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The Lean Green Spring Clean

It’s a grand tradition to ring in spring by flinging open the doors and windows, flushing the stale air of winter into the beyond and rendering our musty dwellings fresh once again as the world outside does the same. After bravely standing up to a Wisconsin winter, who wouldn’twant a change of scenery?


Products that we use to clean our homes crowd the shelves, anticipating our need to show our homes who’s the boss. The catch: Some really effective ways to clean your household deploy chemicals that can range from openly toxic when in contact with your eyes, skin and lungs, to ones that take a long-term toll on our water, air and land. It’s a high price to pay for a clean house, especially if—as is possible now—you don’t have to pay it.


DIY cleaners are a great option (and covered in detail in another article in this very issue), but for those of us who need the convenience of an off-the-shelf option, it’s important to choose carefully—Environmental Working Group, a non-profit committed to research supporting the best buying choices for consumers, stated that only seven percent of cleaners disclosed their components fully. Some companies have garnered special mention from the group on their ‘Guide to Healthy Cleaning’—Ecover, Planet, Mrs. Meyer’s and Dr. Bronner’s among them, all available at both Willy Street Co-op stores.


Safety
An immediate and very personal benefit of going with a greener clean is personal safety and, for some of us, safety of little ones. Studies by the American Thoracic Society showed an increased risk for asthma if a standard household cleaning spray was used even once a week. Carefully choosing a product without toxins may reduce that risk, as well as the risk of allergic reaction and contact burns to eyes and skin. Even without direct contact, it’s important to take stock of the fact that concentration of common pollutants (which cleaning products can contain) can be up to 2-5 times higher indoors (EPA). Judicious use of non-toxic cleaning products lowers the level of exposure in your home overall, which has gained in health impact as more of us are spending more of our lives indoors.


Shared Natural Resources
On the larger scale, the benefits of greening your clean extend to our shared natural resources—keeping waterways and land free of the big three frequently present in standard household cleaners; phosphorus, ammonia and nitrogen. These aren’t removed in the process of waste treatment and continue on their way out of household drains into our water system at large. This accelerates plant growth in waterways selectively, clogging flow and upsetting the balance of animal and plant life that keeps water high in oxygen and suitable for drinking, cooking and bathing.


Saving Money
Green cleaners, especially DIY cleaners, also save hard-earned money. Many are available as concentrates, so you get better information on proper ratios and you don’t pay a company to put water in a bottle for you.


Putting together your personal health, the health of our environment and the health of your wallet, it’s not hard to see why using green cleaners off the shelf or making your own is a good play. The results in your home will be just as rejuvenating, but you won’t have to sort through an aisle full of “fresh” fragrances dreamed up by a lab for the one that suits you, since many if not most green cleaners are fragrance-free. Instead of a different bottle for every use, green cleaners skew towards all-purpose cleaning compounds, simplifying your shop and your cabinet. There’s really nothing to lose and everything to gain.


For a full review of the Environmental Working Group’s top-rated products, please visit www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners.


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