Sparkle & Smile

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Green Cleaning Tips and Tricks

Keeping Your Family and Pets Away From Harmful Chemicals

According to Consumers Union, the publishers of Consumer Reports, many products that we use in our homes everyday may contain toxic chemicals and hazardous ingredients.  Here are some steps that you can take to keep your family and pets healthyier and away from harmful toxins: 

Air fresheners
may contain d-limonene, a skin irritant, or petroleum distillates, which can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract.

Instead, use baking soda to absorb odors, or open windows for fresh air.

Art materials may contain a variety of hazardous substances, such as lead and other toxic heavy metals.  Spray paints may contain butane, which is extremely flammable.  Superglues may contain acetone or methyl ethyl ketone, with fumes that can irritate the eyes and affect the nervous system. Rubber cement can contain n-hexane, which can also harm the nervous system with chronic exposure.

Instead, use water-based paints and glues, and opt for liquid formulations instead of sprays to avoid flammable propellants.  When using epoxy glues, wear gloves.  Wash hands with soapy water.

Antifreeze may contain ethylene glycol, a toxic chemical that tastes sweet and is hazardous to children and pets.  Car washing products may also contain acetone or petroleum distillates, which can irritate the skin, eyes, nose, and throat.

Instead, hose off antifreeze spills.  People who are sensitive to chemicals in car cleaners should avoid freshly detailed cars until the chemicals dissipate.  Use soapy water to clean cars instead.

Drain openers may contain concentrated sodium hydroxide or sulfuric acid, which are substances that damages eyes, lungs, and skin.  Swallowing even a small amount can result in injury or death. Toilet cleaners may contain hydrochloric acid, which can also burn skin.

Instead of chemical drain openers, try using plungers to loosen clogs.  

Oven cleaners can contain sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide, both of which are extremely corrosive to eyes, skin, and lungs. Scouring powder may contain chlorine bleach, which should never be mixed with other cleaners because of the risk of forming toxic gases.

Instead, use steel wool or a nonabrasive nylon scrubbing pad and baking soda as soon as the oven cools.  For tough stains, add salt.

An accidental ingestion of just one pill or teaspoonful of certain drugs can kill a 22-pound child. Even seemingly harmless vitamins and minerals can be dangerous in excessive doses.

If you have children at home, keep all medicines and nutritional supplements tightly closed in childproof containers and well out of reach. Consider using cabinet locks and latches to make the contents of cabinets inaccessible to children.

Nail-polish removers contain acetone (irritates lungs and affect the nervous system), and ethyl acetate (irritates eyes, nose, throat, and can cause numbness).  Hair-color products can contain lead (probable carcinogen and developmental toxin), or p-phenylenediamine (can cause skin reactions and swollen eyelids).

Use nail-polish removers in well-ventilated areas.  Before coloring your hair, do a patch test to see if the product causes skin irritation.

Latex house paints, when dry, can give off volatile organic compounds (petroleum distillates), that can cause headaches, nausea, or dizziness. Paint removers contain toluene (affects mental processes and behavior), or methylene chloride (probable human carcinogen; if inhaled can be metabolized to carbon monoxide in the body, leading to carbon-monoxide poisoning).

Use low odor, low level VOC paints.  When applying paints, use fans and open windows or doors to create cross-ventilation while working.

Furniture cleaners may contain petroleum distillates, which irritate skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. Polishes can contain naphtha, which can cause headache, nausea, and central-nervous-system symptoms. 

Make your own furniture cleaner using 1/4 cup vinegar and a few drops of oil.

Insecticides and roach killers contain organophosphates or carbamates, which if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed in large-enough doses can cause nausea, tremors, headaches, muscle aches, and, on rare occasions, even death. Synthetic pyrethroids, analogs of a natural insecticide compound, pyrethrum, can trigger asthma attacks and are suspected of disrupting hormone activity in humans. Mothballs work by emitting paradichlorobenzene vapors, a likely carcinogen, which if inhaled can cause headache and nausea, and can be fatal if young children swallow them. Rodent killers typically contain warfarin, a developmental toxin that can cause internal bleeding.

Try Integrated Pest Management (IPM), an approach that attempts to control unwanted insects by the least toxic means:  Unleash ladybugs near rose bushes to keep aphids away. Consider electric mosquito traps that catch and kill some mosquitoes outdoors. Use an eco-friendly insect repellent.  Use ant traps and roach traps that use nontoxic ingredients that affect the bugs’ reproduction. Put seasonal clothes in airtight bags and store them in a cool place.

Maid Brigade House Cleaning Services cares about our environment and health of you and your family.  For more information on healthy green living and green cleaning, please log on to and  Watch our video on achieving work/life balance at  To learn more about the hidden allergy and asthma triggers in your home, log on to

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