Healthy Homes: Spring green cleaning recipes to help reduce asthma irritants | Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

Healthy Homes: Spring green cleaning recipes to help reduce asthma irritants

April 19, 2018




Asthma is a chronic disease that causes irritation and swelling of the airways, impacting the lungs and breathing. Asthma can affect Alaska Native people of all ages and in all parts of the state. It is a condition that makes daily activities, such as hunting, fishing or cooking traditional foods, difficult. For some people, asthma is a minor annoyance, but for others, it can be a life-threatening condition.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Healthy Homes Program helps people recognize asthma triggers in their homes and communities so that instances of asthma attacks, and even the development of the condition, decline. Many of the products that we use to clean, sanitize, disinfect and deodorize our homes are known triggers and can be linked to asthma development and air pollution. It is important to take steps to eliminate these contaminants that negatively affect lung health.

Thankfully, there are alternatives to these cleaners with irritants. Green cleaning products use naturally occurring and non-toxic ingredients that don’t irritate sensitive lungs.

Back to the basics
While not always as effective as commercially available products, the basics can be useful cleaners. Take care to never mix ammonia and bleach, as this will produce a toxic gas.

  • Vinegar is an eco-friendly liquid consisting of acetic acid and water. It kills bacteria and foodborne pathogens making it an effective disinfectant. It also dissolves mineral deposits from glass and other smooth surfaces.
  • Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate can be used as a water softener, deodorizer and is effective in removing stains when diluted with warm water.

Green Cleaning Recipes
Ingredients in these green cleaning recipes are easy on the lungs, do not pollute the air and do not contaminate the environment.

  • General all-purpose cleaner: Mix 2 cups vinegar and 2 cups of water.
  • Surface Cleaner: Mix 2 cups of baking soda, ½ cup of liquid castile soap and 4 tsp. of vegetable glycerin.
  • Drain cleaner: Pour ½ cup baking soda down the drain and follow it with a 1 cup of vinegar. Pour water down the drain after to clear out any residue.
  • Wall cleaner: Spray walls with a mixture of half vinegar and half water. Dry walls immediately after.
  • Laundry Detergent: Mix 1 cup soap flakes, ½ cup washing soda and ½ cup baking soda together. Use 1 tbsp. per load.
  • Deodorizer: Open windows (when the weather allows) or set out an open box of baking soda wherever you need air fresheners.

Identifying safe cleaning products
Know how to identify safe products. Read the label! Use products that:

  • Are fragrance-free
  • Are dye-free
  • Don’t have the word “danger” on the label
  • List all the ingredients on the label or website
  • Are colors you could find in nature

Asthma triggers and lung irritants
Known cleaning ingredients that can act as triggers and lung irritants include:

  • Bisphenol A (BPA)
  • Bleach
  • Fragrance ingredients
  • Parabens and phthalates
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—ex- formaldehyde, benzene, and toluene

EPA has the Safer Choice program that can help consumers browse safe products as well as find a retailer. Environmental Working Group also has a product database.

For additional information and resources visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Environmental Protection Agency Indoor Air Quality websites.


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