Avoid getting sick during spring cleaning


The very idea of spring cleaning brings to mind freshness, renewal and healthier living. But this annual domestic ritual may not be rewarding its hardworking practitioners with as much of the purity and goodness they’re hoping for. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the air in the average American home is a minimum of five times and, in some cases, up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. So much for all that time spent scrubbing the baseboards.

What’s to blame for the spring un-cleaning? In a counterintuitive twist, the very cleaning products that homeowners are using every day may, in fact, be doing more harm than good. In its Guide to Healthy Cleaning, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group assessed the ingredients and chemical makeup of more than 2,000 common household products to come up with some stunning ratings—indicating the relative level of concern posed by exposure to the ingredients in the product compared to other product formulations. For example:

• Of 165 floor-care products tested, 119 received a grade of D (likely hazards to health or the environment) or F (potentially significant hazards) in the EWG ratings.

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• Of 147 furniture cleaners tested, 88 received a grade of D or F.

• Of 470 all-purpose cleaners tested, 288 received a grade of D or F.

If these frightening results are almost enough to make you want to take a pass on so-called clean living altogether, Kim DeLauro from Baum’s Natural Foods in St. John says there are healthier alternatives to help ensure your cleaning is safe and effective. Among the dozen or so natural cleaning products that the store carries are Ecos, a phosphate- and formaldehyde-free laundry detergent that uses a coconut oil base for its fabric softening agent, and Clean Smart, a disinfectant spray that kills 99 percent of germs with no harsh chemicals, and has proven to be a very popular choice among Baum’s customers with respiratory issues.

For more information on the EWG Guide to Healthy Cleaning, visit ewg.org/guides/cleaners.