Home safe home
by Jan Matthew
Use of any product requires proper ventilation. "Ammonia can be hazardous, but, because it is so common, people don't always respect it," Barnett says. "It's important to have the room door open in the winter or the windows and doors open in the warmer months. If you start coughing or feel dizzy when using a product, get out of the area right away."
Air circulation is particularly poor in bathtubs, where the area is surrounded by three walls and shower curtains or doors are closed during cleaning. "Some people even climb into the tub to clean it," Barnett says. "Just make sure you keep some kind of air flow going. Leave the door or window open if possible, and, at the very least, don't close the shower door or curtain."
Hobby products such as glues, markers and paints also require adequate ventilation. New carpet and draperies with permanent press finishes should be aired out before installation, and even dry cleaning bags should be removed and clothes aired outside before placing them in a closet or drawer.
When it comes to air, consumers often are surprised to learn that fragrance doesn't necessarily mean cleanliness, says Polly Gettinger, Extension educator for Greene County, pointing to the black soot or "ghosting" that shows up on the tops of walls near ceilings as a result of burning candles. "We're a very fragrance-oriented society, but a lot of people can develop immediate and long-term sensitivities to room sprays, potpourri and candles," Gettinger says. She suggests more natural options, such as boiling cinnamon sticks or baking something fragrant.
Bathrooms, kitchens and windows can benefit from natural treatments, too. In the quest for healthy indoor air, many consumers are opting for elbow grease and homemade alternatives over commercial brands and fast-acting formulas. Extension classes, such as Whitley County's "Clean and Green" and Brown County's "Environmentally Friendly Household Cleaning Products" and annual health fair, help pave the way.
"We just started presenting 'Clean and Green' last fall, and people really seem to enjoy it," Barnett says. "Participants learn to make several household products that are effective, inexpensive and chemical-free. Our recipes use ammonia, vinegar, baking soda and lemon juicebasics that work for windows, floors, toilet bowls and upholstery."
For instance, baking soda is great for cutting grease; ammonia or vinegar combined with water works well on windows; and vinegar and lemon juice effectively tackle soap and hard water stains. A vinegar-soaked paper towel, applied for about 30 minutes to a chrome fixture, gets rid of white build-up, Burwell adds.