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Cleaning Up Your Act

Chemically sensitive people need clean air to breathe, uncontaminated by the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other strong chemicals that are commonly found in public and private buildings. Here are some things that can be done to clean up your environment.

  • Avoid solvents and strong cleaning products. Pinesol, Clorox, Lysol, ammonia, and antibacterial soaps are toxic and unnecessary. You can get things clean with baking soda, vinegar (if you tolerate it), borax, and comet cleanser. There are safe liquid cleaning products available in local organic food and health food stores. Others can be ordered from special catalogs. (HEAL of Southern Arizona has a list of sources for safer cleaning and personal care products.)

  • Don’t wear perfume, cologne, or other fragrance products. Replace your shampoo, lotion, deodorant, make-up, sunscreen, and other personal care products with fragrance-free products.

  • Check the labels of all cleaning and personal care products. If it has an added scent or a strong natural scent, don’t buy it. Look for “fragrance free” on the labels. Note that products labeled “unscented” are not necessarily fragrance free, as they often contain a hidden masking fragrance.

  • Get rid of any air “fresheners” and fragrance-emitting devices in your house and your car.

  • Wash clothing in soaps or detergents that are fragrance free and dye free. Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets; even the fragrance-free varieties are toxic.

  • Control insects with boric acid or diatomaceous earth. If stronger intervention is needed, use least toxic integrated pest management (IPM).

  • Replace man-made fabrics and blends with 100% cotton for clothing and bedding.

  • Use no-VOC or low-VOC paint and avoid solvent-based stains and finishes.

  • Most carpeting is toxic, especially when new. If possible, replace carpets with ceramic tile.

  • Fiber board and plywood emit formaldehyde for a long time. If you can’t replace offending shelving and other items, you can use special sealers or cover surfaces with aluminum foil and aluminum tape.

  • Avoid petroleum products, including natural gas. If possible, use electrical appliances.

  • Many chemically sensitive people react to fluorescent lights. Use incandescent lights if possible.

-- HEAL of Southern Arizona, May 2002