Green and Clean

Key in­gre­di­ents to a healthy home

Gulf & Main - - Contents - Cathy Chest­nut is a free­lance writer and fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to TOTI Me­dia who ex­plores the peo­ple and places that make South­west Flor­ida, her home­town stomp­ing grounds, unique.

Home­own­ers take pride in the way their nest ex­udes their style, but one thing is easy to over­look. The in­vis­i­ble ele­phant in the room is in­door air qual­ity. If fam­ily mem­bers or vis­i­tors sneeze upon step­ping over the thresh­old, it’s a tell­tale sign that al­ler­gens may be lurk­ing: dan­der, dust mites, chem­i­cals, mold spores or toxic com­pounds. In fact, in­door air can be five times more pol­luted than out­door air, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

What’s a home­owner to do? Take heart. No mat­ter where or how we live, there are sim­ple steps we can take to keep our habi­tats clean and re­fresh­ing.

A sim­ple maxim, par­tic­u­larly with chil­dren and an­i­mals, is to keep it clean. Don’t track fer­til­iz­ers, pes­ti­cides and or­ganic pol­lu­tants in­side, rec­om­mends Jennifer Languell, Ph.D., owner of Tri­fecta Con­struc­tion Solutions in Fort My­ers. She teaches and prac­tices sus­tain­abil­ity.

Use ex­te­rior en­try mats and clean­able in­door rugs, or main­tain a shoe-free house with a con­ve­nient “shoe de­pot.” De-clut­ter­ing makes dust­ing and ex­tract­ing pol­lu­tants from car­pets and rugs easy with a high-ef­fi­ciency par­tic­u­late air, or HEPA, vacuum. Bet­ter yet, hard floors—such as wood, bam­boo,

De-clut­ter­ing makes dust­ing and ex­tract­ing pol­lu­tants from car­pets and rugs easy with a high-ef­fi­ciency par­tic­u­late air, or HEPA, vacuum. Bet­ter yet, hard floors—such as wood, bam­boo, cork, con­crete, stone or tile—are su­pe­rior al­ter­na­tives to car­pet, which traps dust and im­per­cep­ti­bly de­grades over time.

cork, con­crete, stone or tile—are su­pe­rior al­ter­na­tives to car­pet, which traps dust and im­per­cep­ti­bly de­grades over time.

In­spect likely sus­pects for damp­ness: around sinks, toi­lets, wa­ter heaters, con­dens­ing units and in clos­ets. Mold can hide un­der car­pets and be­hind walls, so in­ves­ti­gate for dis­col­oration or signs of mois­ture.

The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Home­builders sug­gests un­plug­ging the re­frig­er­a­tor and slid­ing it away from the wall an­nu­ally to vacuum dust ac­cu­mu­la­tion on the con­denser coils. This can ex­tend the life of your re­frig­er­a­tor and im­prove in­door air.

Air-con­di­tion­ing vent fil­ters should be changed ev­ery 30 days. “Most of us re­mem­ber maybe two times a year if we are lucky,” says Languell, “but those fil­ters do help and they also keep the AC unit run­ning ef­fi­ciently.”

Amer­i­cans are prone to stor­ing com­mer­cial house­hold clean­ers, which wind up cost­ing a bun­dle and emit­ting tox­ins in­doors. The good news: There are a slew of com­mer­cial green clean­ing prod­ucts on the mar­ket to­day.

Check the in­gre­di­ents or find a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion you feel good about, such as: EPA’s Safer Choice; GREENGUARD, a unit of Un­der­writ­ers Lab­o­ra­to­ries; or the “asthma & al­lergy friendly” Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, ad­min­is­tered by the Asthma and Al­lergy Foun­da­tion of Amer­ica.

Save money by craft­ing your own clean­ing solutions, ad­vises Jennifer Ha­gen, a fam­ily and con­sumer sci­ences ex­ten­sion agent with the Univer­sity of Flor­ida’s In­sti­tute of Food and

Agri­cul­ture Sci­ences, or UF/IFAS, of­fice in Lee County. She likes to have fun with it. “I en­joy adding drops of my fa­vorite es­sen­tial oil scents—lemon and citrus blends—in some of my solutions. It smells good and it’s a cre­ative way to give flair to a mild so­lu­tion.”

Sta­ples for a green clean­ing arse­nal in­clude white vine­gar, wa­ter, mild dish soap, bak­ing soda, rub­bing al­co­hol, and lemon or other citrus. Vine­gar is an acid and bak­ing soda is a base— when com­bined, they ac­tively fizz. This com­bi­na­tion is ter­rific for clear­ing drains and clean­ing toi­lets.

Dis­tilled white vine­gar can be di­luted with wa­ter to cre­ate any con­cen­tra­tion. A spray bot­tle un­der the sink is handy for at­tack­ing pet vomit, wip­ing coun­ters and re­mov­ing residues from fruits and veg­eta­bles. Place a bowl of it in the mi­crowave for five min­utes to make wip­ing the mi­crowave a cinch. (Note: Vine­gar can etch tile or stone, so avoid us­ing on these ma­te­ri­als or im­me­di­ately rinse with clean wa­ter.)

Bak­ing soda re­moves odors, soft­ens wa­ter and dis­solves dirt. If you have been work­ing in the gar­den, wash your hands with it. It lifts out dirt and leaves your hands soft.

The big­gest haz­ard in the house­hold is the kitchen—a rife en­vi­ron­ment for har­bor­ing bac­te­ria and viruses that can spread colds and flu, as well as food­borne pathogens. In the kitchen, rou­tine clean­ing of crumbs, grease and dirt is a must, but so is san­i­tiz­ing, which re­quires bleach or chlo­rine, Ha­gen stresses.

“Ef­fec­tive clean­ing in­volves both clean­ing and san­i­tiz­ing sur­faces,” she says. Food sci­en­tists rec­om­mend san­i­tiz­ing the kitchen sink ev­ery 24 hours. “Di­luted chlo­rine bleach is a very ef­fec­tive san­i­tizer. The amount needed is very small and no chlo­rine residue will be left be­hind us­ing a con­cen­tra­tion of one scant tea­spoon of chlo­rine bleach to one quart of wa­ter,” Ha­gen ex­plains. “Chlo­rine re­acts quickly and be­comes in­ac­tive quickly.”

There are a slew of com­mer­cial green clean­ing prod­ucts on the mar­ket to­day.

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