You would never cross the street without looking both ways, walk alone down a dark alley alone at three a.m., or tell your child to accept rides from strangers. So why let hazardous, toxic, and even carcinogenic chemicals into your home everyday?
The message driven home for millions of Americans each day via TV and internet commercials is this: No need to scrub or scour. With just one squeeze of the spray bottle, you can wipe away dirt, grime, and bacteria.
Alas, there’s that dark alley again. Air fresheners, disinfectants, and cleaners found under your sink are more dangerous than you think. Mix bleach with ammonia, for example, and you’ve got a toxic fume cloud used by the military in WWI. And they weren’t cleaning kitchens.
Here is a list of the ten products you should ban from your home forever, along with suggested alternatives.
1. Non-Stick Cookware
The problems with PTFE-coated pans seem to occur at high temperatures, so if you must use Teflon, cook foods on medium heat or less. Avoiding non-stick pans altogether is the safest option. If you’re able to do so, try anodized aluminum, stainless steel, or cast iron pans with a little cooking oil. SustainLane reviewers like LeCreuset cast iron pans and more cost-effective ones like Lodge Logic. Using a lower setting on the stove will reduce the chances that your food will burn, which is how it usually gets stuck to pans the first place. If you’re worried about the extra calories cooking oil adds, try baking or steaming your food.
2. Plastic Bottles
3. Conventional Cleaning Supplies
To protect you and your family from the hazards conventional cleaners pose, choose non-toxic, or natural cleaners. SustainLane reviewers have particularly enjoyed Method and Seventh Generation, which are commonly found on supermarket shelves. Bon Ami is a safe alternative to Comet and Ajax. If you have the time and want to go the extra mile, you can even mix your own using common household items like vinegar and baking soda. Check out these easy-to-make recipes household cleaners.
4. Chemical Insecticides and Herbicides
There are several companies that sell natural and organic weed- and pest-control products. Buhach makes a natural insecticide from ground chrysanthemum flowers that controls ants, flies, fleas, lice, gnats, mosquitoes, spiders, and deer ticks, among other pests. Boric acid is an effective, natural solution for cockroaches as well; sprinkle it around baseboards, cracks and other places likely to harbor roaches. You can use this boric acid recipe to control ants. For weeds, check out E.B. Stone Weed-N-Grass or try spot-spraying with household vinegar.
5. Antibacterial Products
Make it your goal to be to be clean, not germ-free. People who are exposed to household germs typically develop strong immune systems and are healthier overall. Avoid buying antibacterial products or soaps containing triclosan. Soap and water is really all you need to clean most things. There are plenty of eco-friendly hand washes and other cleansers that are safe for you and easy on the planet.
6. Chemical Fertilizers
If you have a lawn, choose organic fertilizers rather than chemical ones.
As another alternative to harsh chemicals, consider starting a compost pile to create nutrient-rich soil for your flower beds and vegetable gardens. You’ll be creating your own inexpensive fertilizer just by letting food scraps and yard trimmings sit. An added benefit: it’ll also help divert waste from landfills. SustainLane users have reviewed several compost bins here.
7. More Bulb for Your Buck
One caveat of the low-energy bulb is that it contains mercury. Even so, CFLs are still your best bet, according to EPA Energy Star program director Wendy Reed. Coal-fired plants are the biggest emitters of mercury. Using CFL bulbs means you draw less power from the grid, which means less coal is burned for electricity. Because of the mercury, take precautions when disposing of these CFL bulbs. Rather than throwing them in your household trash or curbside recycling bin, take them to a hazardous waste collection or other special facility. This story from National Public Radio has a more through discussion of this topic.
8. Air fresheners
9. Flame Retardants
If you are in the market for a new mattress or sofa, ask manufacturers what type of flame retardants they use. Look for products that don’t use brominated fire retardants. Organic Abode sells natural and organic furniture. If you’re looking to keep your existing mattress, but make it safer, use a cover made of organic wool to reduce PBDE exposure. You can find organic furniture and interior decor here.
10. Plastic Shopping Bags
The good news is, we can easily decrease our plastic bags use. Bring in your own reusable cloth bags when you go shopping. If you have kids, ask them to remind you to bring them. Or keep them in a place by the door where you’re most likely to remember them on your way out.