Spring is here!

Patricia Peng, Living Sustainably Off-Campus Intern

Get ready for spring-cleaning and do so with basic products around your home to avoid commercial cleaning agents with harsh chemicals. For example, using products with bleach or ammonia are costly and contribute to indoor air pollution.


Many of the commercial cleaning products use organic chemicals to kill germs, but release air pollutants that damage your health in the process.  A common chemical released from cleaning products, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can be released in a gaseous form from solid or liquid household products, including cleaning supplies[1]. Breathing these chemicals can lead to respiratory problems, allergic reactions and headaches.[2] Some products emit air pollutants while they’re being stored at your home and can be harmful even when they are not in daily use.

Take a look at this list produced by American Lung Association for products that commonly contain VOCs and other toxic substances:

  • Aerosol spray products, including health, beauty and cleaning products;
  • Air fresheners;
  • Chlorine bleach;
  • Detergent and dishwashing liquid;
  • Dry cleaning chemicals;
  • Rug and upholstery cleaners;
  • Furniture and floor polish; and
  • Oven cleaners


An easy way to avoid harsh chemicals is to make your own cleaning products. Below are a few examples to get you started. For more, check out this link.

  • General Surfaces: Use 2 cups of water and 3 tablespoons of liquid soap as a disinfectant
  • Shower/Bath: Use a mixture of baking soda and water to scrub away grime, mildew or mold
  • Clogged drain: Pour ½ cup of baking soda into the drain, then 2 cups of boiling water
  • Carpet: Pour baking soda over carpeted areas and wait 30 minutes before vacuuming

It is particularly important to avoid these products when ventilation is bad, which is typically true of colder months when windows are never opened. The decreased ventilation in your home only builds up the concentration of these air pollutants to have a greater negative impact on your body. Although spring is officially here, it may not yet be time to leave our windows open.  Try any of the above ideas to make sure the time you spend indoors isn’t harming your health. Happy cleaning!



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