My kitten was making a funny sound with his tongue. Knowing his habit of eating things with no resemblance to food, I hunted the apartment for something he might have eaten.
A can of oven cleaner on the top shelf of my closet had corroded and leaked onto the floor, where my curious kitten lapped up the foamy liquid. I hadn’t stored it properly in a second container like a tray or tub.
I called animal poison control and learned that the oven cleaner was corrosive, not poisonous – so he hadn’t been poisoned, but the corrosive chemical could have given him chemical burns in his mouth. They prescribed lots of tuna juice.
Six years later, my cat is just fine, but the day is cemented in my memory. I learned the scary way that the cleaning products we bring into our houses can be dangerous – if not to us, then to our pets or our children.
Make informed decisions about which chemicals you want in your home: complete a cleaning product inventory to see what hazardous products you have, and decide which you would like to keep or replace.
Cleaning Product Inventory
Complete an inventory of the cleaning products you have in your house. Check under your kitchen and bathroom sinks, in the laundry room, and anywhere else you store cleaning products. Pull everything out so you can see how much you have, and if you have duplicates.
Read the labels of all your cleaning products and look for these words, which will tell you whether that product is hazardous. You may be surprised at which items, and how many, are hazardous.
If the label does not include these four words, the product is not considered hazardous.
Now that you know which of your household cleaning products are hazardous, you can make an informed decision about whether you would like to keep using them or switch to a less hazardous alternative. Put away the items you’d like to keep using. Set aside products that you would like to dispose of in a safe location where children and pets cannot access them.
If there are products you think you’d like to replace, but aren’t sure what a good alternative would be, you can find safer household products using EPA’s Safer Choice or create your own green cleaning ingredients (pdf).
Switch to Green Cleaning Products
Green Cleaning Starter Kit
Use these ingredients to create your own non-toxic, green cleaning products with these recipes (pdf):
- White vinegar
- Baking soda or Bon Ami
- Dr. Bronner’s fragrance free or a fragrance free dishwashing soap such as Planet, Seventh Generation or BioKleen
Tools for green cleaning:
- Microfiber cloth
- Non scratch pad
- Nylon brush
- Spray bottle
Green Cleaning Techniques
Adopting preventative practices will save you hours of cleaning and reduce your need for aggressive cleaning products. Rinsing and drying showers with a squeegee after daily use can prevent soap scum buildup. Taking off shoes at the door can greatly reduce the amount of dirt tracked into the house.
When you switch to green cleaning products, prevent your house from excessive soil by following these steps for success:
- Remove the big dirt first — vacuum!
- Start with the mildest cleaner —if steps 3-5 don’t work with the mildest cleaning product, work your way to more aggressive products
- Add a dash of hot water
- Let it sit
- Use elbow grease
- Rinse and dry — you’ll remove any residue that might attract more dirt
The library has a list of recommended books about green cleaning that you can borrow to get more tips and techniques.