I was reading in our little local community newspaper this weekend that researchers at University of Washington discovered “more than 25 volatile organic compounds … inside the dryer vents of homeowners who had been using scented laundry detergents and dryer sheets.” Of these 25 compounds, two are known carcinogens that have been “deemed unsafe for humans at any registered level.” Yikes! If all those chemicals are in the dryer vents, just think how much our families are breathing in on a daily basis!
I have always used unscented laundry products because of skin sensitivities in our family. Now I have even more reason to avoid the scents. One reason I am happy to see this report is that if enough people are making the switch to unscented products, manufacturers are finally going to start making more without the scent. I often find myself making 5 or 6 trips to the store to find my unscented products in stock.
But we need to beware — the article in our community paper stated that “the good news is there are many green cleaning alternatives you can use that do not contain harmful or dangerous chemicals.” But a closer reading of the Washington University report shows the following:
What about green products?
About half of the products made some claim of “green” or a related term, such as “organic,” “natural,” “essential oils,” or “non-toxic.”
But the “green product” emissions of toxic or hazardous chemicals were not significantly different from the other products.
Can we say “green washing” anyone? Researchers also made the following note:
What can we do to minimize potential exposures?
Choose products without any fragrance or scent.
Instead of air fresheners or deodorizers, use ventilation. Scented air fresheners and deodorizers do not “clean” the air, but they can add potentially hazardous chemicals to an existing air quality problem.
Use simple products to clean, such as vinegar and baking soda. (These simple products can be mixed with each other, but should not be mixed with conventional cleaners, just as conventional cleaners should not be mixed with each other.)
Note: Products called “fragrance-free” and “unscented” are not necessarily non-toxic. The chemicals identified in this study could have been part of the added fragrance, the product base, or both. Also, even if a product does not contain a fragrance, it could still contain chemicals that are classified as toxic or hazardous. Further, a “fragrance-free” or “unscented” product can nonetheless be a fragranced product with the addition of a “masking fragrance” to cover the scent.
I like the idea of my kids helping with the housecleaning but I don’t like the idea of them using chemical cleaners. For the past few years, I’ve been making a simple cleaner for our bathroom that is very simple to make and it’s safe for the kids to use. If you’re looking to try out housecleaning with simpler cleaners like baking soda and vinegar, try this:
Simple Household Cleaner
1 part vinegar or lemon juice
1 part dish soap
2 parts water
Mix all together in a spray bottle. Spray on surface, scrub as necessary, rinse off.
Another one I’ve used that works well:
Simple Drain Cleaner
1/2 cup baking soda
1-2 litres boiling water
Pour baking soda into the smelly drain. Pour a kettle full of boiling water into the drain. Plug the drain and leave for at least 5 minutes.