Eco-Friendly Cleaning: Safety is a big reason green products are in demand.

Environmentally conscious shoppers don’t want their families, friends, or pets exposed to harmful substances. But let’s face it: Harsh chemicals are found in many of today’s popular, older-style cleaning products. Those chemicals invariably come into contact with people, while their bit of pollution to the environment. Fortunately, there are alternatives.

The markets for natural cleaning products has taken off in recent years, with more — and more environmentally safe — product offerings now available in enlightened stores. The surge in their popularity shows that an increasing number of consumers are concerned about the potentially dangerous ingredients found in the traditional product category.

Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Home Safe Home (J.P. Tarcher, 1997) and other natural-living titles, says there has been a definite increase in the popularity of natural products since 1982, when she began her career as a consumer advocate.

“I was writing about natural products before the natural products movement,” says Dadd, [but] “there weren’t a lot of cleaning products we could recommend. Now all that’s changed.”

MeMe Davis, a health and beauty sales associate for Ellwood Thompson’s Natural Market in Richmond, Va., recommends natural cleaning products to customers because she uses them herself. The reason? “You’re not ingesting a lot of chemicals,” she says. Davis also employs green products in her laundry room. “What you put on your clothes eventually ends up in your body.”

Natural cleaning products are finding broad acceptance, Davis notes, as more people become aware that alternatives to Big Soap are safer and just as effective. “They’re not just for hippies anymore.”

Spring cleaning dirt cheap?
Here are 12 Earth-friendly tips for cleaning around your home.

* Eliminate scuff marks on vinyl floors by using a microfiber mop.

* Remove tarnish on silver items by adding some baking soda and a small piece of aluminum foil to boiling water. Bathe the silver until clean.

* Polish chrome using a microfiber polishing cloth and water.

* Clean away toilet bowl rings with a paste made of baking soda and vinegar.

* Banish hard water spots from glass and crystal wares by soaking them for five to 10 minutes in a sink filled with near-boiling water and two cups vinegar. (Don’t let crystal touch crystal. It will scratch.)

* Get rid of buildup on windows by first wiping them with rubbing alcohol, then rinsing with two tablespoons of vinegar in one quart of water. You can also use a regular microfiber cloth damp for a streak-free and lint-free shine.
* Take spots out of clothing, carpet and upholstery by using a small amount of Quick’n Brite.

* Polish wood with three parts olive oil to one part vinegar and a regular cotton rag, or use a microfiber polishing cloth and water.

* To clear a clogged drain, pour down one-half cup each of baking soda and vinegar. Wait five minutes, then flush with boiling water.

* Use a half-vinegar, half-water mixture to remove soot from fireplace doors, wiping them with old newspaper.

* To clean porcelain, chrome and stone surfaces, use toothpaste.

* Cut grease and stubborn leftover food from plates and glasses by adding a few lemon slices or a tablespoon of vinegar to soapy dishwater.

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