hazardous?
Check labels for the following words:
Caution Warning Danger Poison
Flammable Volatile Caustic Corrosive
There are many economical, environmentally friendly alternatives. Keep reading for helpful tips!
Air freshener– Place saucers of vinegar around the house to absorb odors.
All purpose cleaner– Recipe 1) 1 teaspoon borax in 1 quart warm water to clean most surface Recipe 2) 1 tablespoon ammonia, 1 tablespoon liquid detergent and 2 cups water. Mix ingredients and put in spray bottle.
Aluminum pan cleaner– 2 tablespoons cream of tartar, 1 quart water. To clean aluminum cookware, combine ingredients in cookware. Bring solution to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Wash and dry as usual.
Ants– Wash counters, floors, etc., with mixture of equal parts vinegar and water.
Brass polish– Make a paste out of lemon juice and baking soda. The paste should be the consistency of tooth paste. Rub onto brass with a soft cloth. Rinse with water.
Chemical Fertilizers– Use organic materials such as compost , peat moss, and fish meal
Copper Cleaners– Fix 1) Pour vinegar and salt over copper; rub and rinse. Fix 2) Try rubbing with ketchup
Drain cleaner-Fix 1) Use a plunger. Fix 2) Use a flexible metal snake that can be purchased or rented. Fix 3) Pour cup baking soda down drain. Next pour down cup vinegar. This mixture will foam. After 15 minutes flush with boiling or hot water. This mixture will not open a clogged drain but if used regularly, it will keep drains flowing freely. Do not use any of these methods if you have used a commercial drain opener that may still be present in the drain.
Fleas (in carpet)- Place a small light above a pan of water or beer. Fleas will jump at the light, land in the liquid and drown.
Flea & Tick (on pets)- Add small amounts of brewers yeast to your pet’s food.
Flies– Recipe 1) Beat an egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of molasses and finely ground black pepper and set out mixture in shallow plates. Fix 2) Buy sticky fly strips or paper.
Furniture Polish– Make a non-toxic polish by melting 1 tablespoon Canauba Wax into 2 cups mineral oil. For lemon polish, dissolve 1 part lemon juice into 2 parts vegetable or mineral oil.
Mice– Fix 1) A mouse trap. Fix 2) Set out mashed potato powder, or buds, in a strategic place, with a dish of water nearby. This will cause fatal bloating.
Moths– Cedar chips or lavender flowers.
Oven cleaner– Fix 1) sprinkle water on oven surface. Apply baking soda. Rub using very fine steel wool. Wipe off scum with a damp sponge. Rinse well and dry. Fix 2) While oven is still warm, sprinkle water on the spill, then sprinkle salt on it. When the oven cools down, scrape the spill away and wash the area clean. Fix 3) Heat oven to 150°. Turn off the oven, place a bowl of ammonia in the oven. Let this set over night.
Paints– Water-based paints are less toxic than oil based, and no solvent is necessary for clean up.
Rug and Upholstery Cleaner– Clean immediately with soda water and baking soda paste; then vacuum.
Silver Cleaner– Soak in 1 quart warm water with 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and a small piece of aluminum foil. If you can’t immerse your items or are otherwise inclined to polish by hand, rub tarnished silver with toothpaste and a soft cloth. Rinse with warm water and dry. Instead of toothpaste you can substitute a concoction made of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water.
Rust– Scrub with lemon juice mixed with salt.
Toilet bowl– Fix 1) Use a pumice bar to scour the toilet bowl ring. Fix 2) Mix lemon juice and borax into a paste about the consistency of toothpaste. Flush toilet to wet sides. Rub paste on the toilet bowl ring. Let sit for two hours and then scrub thoroughly. Fix 3) Sprinkle baking soda into the toilet bowl. Add vinegar. Scour with toilet brush. Fix 4) Pour cup liquid chlorine bleach into toilet bowl. Let stand for onehalf hour. Scrub with brush. Flush.
Toilet, Tub, Tile and Chrome cleaner– Baking soda can be used as a mild abrasive for most household needs. Add ¼ cup vinegar to each quart of water for cleaning and disinfecting. Add salt or baking soda to intensify the solution effects.
Window cleaner– Recipe 1) 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 gallon of water. Recipe 2) 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 pint rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid, 1 gallon of water. Recipe 3) Same as #1 or #2 but substitute ammonia for vinegar.
1) 2008 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers National Poison Data System (NPDS) 26th Annual Report lists 213,595 exposures to household cleaning substances
2) The same report listed 124,934 pediatric (< 5 yrs) exposures to household cleaning substances