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Natural Alternatives to Hazardous Household Products

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So this is the year you’re finally going to get around to cleaning out your cupboards. Congratulations! It’s about time you got rid of all those rusty cans and dusty bottles; the old pickle jars half full of varnish, wood preservative or insecticide. The pail full of motor oil, and all the leftover liquids, powders and pastes the contractors didn’t take with them after the renovations.


But wait a minute! You’re not planning to pour that stuff down the drain, in the gutter or in a hole in your backyard are you? Do you realize what you’re doing? You’re polluting the environment with household hazardous wastes!


What are household hazardous wastes?


Household hazardous wastes or HHW are leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable, or reactive ingredients.


Some examples of hazardous wastes you may find around your house:


antifreeze
brake fluid
chemical strippers
chlorine
contact cement
drain cleaners
fire extinguishers
flea collars and sprays
herbicides insect repellent
insecticides
kerosene
lawn chemicals
lighter fluid
lye
mothballs
nail polish remover
old propane tanks
paints, pesticides
pool chemicals
prescription drugs
solvents
spot removers
stains and finishes
toilet cleaners
used motor oil
oven cleaners


Today more people are recognizing the dangers of many products and choosing safer ones. Their actions are in turn bringing even more healthful and environmentally sound products to the marketplace.


While reducing our personal exposure to toxics at home is an important step, there is a bigger issue at hand: we must also consider how our actions as consumers affect other people, other species, and the planet as a whole.


Every time we make a purchase to fulfill our individual needs, we also make a choice that affects the environmental quality of the world we live in.


Do I Really Need To Use This?


There are four questions you should ask yourself when you’re shopping:


   1. Do I really need this?
   2. How much do I really need?
   3. How will I dispose of this when I’m finished?
   4. Is the product worth all the hassle involved in getting rid of it?


You can’t treat HHWs like other kinds of garbage.


Buried wastes can filter down through the soil and contaminate groundwater. Wastes can clog storm sewers and over-burden septic systems. Plumbing systems can be damages by corrosive chemicals. Pouring hazardous liquids on the ground poisons soil, plants, water and wildlife.


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Use Alternatives


As consumers look for ways to reduce the amount of HHWs in their homes, they are turning to alternatives to do the job. Reduction, reuse and recycling are also important tools to safely manage HHW.


Consider reducing your purchase of products that contain hazardous ingredients. Share them with family and friends. Many community centers like Habitat for Humanity will reuse paints, pesticides and insecticides, if they can still be used. Recycling means taking items like antifreeze and motor to collection sites and never disposing of them on the ground, down a drain or in a stream.


West Hanover Township operates an oil collection site at the West Hanover Township Maintenance Garage at 402 N. Fairville Avenue in the township. The center is open from 8:00 a.m. to Noon every Saturday through the spring, summer and fall. Oil needs to be free of water, gas and antifreeze to be accepted.


Here are a few ideas on alternatives to HHWs to get you started. Remember that the suggested mixtures have less hazardous ingredients than store bought brands, but they should be used and stored with similar caution.

Baking Soda - Cleans and deodorizes. Good scouring powder. Softens water, increasing the cleaning power of soap.

Borax - Cleans, deodorizes and disinfects. Softens water. Brightens all washable fabrics and costs less than bleach.

White Vinegar - Cuts grease. Dissolves lime deposits. Mixed with water it becomes an excellent window cleaner.

All-Purpose Cleaner - Mix 2 teaspoons borax, 1 teaspoon soap and 1 quart water. Store in spray bottle. Add vinegar or washing soda to cut grease.

Disinfectant - Dissolve 1/4 cup borax in 1/2 gallon hot water.

Tub, Tile & Toilet - Scrub with a powdered soap and a scouring powder made of baking soda, borax or salt. Use white vinegar to loosen lime deposits.

Mold & Mildew Cleaners - Make a concentrated solution of Borax and water and clean affected areas. Baking soda sprinkled on a damp sponge will also remove mold. Ventilate an area properly to reduce mold growth.

Fabric Softener - Add 1 cup vinegar or 1/4 cup baking soda during final rinse.

For additional alternatives to HHWs checkout these web sites:

http://www.msue.msu.edu/vanburen/rhhwalt.htm

http://pasture.ecn.purdue.edu/~epados/waste/src/recipes.htm