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Alternatives to Chemical Products
 Inside Your Home

Preventative House Cleaning
If you follow these suggestions you may not need to use hazardous chemical cleaning products:

  • Drains: Pour boiling water down drains once a week and use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to help keep drains unclogged. Pour fat/grease in a metal container, not down the drain; discard the container in the trash when cooled. 
  • Oven: Wipe up spills as soon as the oven is cool; cleaning will be easier and may not require a heavy-duty oven cleaner. 
  • Carpets and floors: Vacuum frequently to remove dirt, dust, and indoor particulates. Wipe up spills quickly with regular soap to avoid stains.
  • Pets: Regularly brush pets to reduce hair, dander, and fleas.
Doing the Laundry
Look for plant-based and phosphate-free detergents. Washing soda and borax are effective and low-priced alternatives to commercial detergent boosters. Chlorine bleach is responsible for more poison center reports than any other chemical in homes. Try non-chlorine bleach for whitening. Clothes that are dry-cleaned emit a highly toxic chemical called perchloroethylene. Ask your dry cleaner if they offer “wet cleaning” as an alternative.

Controlling Indoor Pests
Avoid using chemical pesticides, including no-pest strips, in your home. These are very dangerous and especially toxic to children and pets. You can discourage indoor pests by making it harder for them to enter your home and by keeping food inaccessible to them.

  • Block pest entrances to your home with screens and door sweeps. Use caulking to cover holes in walls and flooring. 
  • Wipe counters and wash dishes regularly. 
  • Store food in airtight containers. 
  • To avoid fruit flies in warmer weather, don’t leave tomato or fruit peels in kitchen compost pails overnight.
  • Protect woolens with cedar instead of mothballs. 
  • Boric acid is a less toxic ant and roach killer.
Personal Hygiene Products
Personal care products: Look for products made from natural ingredients, such as plant derivatives. 

Soaps and disinfectants: Proper hand washing with regular soap is typically adequate to remove germs. Cleaners and soaps with antibacterial agents contribute to the growing problem of drug-resistant bacteria. Use disinfectants with caution; they can contain toxic chemicals such as phenols and cresol, which could be absorbed or inhaled into your body. 

Head lice: Commercial head lice treatments can be very toxic. Less toxic products containing neem seed extract or citronella, or enzyme-based treatments, can provide effective solutions. See www.headlice.org for more information. 

Safe and Simple Cleaners
By making your own household cleaners, you can promote a healthy environment and a safer home, save money, and easily prepare the right amount of cleaner to do the job. 

  • Baking soda is a good cleaner for sinks, tubs, and toilets. Mix ¼ cup baking soda with 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil-based soap or detergent for a creamy soft scrub. Store in a sealed container.
  • For furniture polish, use one teaspoon lemon oil or almond oil dissolved in one pint mineral oil.
  • Vinegar and water effectively cleans windows and mirrors. Vinegar also works to cut grease. For a green cleaner and window cleanser, mix a quarter- to a half-teaspoon vegetable oil-based soap or detergent with 3 tablespoons white vinegar in 2 cups water. Pour mixture into a spray bottle. Shake briefly before using. Works well on glass and appliances.
  • The Solid Waste District has additional “recipe” cards for homemade cleaners. Homemade household cleaner ideas can also be found on the Internet.

Franklin County Solid Waste Management District
50 Miles Street
Greenfield, MA 01301
Tel: (413) 772-2438
MA Relay for the hearing impaired: 711 or 1-800-439-2370 (TTY/TDD)
Fax: (413) 772-3786
Staff email addresses  

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