Non-Toxic Spring Cleaning

It's nice to see the spring sunlight filtering through your windows.

Not so nice are the dust bunnies the size of small dogs, and monster spider webs in the corners, all clearly illuminated in the lingering afternoon sun.

Let's face it, it's time for a little spring cleaning, and there is a new trend on the horizon.

This season you may want to toss out some of your old ideas about what's good for your home, and think about the 'greener' side of clean.

Many people buy into the catch phrases, "kills germs," "cuts grease," and "antibacterial," on the front of labels to ensure a cleaner house with minimal effort.

But these tough chemicals may bring along some unwanted affects on our long-term health.

Most cleaners indiscriminately kill bacteria and molds that build our bodies defenses against allergies and colds.

Some chemicals also act as irritants, triggering asthmatic and allergic reactions.

According to the American Lung Association, some products may even cause cancer.

Many cleaning products do not list the ingredients on the back of the bottle, leaving the consumer clueless as to what is even in them.

The good news is that the Environmental Protection Agency and the American Lung Association have done extensive research on the chemical makeup of the most commonly used cleaners, and the findings are worth noting.

For example, when sodium hypochlorite, a key ingredient in chlorine bleach, is mixed with ammonia, a toxic gas is released that may cause mild asthmatic symptoms or more serious respiratory problems.

Ammonia, another common cleaning ingredient, especially in glass cleaners, is known to cause eye and lung irritants and headaches.

Phenol and cresol in disinfectants can cause diarrhea, fainting, dizziness, kidney and liver damage.

Children, toddlers, and babies are particularly vulnerable to toxic ingestion, because they are always on the floor and putting things into their mouths.

It is particularly important to keep children away from toxic chemicals because their organs and body systems are still developing until adolescence.

So where do you go from here? And can you still get your house to sparkle without the side effects?

Absolutely. With more and more awareness about the links between allergies, asthma and toxic chemicals, there has been a higher demand for commercial non-toxic home cleaning products.

Many of these products information-laden websites, full of facts and information about the health and environmental benefits of cleaning 'green.'

Here is a list of some widely available non-toxic products to consider the next time you go shopping:

Earth Friendly Products, based in Illinois, is committed to providing "high quality cleaning products that are absolutely safe for your family, your pets and the environment, made with replenishable ingredients." Earth Friendly is available in most natural grocery stores around the country. They carry everything you need including shower cleaner, floor cleaner and air fresheners.

Bi-o-kleen from the state of Washington is "tough on dirt, gentle on the earth." This company provides soy blend products, laundry powders, produce cleaners, carpet-care and general kitchen and house cleaners. Also available nationally in major health food chains.

Ecover is a non-toxic based company that offers a wide selection of cleaning, laundry, household and personal care products. Available in Whole Foods and Wild Oats stores.

Seventh Generation , "the nations leading brand of non-toxic cleaning products," considers the long-term impact of the decisions you make now on the next seven generations. Along with all the usual cleaning products, Seventh Generation also carries non-toxic baby, feminine and paper products.

SOYsolv is for industrial cleaning and construction products. It does everything from adhesive removal to tar and asphalt removal. 100 percent made from soybean oil, SOYsolv "is tested and proven to be safe, effective and powerful product for use in many applications."

If you are feeling really inspired this year to make your house toxic-free, consider some of these timeless home-made cleaning formulas:

All-purpose cleaner : Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) of water.

Disinfectant : Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 4 tablespoons vinegar, and 3 cups hot water.

Bathroom mildew : Mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait one hour before rinsing.

Carpet stains : Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and spray directly on the stain. Let it sit for several minutes, and clean with a brush or sponge using soapy warm water.

Furniture polish : For varnished wood, add a few drops of lemon oil into a 1/2 cup warm water. Mix well and spray onto a slightly damp soft cotton cloth.

Air Freshener : Baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice in small dishes absorbs odors around the house. Or place bowls of fragrant dried herbs and flowers in each room. Or, pick out an essential oil of choice and heat in an infuser for a little aromatherapy.

Spring-cleaning with non-toxic products is a small but significant way you can make a difference for the longevity of your health and the environment. Taking a few moments to first ask the right question, and then being pro-active to find the answers will ultimately help you make the optimal decision for you and your family. Starting your spring off on a fresh and healthy note is what nature truly intended. health writer Kyle Ellen Nuse contributed to this report.

For more great information on living healthy through every decade of life, click here to check out Dr. Manny's book The Check List (Harper Collins, 2007).

Dr. Manny Alvarez is the managing editor of health news at, and is a regular medical contributor on the FOX News Channel. He is chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Additionally, Alvarez is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.