Make Spring Cleaning Environmentally Neutral

By ecoRI News staff

’Tis the season to clean, but don’t forget about the environment when you start spraying and scrubbing. To make your home brighter and fresher, you may inadvertently soil the air and water. Here are some things, courtesy of, to keep in mind:

Nothing is completely safe. Almost anything dumped down the drain, even if derived from plants and other “natural” substances, can cause problems. Even with the increasing number of greener products on the market, none is perfectly safe for the environment.

Don’t accept vague claims. Words like “biodegradable” and “nontoxic” have no legal definitions. Ask companies to substantiate their environmental claims.

Avoid cleaners containing phosphates. They biodegrade totally and quickly, but when they get into rivers and lakes, they cause algae blooms, robbing the water of oxygen, blocking sunlight and ultimately killing marine life.

Minimize use of bleaches. The most common bleach is chlorine, which in wastewater can create toxic compounds. Non-chlorine bleaches are gentler to clothes and the environment, though they are less effective in colder-water temperatures, requiring more energy-intensive hot water.

Buy concentrates whenever possible. Ask manufacturers to produce refillable versions that allow you to refill a spray bottle by adding water to a packaged concentrate.