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Greener Home Cleaning

When cleaning, the last thing you want to do is fill the air with toxins that are hazardous to the environment  -- and even to your family's health. Yet that's what you might be doing if you use certain traditional cleaners, many of which contain synthetic chemicals that haven't been safety-tested. Experts are divided as to whether these cleaners can harm you, but if you're concerned, here's how to limit exposure, from Linda Mason Hunter, co-author of Green Clean:

Air it out. Leave windows open during and after cleaning so that the chemicals don't linger in the air.

Buy "green" alternatives, like Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyer's. Or look for products with these terms: biodegradable; plant-based; hypo-allergenic; formulated without dye or synthetic fragrance; non-flammable; does not contain chlorine, phosphate, petroleum, ammonia, acids, alkalized solvents, nitrates, or borates.

Make your own. Try:

• A mix of baking soda and distilled white vinegar to scrub the toilet

•Distilled white vinegar mixed with warm water to clean hardwood floors

•Vegetable-based soap with a few drops of lavender essential oil to make an antiseptic cleaning spray

Do what you can. Using green cleaners even some of the time is better than never. To learn more, visit householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov

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