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Get that clean feeling without all the chemicals
Household cleaners that are safe on the environment - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Parents out there really want their homes to be clean for their families.

So gallons of chemical-based cleaners are used in homes to mop floors, wash dishes or clothes and clean windows.

But each time you clean, all those chemicals get dumped down the drain. Which means, are you sending toxic chemicals into our drinking water?

Linda Dietz, a former biochemist, says yes.

"I would never use anything with chlorine, ammonia, phosphates," she said. "The phosphates encourage growth of algae in the rivers, streams and lakes. Most chlorine bleaches are not disinfectants at all.

"I look at what is bad and I don't want to use those products - the deodorants, shampoos - they are all contributors to your body holding a toxic load that you can't get rid of."

Dietz is also a representative for the Shaklee company, which focuses on living a green lifestyle in regards to nutrition and cleaning products. She also said harsh chemical cleaners can damage your septic tank, among other things.

"If you have healthy things going down into your septic tank you should never have to have it pumped out," she said. "Because it will encourage the bacteria that is good to grow to break all the stuff down. But these chemicals are killing the septic tanks."

The Environmental Protection Agency agrees that pouring chemicals down the drain may disrupt your septic system, according to the EPA's Web site.

Also, the EPA suggests to take unwanted household cleaners to hazardous waste collection centers and never pour them down the drain.

One of the most dangerous cleaning products at home is any type of drain cleaner, also called caustic cleaners, according to April Ingle.

"I know that anything that would be caustic, that would be something that you wouldn't want," said Ingle, the executive director of the Georgia River Network in Athens. "If you put them in certain materials it would dissolve that material. I would say anything that has a skull and cross bones on it ... would be better for the environment if you didn't use it and put it down the drain."

So, it seems like many household products are toxic, but what can we do about it?

The EPA has several suggestions that you can use. First, is to just select less toxic cleaners.

Also, buy chemicals in only the amount you expect to use and apply as directed - more is not better. Try low-phosphate or phosphate-free detergents and use water-based products whenever possible.

Ingle said she uses "things that are made of more natural things like baking soda, ammonia and vinegar."

And when she cleans her home, Ingle said elbow grease is the best cleaner.

"If I need to get a mildew stain out of my bathtub on the grout ... I always take a tooth brush and some baking soda and scrub on it," she said. "Baking soda is a really good home cleaner you can use. It's sort of an abrasive; you can use it in place of stuff like Comet.

"Ammonia is also a good one that you can mix with water and it's a really good window, mirror, bathroom cleaner."

Dietz added to look for cleaning products from reputable companies that focus on the environment.

"I would look for companies who back up their products no matter what the reason," she said. "Companies who are more interested in me than in the almighty dollar; one that makes products that will not harm anyone or anything and will work."

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