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Cleaning products are one of the most common things found in any household—and can often be one of the most dangerous. While cleaning products are necessary, it is well-known that using them incorrectly or too often can be hazardous and even result in long-term damage to one’s health. For example, numerous studies have connected the use of cleaning agents to unwanted lower respiratory tract symptoms and adverse effects on asthma patients regardless of the duration or severity of the exposure to the cleaning materials. In fact, glass cleaners, bleach, detergents and other products have been found to have lasting effects that get worse over time. Sneezing, scratchy throat and chest pain are also all-too-common symptoms, the studies found, when using even just over two cleaning products a day. And that’s just the start of some of the problems these products can cause.

It comes as no surprise, then, that “green cleaning” products have become a natural replacement for many of the potentially harmful products used in everyday cleaning tasks. Natural cleaning products are safer, cheaper, and easy to make yourself using only products that are sitting around the house.

What are natural cleaning products?

Natural cleaning materials are things that you can use to clean up with virtually none of the associated risk and are easy to come by in any usual household. Some of these include white vinegar, natural salt, baking soda, lemons, and hydrogen peroxide—all simple to come across or buy during a day trip to your local market. The built-in benefits of these everyday items provide many of the same benefits as the more dangerous cleaners you buy at the store. Baking soda, for example, can be used to clean up, soften water, and scour. Lemons are a powerful food-acid, useful for killing bacteria. White vinegar, of course, is useful against stains, mildew, wax, odor, and many other things. You can use salt, with its grainy, sandblasting properties, to remove scum and unclog your drains.

There are many such useful ways to utilize simple household products and ingredients to clean up. Do-it-yourself guides provided by many motivated people are common on the web—and there seems to be no limit to how you can use green-cleaning to scrub your home instead of getting caught in a shower of unwanted chemicals.

The health benefits of green cleaning

Aside from the asthma triggers mentioned earlier, using normal cleaning products comes with a host of other health risks. When products that contain chemicals such as diethanolamine and triethanolamine mix with nitrates, skin-piercing carcinogens are formed. These can affect your hormones, which can lead to many serious conditions such as cancer and birth defects. Most all-purpose cleaners contain these ingredients, making them risky to use—particularly in large amounts. Chemicals found in laundry and dishwashing detergents, borax and boric acid, are toxic to fertility. Solvents found in degreasers are linked to birth defects. 2-Butoxyethanol, an ingredient found in many cleaners, damages red blood cells and leads to anemia. These are just a few of the negative health effects of these using chemical-heavy cleaners.

The associated personal risks of using lemons and baking soda to do your cleaning (as two examples) are markedly lower than they are with other cleaning chemicals—particularly if you have children or pets. Natural cleaning products are far less likely to cause severe burns, allergy problems, and skin irritations. It goes without saying that cleaning products can be seriously harmful when spilled into the eyes, mouth, or any other place they’re not supposed to be. Cleaners can easily damage your esophagus and tissues.

Even air fresheners are not safe: a study done in the U.K. on 14,000 pregnant women linked the use of air fresheners and other aerosol sprays with an increase in depression and 25% more headaches in the mothers as well as 30% more ear infections and a 22% higher chance of diarrhea in children under six months old who are exposed to air fresheners several times a week.

Additionally, there is the possibility of being poisoned. U.S. poison control reports 6.7 poison exposures per 1,000 people and 41.9 in children under six years of age per 1,000 children. In 2015, this totaled to over two million human poison exposures—and over 50,000 animal poison exposures! You don’t get that kind of risk from natural salt.

The environmental benefits of natural cleaning products

Green cleaning products leave a far healthier mark on the environment than other cleaners. The production of cleaning products leads to a large consumption of water, chemicals, and trees as well as a huge waste output. The chemicals used in laundry detergents pollute the environment; in fact, 70% of American waterways contain detergents that harm ecosystems, and 66% are polluted with disinfectants. The cleaning product that we flush down the toilets and sinks isn’t treated as it enters the waterways (as household cleaning products are not well-regulated in the United States), which then causes build-up in water systems and making certain plant life grow faster, which is disruptive to local wildlife and plant life. That’s to say nothing of the tons of garbage and waste produced by the plastic packaging of household cleaning products.

Usage of natural cleaning products helps circumvent these negative costs that come with cleaning our homes and businesses: rather than risking the negative long-term health effects, severe injury, and poisoning, and environmental harm associated with most cleaning products, green cleaning allows for a safer and creative way to clean up after ourselves and not risk permanent or even fatal injury. Whether you’re looking for a safer alternative, a way to be environmentally conscious, or looking out for the health of your children and pets, natural cleaning products are a fantastic way to safely and healthily unclog that drain, clean up those stains and musk, and fight off household bacteria, odor, and mildew. And the best part: they can all be found at your local retailer, supermarket, or even your favorite grocery store.

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