Clean Doesn’t Smell!

What do you think clean smells like?  Lemons? Tropical bouquets? Ocean breezes?  Bleach?

Here is what clean should really smell like: nothing.  Clean does not have a scent!  A really clean and healthy home not only has no musty smell from mold or mildew, off-odors from pet hair or accumulated dust, but also no chemical “fragrances.”

It is ironic that many of the household products we depend on for cleaning are also designed for making your home “smell” clean and fresh instead of being clean and fresh. Some even advertise that cleaning is no longer needed!

There’s increasing evidence that daily exposure to hazardous pollutants occurs indoors, often at higher levels than outdoor pollution. And a primary source of these pollutants is everyday consumer products. “Cleaning” your house could be inadvertently exposing your family to harm from synthetic fragrances, hormone disruptors, and even possible carcinogens.

Of the 80,000+ chemicals in active use, only about 3,000 have been individually tested and none of the combinations. Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement for companies to list all the ingredients in a product on its label nor do we know how dangerous compounds are when they are mixed. For example, when cleaning products containing limonene and terpenes react with ordinary ozone they can generate unpredictable, complex, and often unknown reactions.

This “stew” of basic chemicals and unknowable reactions accumulate indoors. Energy efficient modern homes without sufficient mechanical ventilation are especially efficient traps of these chemicals.

The solution?  Natural products such as vinegar, lemon, and baking soda can fill in for lots of chemical products.  You can also switch to non-toxic, non-fragranced commercial products (from soaps and laundry detergents to surface and glass cleaners). Read labels. Just because a product has the word “green” on the label, doesn’t mean it is free of chemicals.

Go to the Environmental Working Group Web site,, for their list of ingredients in common products such as cosmetics, personal care, sunscreen, and others. The US EPA’s Safer Choice program is designed to help you find products that perform and are better for people plus the environment.

Make sure that your work keeping a clean house also keeps your family healthy and away from chemical exposures!

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Carl Grimes
Hayward Score Healthy Homes Director Carl Grimes has both the personal experience of how an unhealthy home created his own disabling health issues, plus professional experience in various industries working in the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) field. Carl also wrote Starting Points for a Healthy Habitat in 1999, detailing possibilities of what could occur in a house to make its occupants sick, how to identify what was happening, and what to do about it.
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