Household Cleaners

Soaps and detergents are meant to be washed down the drain. These products are biodegradable and if the wastewater from your home is properly treated, they pose no problem to the environment. Other household cleaners are a different story. Drain openers, oven and toilet bowl cleaners, and bleach are poisonous. Furniture polish and spot removers are flammable, and disinfectants contain strong chemicals which may be harmful. As you read product labels, look for toxic components such as: lye, phenols, petroleum distillates, trichlorobenzene. If improperly used, products containing these chemicals pose a potential threat to health. They also present real water quality hazards if disposed of improperly.

A word about detergents….
Detergents are one of the most-used home cleaning products. Many automatic washing machine and dishwasher detergents contain phosphorus. Phosphorus causes problems in streams and lakes by acting as a fertilizer, stimulating plant growth. Ultimately this growth reduces the oxygen available to support other aquatic life forms. Labels indicate the phosphorus contents which vary from zero for liquid detergents to 13% for some automatic dishwashing detergents. Buy liquid detergent or low phosphorus products.


For household cleaners which you or your neighbors can’t use up, call
1-800-RECYCLE for recommendations.


Bleach: Use oxygen bleaches, borax, or let the sun bleach your fabrics.

In your refrigerator, use an open box of baking soda. Simmer cinnamon and cloves, or place herbal bouquets in open dishes.

Drain Cleaners:
Instead of chemical cleaners, use a plunger, then add 1/4 cup baking soda followed by 1/2 cup vinegar. Let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse with 2 quarts of boiling water. Mechanical drain cleaners also can provide an effective alternative and include the traditional metal “snake” as well as a variety of devices which attach to the faucet and clean by increasing water pressure. The best alternative is to periodically clean items such as hair from the drain.

Dusting: Use 1/4 cup white vinegar per quart of water and apply with a tightly wrung soft cloth.

Furniture/Wood Polish: Rub with 1 tablespoon of lemon oil mixed with one pint mineral oil.

Glass Cleaner: Use 2 tablespoons of vinegar in 1 quart of water.

Mildew Stain Remover: Use a vinegar solution made with 1/2 cup vinegar to 1 quart of warm water.

Spot Cleaning Carpets: Apply club soda immediately, blot dry, repeat. Or, sprinkle with cornmeal or cornstarch and vacuum after 30 minutes.

Toilet Cleaner:
Use baking soda, or vinegar, or non-chlorinated scouring powder.

Solvents and Paints