When you hear the term "hazardous waste," what comes to mind? Factories? Toxic dumps? Nuclear reactors?
Would it surprise you to know that it also applies to many of the cleaners Americans routinely use at home?
According to the EPA, oven cleaners, drain openers and metal polishes all contain "hazardous components." Some experts add window cleaners, air fresheners and other products to the list.
What makes them dangerous? Oven and drain cleaners, for example, contain lye -- an extremely corrosive poison. Metal polishes may contain chemicals one expert describes as "liver and kidney poisons." Air fresheners may contain chemicals like xylene, ethanol and naphthalene.
If this bothers you, there's good news: Many household toxics can be replaced with simple substitutes you can make yourself. Here are a few recipes for "greener cleaners" supplied by Debra Lynn Dadd, author of the definitive book on the subject, "Non-toxic, Natural & Earthwise."
*Oven cleaner: "Combine 2 tablespoons of liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner's) and 2 teaspoons of borax in a cup of warm water. Make sure it's dissolved, dip your sponge in it, and sponge it onto the stained areas. Leave it on for 20 minutes and scrub with steel wool and Bon Ami cleanser."
*Silver polish: "I use this all the time. It's the only silver polish I've used in the last 11 years. Basically, all you have to do is put a piece of aluminum in salted warm water . . . or put salted water in an aluminum pot. Leave the silver in for 5 to 10 minutes. When you remove it, the silver will still look tarnished, but when you wipe it, the tarnish will come off on the cloth."
*Window cleaner: "This is my favorite window cleaner. Mix a solution of half white distilled vinegar and half water. Put it in your old window-cleaner spray bottle. (It's a great way to recycle the bottle.) Just spray the liquid on your windows. Then use newspapers to wipe it off. The newspaper dries the glass, and (the window) comes out sparkling clean."
For more information:
*"Non-toxic, Natural & Earthwise," by Debra Lynn Dadd. Published by Jeremy Tarcher; $12.95.
*Earthwise Consumer, a 16-page newsletter published by Ms. Dadd. $20 for eight issues. Write: P.O. Box 279, Forest Knolls, Calif. 94933, or call (800) 488-3233.
*"Clean & Green," by Annie Berthold-Bond. Published by Ceres Press, P.O. Box 87, Woodstock, N.Y. 12498.