Environmental Health
Healthy Home Environment
Household Hazardous Materials
 
  guide to safer household products  
 
  Air Fresheners & Perfumes  l  Antibacterial Hand Cleaners  l 

Chlorine Bleach to Whiten Clothes  l  Drain Cleaners  l  Fabric Softeners & Dryer Sheets  l

Mercury  l  Oven Cleaners  l  Paint — Oil-Based  l  Pesticides: Indoors & Out  l

Scouring Powders, All-Purpose  l  Toilet Bowl Cleaners  l  Window & Mirror Cleaners
 
     
 

Air Fresheners and Perfumes

Potentially Hazardous Products

These products send particles and chemicals into the air. Natural and synthetic fragrances can cause allergic reactions and are common asthma triggers.

Safer Substitutes

  • Remove the source of the odor (sometimes easier said than done!)
  • Simmer cloves and cinnamon in water to freshen the air, or simply open the windows.
  • Use baking soda to absorb smells on carpets, in garbage cans, in the refrigerator, or in the disposal.

Antibacterial Hand Cleaners

Potentially Hazardous Products

Avoid using soaps marked antibacterial or antimicrobial that contain Triclosan. They have not been shown to reduce the spread of disease. Using these cleaners could create resistant germs.

Safer Substitutes

  • Clean most surfaces with soap to kill germs. Rinse well.
  • Disinfect only if necessary (such as, when there is illness in the home).

    If needed, kill germs with a mixture of 1 teaspoon bleach per gallon of cool water. Do not add soap—it reduces the effectiveness of the bleach. Leave on the surface for two minutes to be effective. Air dry.

Chlorine Bleach to Whiten Clothes

Potentially Hazardous Products

Chlorine bleach is labeled DANGER. Wear gloves and use eye protection. Avoid breathing fumes; open windows for ventilation.

Safer Substitutes

For laundry, use a non-chlorine (for example, hydrogen peroxide) bleach.

Drain Cleaners

Potentially Hazardous Products

Many drain cleaners are highly hazardous, especially those containing lye or marked DANGER or POISON. They are hazardous to inhale, harmful to skin, and may actually damage plumbing and septic systems.

Safer Substitutes

  • To unclog a drain: Pour 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup vinegar down the drain, followed by a tea kettle of boiling water to free minor clogs. Use a plunger or a plumber's snake.
  • To prevent future clogs, use drain strainers over all drains.

Fabic Softeners and Dryer Sheets

Potentially Hazardous Products

The chemical fragrance in softener and dryer sheets may irritate lungs and skin. They also may clog up septic systems.

Safer Substitutes

Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of baking soda to the rinse cycle as a softener.

Mercury

Potentially Hazardous Products

This potent nerve toxin may be present in these household products:

  • Thermometers
  • Thermostats
  • Fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent bulbs

Safer Substitutes

  • Replace mercury thermometers with digital, solar or alcohol thermometers. Safely dispose of these products by placing in double zip-lock bags before taking to HazoHouse.
  • Replace mercury thermostats with digital or programmable thermostats. Take thermostat unit to HazoHouse for safe disposal. For additional information, see Mercury Products in the Home.

Oven Cleaners

Potentially Hazardous Products

Many oven cleaners are very hazardous to inhale and corrosive to the skin, especially those containing lye or marked DANGER or POISON.

Safer Substitutes

  • Use non-lye products like Bon Ami, then use a damp cloth or wet cleaner to soak and soften baked spills.
  • To prevent build-up, use a tray or foil liner to catch spills and wipe up spills promptly.
  • Do not use a cleaner in a self-cleaning oven.

Paint — Oil-Based

Potentially Hazardous Products

  • Safety: User may inhale toxic fumes.
  • Storage: Flammable. Must be kept in cool, dry place.
  • Clean-up: Requires toxic solvents.
  • Disposal: Cannot go in the trash. Requires hazardous waste disposal.
  • Use: Wear rubber gloves, open windows, and use a fan for ventilation.

Safer Substitutes

  • Use latex paint where practical. It is safer for you, your family, and the environment. It is also easier to clean up.
  • Bring all oil-based paints to HazoHouse for safe disposal.

Pesticides: Indoors and Out

Potentially Hazardous Products

  • Lawn and garden pesticides may pose health risks, especially for pets and children.
  • Pesticide overuse damages soil and plants.
  • Pesticide use harms salmon and other wildlife in local streams.
  • Pesticide dust can remain indoors for a year.

Safer Substitutes

For practical pest advice, see the Common Sense Gardening Program or call 360-867-2577. For information on the hazards of indoor bug foggers and effective flea and roach control alternatives, see Hazards of Bug Bombs (WA Dept of Health).

Scouring Powders, All-Purpose

Potentially Hazardous Products

Avoid chlorinated or ammonia cleaners. When mixed with other cleaners, they may release hazardous gases!

Safer Substitutes

Use baking soda or a chlorine-free powder, such as Bon Ami. Rinse well to remove residue.

Toilet Bowl Cleaners

Potentially Hazardous Products

Avoid products marked DANGER or POISON. These vary widely in hazard level; read the label carefully.

Safer Substitutes

Scrub with baking soda or Bon Ami. Rinse surface to remove residue.

Window and Mirror Cleaners

Potentially Hazardous Products

Ammonia-based cleaners are harmful if inhaled. Mixing ammonia with chlorine-based products creates hazardous gases.

Safer Substitutes

  • Mix 1 cup vinegar with 3 cups water. Wipe on or spray. Dry with newspaper or clean cloth.
  • Use a spray bottle half filled with club soda, or sprinkle on a cloth. Spray or wipe on and then dry with a clean cloth.
  • Outdoor windows: Wash with a sponge and warm water mixed with few drops of soap. Rinse and squeegee dry.
 
 
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This page last updated: 08/11/14