When selecting household cleaning products, a closer examination of their packaging reveals an alarming fact: in the process of making your home spotless and sanitary, these products typically incorporate a lengthy list of unhealthy chemicals. These chemicals are surely effective at killing bacteria and may be appropriate for some messes, but they also tend to be harsh on the skin, have dubious effects on the environment, and may even be hazardous to breathe. For instance, the chlorinated bleach that is the main ingredient in many household cleaners is known to cause headaches and eye irritation and may be harmful to water supplies. This spring, consider the following "green" alternatives:

  1. Vinegar: for an all-purpose cleaner, combine one cup of white vinegar with three cups of water in a spray bottle. To add fragrance to this handy solution, drop in a bit of your favorite essential oil or steep citrus peels in the mixture. Like bleach, vinegar kills most strains of mold and bacteria, without the offensive odor of bleach. Since vinegar is biodegradable, it does not pose a threat to the environment.

  2. Baking soda: attack kitchen stains with a sprinkle of baking soda and a slightly abrasive sponge. Not only is baking soda non-toxic, but it is known to offer several health benefits. A bit of baking soda and water can be used to erase grease, hard water stains, and coffee or tea ring on mugs.

  3. Lemon: deodorize with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Like vinegar, lemon juice is known to have antibacterial properties. In addition to killing germs and other pesky organisms, lemons can be used to deodorize and create a fresh scent wherever needed. Try squirting a bit of lemon juice into the garbage disposal, over sponges, or into containers that have taken on the aroma of the foods that occupied them previously.