According to the National Environmental Service Center (NESC) it is estimated that the average homeowner may have up to 100 pounds of various types of hazardous household waste products at any time in their home. This includes products that are flammable, combustible, toxic, explosive or corrosive. You are probably well aware of the hazards associated with the improper storage and use of certain products such as gasoline, anti-freeze, pesticides, and varnishes. But other common products such as nail polish remover, charcoal lighter fluid, and fluorescent light bulbs can be hazardous to humans, pets and the environment when used or disposed of improperly.
One way to reduce the need to have these hazardous products around is to use alternate cleaning solutions for everyday home maintenance needs. By reducing your reliance on the potentially hazardous products, you not only reduce the risk of injury to yourself or other family members, but also help the environment.
Two long-used and widely available products, baking soda and vinegar, are good alternatives for many household cleaning products. Baking soda, mixed with water or other products, depending on the particular need, can be used to remove perspiration stains, as a scoring powder to clean plumbing fixtures, and as a general household cleaner. Vinegar can serve as a water softener, pet odor remover, paintbrush softener, and window cleaner. Even baby oil can substitute for harsh chemicals to remove grease and tree sap. Club soda helps remove stains from carpets. Use baking soda with the right mix of vinegar and you have a drain cleaner or tile scum remover.
The National Environmental Service Center has a technical assistance hotline (800-624-8301) available to answer questions. Environment Canada also provides information and offers solutions for the disposal of household hazardous waste.
Even alternative products must be used and handled with care. Check with product manufacturers and green product websites for specific recommendations and mixtures. And of course, don’t take any chances; store all cleaning products in a safe and appropriate location.