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Earth Friendly Cleaning: Air freshening alternatives

According to the US EPA our indoor air is up to 100 times more polluted than the outdoor air. Many of us reach for cleaners and air fresheners to make our homes smell better. But the solution you choose may only add to the pollution.

A 1999 study published in New Scientist reported that “frequent” use of aerosols and air fresheners led to increased incidence of depression and headaches as well as more frequent ear aches and diarrhea in babies. This is largely due to the VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, contained in these products. These compounds include xylene, ketones and aldehydes, all of which can become toxic in high doses or with frequent exposure.

Chemical manufacturers have taken note of the trend toward more eco-friendly products and have started offering “green” alternatives. Unfortunately, this is often in name only. Terms such as “natural”, “eco-friendly” and “non-toxic” are not regulated and there is no government standard which must be met in order to use these labels. For instance, “natural” can apply to many substances that are very toxic, including chlorine, petroleum and arsenic.

Earth friendly air cleaning alternatives

So how does one know if the products they choose to freshen the air are truly safe, and what alternatives to air fresheners and sprays exist? The following are suggestions that will help you to keep your home fresh without compromising the air quality within.

♦ The first step to improving indoor air quality is to open doors and windows, let fresh air in and vent out pollutants.

♦ Don’t use any sprays that come in aerosol cans, even if they contain safe ingredients. The propellants used in aerosols are flammable and can cause nerve damage. In addition, aerosols produce a fine mist of particles that can be inhaled and cause irritation to the lungs and airway. This will speed absorbption of toxins into the blood stream, and even with safe products can cause respiratory ailments or aggravate lung conditions such as asthma or COPD.

Read the labels. Avoid products that contained unspecified “fragrance” or phthalates. Safe choices are those scented with plant oil extracts. Examples would be lavender, lemon, vanilla, citrus or verbena.

♦ Use baking soda to absorb odors. We are probably all familiar with it’s use in the refrigerator, but it works just as well in open air. Set it out in a decorative dish on kitchen and bathroom countertops and keep an open box in your closets. Dishes of white vinegar are also effective at destroying odors.

♦ Mold can be eliminated by keeping areas where it grows dry and light. You can also use a small bag of silica gel to further dry the area.

♦ Eliminate odors in the garbage by sprinkling borax in the bottom of the trash can and by changing garbage bags frequently.

♦ Set out pure vanilla to scent the air.

♦ Burn scented candles. Remember to look for candles made with organic fragrances which are free from toxic ingredients. These will probably cost a bit more but they usually burn slower.

♦ Put cinnamon or cloves in a pot to simmer on the stove top. This is an especially good tip for people who heat with wood stoves. A pot will simmer most of the day with even heat. As an added bonus, this method puts moisture into the air which is beneficial to the lungs, skin and hair.

♦ Set out potpourri. Look for natural ingredients or make your own. There are many books readily available on the subject. Check out these titles:

§ Potpourri, Incense, and Other Fragrant Concoctions

§ Potpourri and fragrant crafts

§ The Book of Potpourri: Fragrant Flower Mixes for Scenting & Decorating the Home

Have other suggestions? Comment on this post or send us an e-mail at tipsforrecycling@gmail.com .

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