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Laura Mihelich/MEDILL

Many cleaning products can be concocted from simple ingredients right in your home.  Chicago residents learned about green cleaning, Wednesday, and made their own window cleaner.

Green up spring cleanup with eco-friendly products

by Laura Mihelich
Feb 23, 2012


Laura Mihelich/MEDILL

Chicago residents learned Wednesday that vinegar is a major product for creating green cleaners.

Household cleaning products may not scrub your home as clean as you think and can often add to air pollution.

Chicago residents learned about home air pollution and made eco-friendly cleaning products, Wednesday evening at Adventures in Green Cleaning. The Chicago Conservation Corps hosted the event at Uncommon Ground in Edgewater.

“It’s a small thing we can do,” said Stephanie Douglass, C3 volunteer and leader of the event. “But it goes into the larger idea of emissions.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that indoor air can be 10 times as polluted as outdoor air, causing irritation for those who struggle with asthma and allergies.

Many household products such as hairspray, paint, and rug and oven cleaner have trace amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a hazardous material according to the EPA.

VOCs are carbon-based gases emitted by many products and can lead to the formation of smog.

When multiple sources release VOCs in the home, they can cause symptoms such as respiration irritation, nausea and headaches for some people , the EPA said on their website.

During the event, attendees learned how vinegar, baking soda, lemon and water can be combined to make effective natural cleaning products.

“You feel like a kid being a scientist,” Douglass said, while demonstrating the mixing process for a vinegar and water window cleaner.

Raising awareness about issues such as indoor air pollution is why C3 sponsors these do-it-yourself events said Kristen Pratt, C3 Student Clubs Project Coordinator and WRD environmental consultant.

She said that the organization supported a green cleaning class because many people do no realize that household items contribute to worsening indoor air quality.

“Anything that requires you to open the window when using it probably isn’t good for your health,” Pratt said.

Several cleaning services in the Chicago-area also offer green cleaning options, including Green Maids, Sparkle Queen and Sweep Home Chicago.

Interest in natural options has increased, said Erin Lindsay at Sparkle Queen, based on people’s questions about  what products they are using.

“People are becoming more knowledgeable and health conscientious,” she said.

Sparkle Queen’s products clean just as well without causing damage to floors or countertops, according to Lindsay.

The store buys lines of environmentally friendly products such as Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, a biodegradable cleaner for floors and woodwork.

Increasingly, stores stock green products such as Seventh Generation and green works by Clorox.

Using eco-friendlier cleaning products also helps protect the water in Chicago, Douglass said, as natural products, such as vinegar and baking soda eventually break down.

“Its about how we care about ourselves, our homes, and everything around us,” she said.