Tips for a Non-Toxic Home

Angie Timmons
Hennepin County Environmental Services

From the water we drink, to the foods we eat, to how we maintain our yards and clean our homes, we can be exposed to chemicals in many ways. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only a small frac­tion of the more than 75,000 registered chemicals have gone through complete testing for human health concerns. Some chemicals have immediate toxic effects. Others are toxic to our bodies only after repeated, long-term exposure.

Children are especially susceptible to the negative effects of chemicals. Pound for pound, children breathe more air, drink more water, and eat more food than adults. When they play, they crawl and put things in their mouths. As a result, children have an increased chance of exposure to pollutants and because children’s bodies are still developing, they may process these pollutants differently from adults.

We use household hazardous products every day in cleaning and fixing our homes, maintaining our cars and taking care of our lawns. To distinguish household hazardous products from other products used in and around the home, you can look at the labels. A household hazardous product has one or more of these words (often called “signal” words) on the label: caution, warning, danger or poison. These products can be found in kitchens, laundry rooms, basements, garages or storage areas.

You can make simple changes to reduce exposure to toxics at home by using fewer household chemicals:

  • Use multipurpose cleaners to avoid buying many specialty cleaners.
  • Use single-ingredient products (baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice, salt) that serve several functions.
  • Sometimes muscle can replace chemicals.
  • Try to dislodge a clog in a drain with a mechanical “snake” and scrub sink stains with an abrasive sponge.
  • You can also make your own non-toxic cleaner.

Non-Toxic Cleaner Recipe

For a 32 oz. bottle:

  • ½ c. white vinegar
  • 3½ c. hot water
  • 1 T liquid dish soap
  • Essential oil (a few drops are optional: be advised some of these are flammable, hazardous and may be a problem for people with chemical sensitivities, allergies, or asthma)

Directions: In 32 oz. spray bottle, add vinegar and water. Add essential oil if desired. Add dish soap last.

Not only does this cleaner work well on surfaces like counters and sinks, it also saves money. It only costs about 20 cents to make.

For a complete listing of non-toxic cleaning recipes and ideas, visit

Non-Toxic Home

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