Do you sometimes feel as if you’re killing yourself to keep your house clean? You literally may be, according to environmental activist Annie Berthold-Bond, author of the bestselling Clean & Green and the upcoming Home Enlightenment: Keeping House in the 21st Century. She points out that many chemicals in commercial cleaning products are harmful and are not subjected to sufficiently rigorous testing or regulation.

Known as “The Green Heloise,” Berthold-Bond first became interested in using nontoxic alternatives to clean and maintain a home when her apartment was exterminated with a neurotoxic pesticide. This led to a long struggle with health problems, including severe chemical sensitivity, a disorder triggered by exposure to chemicals in the environment. Since that time, Berthold-Bond has become especially concerned with the effect of environmental exposures on children… the consequences of society’s over-reliance on chemicals… and their effect on the environment.


On Berthold-Bond’s extensive Web site, you can find a wealth of tips on nontoxic cleaning. Here are her personal favorites…

  • Clean out under your kitchen sink. Under virtually every kitchen sink, you will find containers of chemical cleaners labeled Warning! or Caution! Small amounts of toxins can leak or waft out of products, such as oven or drain cleaner, and pose a threat to your health. Throw them out at your local recycling center or on your community’s Household Hazardous Waste Pickup Days.
  • Replace toxic products with nontoxic, biodegradable alternatives. Among Berthold-Bond’s favorite natural cleaners are baking soda, washing soda (a “cousin” of baking soda), white vinegar, lemon juice, liquid soap, biodegradable detergent and essential oils.
    • Baking soda sprinkled on a damp sponge acts as a gentle nonabrasive cleaner for kitchen countertops and bathtubs.
    • Washing soda cuts grease and removes wax or lipstick. You can find it near the baking soda in your store.
    • Mix one-half teaspoon of olive oil with one-quarter cup of vinegar or fresh lemon juice to make your own furniture polish.
    • Use essential oils, such as lavender, thyme, clove and tea tree. They contain more disinfecting phenol than chemical disinfectants. Mix one teaspoon of essential oil with two cups of water for a disinfecting spray. The more concentrated the essential oil, the less you’ll need… so shop and use wisely.
    • Use straight vinegar on the toilet rim for a highly effective disinfectant. Let sit for 15 minutes, though you really don’t have to rinse at all.
  • Review your purchase of mops, sponges and other cleaning accessories. Look at products with an eye toward their durability and environmental impact. For example, don’t buy sponges with antibacterial ingredients (which may contribute to the growth of drug-resistant bacteria)… opt for reusable mops… and whenever possible use clean rags instead of paper towels for cleaning.
  • Learn about your water. Is it hard or soft? If you have hard water, you will need to clean with a detergent instead of soap to get rid of soap scum. Reason: Soap is made from fats and lye, while detergents are synthetic materials designed so they do not react with hard water minerals and cause soap scum. Biodegradable detergents without perfumes are available at natural food stores.
  • Clean indoor air with plants. Fill your home with plants not only to enjoy their beauty, but also to reduce indoor air pollution, balance humidity and provide more oxygen.
  • Use your senses. Pay attention to odors that indicate when food turns bad or dog beds require attention. Avoid using air fresheners, which just mask unhealthy odors.


Living in a clean and green home will improve your focus and concentration, help you get a better night’s sleep and possibly even help clear up allergies. Moreover, by using green products, you save money and protect your health and the environment.

To learn more about healthful cleaning, visit Berthold-Bond’s Web site at As Berthold-Bond sums it up, it’s a win-win situation.

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