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Safe Spring Cleaning

Salem Creekside Newsletter - March 2016

Safe Spring Cleaning

Spring-cleaning can trace its origins to Egyptian, Jewish and Scottish traditions of putting one's household in order before the New Year. In the early 19th century America, the custom had an especially practical value. Before the invention of antibiotics, the Victorians were concerned about disease and a thorough cleaning of one's house, top to bottom, rid the home of germs and pests. Without modern vacuums or cleaners, house cleaning depended on good weather so that windows could be opened to let out dust and fumes.

Today, one need not to rely on high winds to rid their house of dust, and household cleaners are advertised to kill an increasing number of cooties.  Modern cleaning technology is good for eliminating viruses and bacteria, but the chemistry can also be harmful if used improperly.

March 14th -18th is National Poison Prevention Week – a good time to take inventory of your household chemicals and talk to children about their appropriate use.

Every home has an under-sink cabinet or two filled with a myriad supply of household products. While their proper use is important, keeping them out of the hands of children is the first step in preventing injury or poisoning. When possible, keep household cleaners in a locked cabinet, or one a child cannot reach, especially the most dangerous products - furniture polish, drain cleaners, and oven cleaners. Child-resistant packaging has improved in recent years, but containers like spray bottles are still easily opened.
Many schools still introduce Mr. Yuk, the green, sour-faced character we remember from our own childhood. Applying Mr. Yuk stickers to chemical containers can help remind children that the contents are dangerous and not to be ingested.

As adults, we use household products daily without a second thought. Cheery packaging and ease of use lead us to believe that they are relatively harmless which is certainly not the case. Household cleaners should always be used according to package directions and kept in their original containers to prevent mishaps.

  • Never mix household cleaners or detergents. Doing so can create a poisonous gas.
  • Turn on fans and open windows when using chemicals or household cleaners to increase ventilation.
  • Direct spray nozzles away from your face and others.
  • Chemicals can burn the skin especially drain products, toilet cleaners, rust removers, and oven cleaners.
  • Liquids made from petroleum products are flammable.
  • Read and follow the directions for proper disposal of cleaning products and their containers.
  • Apply the same safety principles to all chemicals in your household, including garage, automotive and yard products.

If the risk of minding household chemicals seems daunting, there are natural alternatives that are effective and safe. The combinations of ingredients readily found in the kitchen can tackle many cleaning tasks with little danger.

  • Tile and Grout – Mix 1 part water and 3 parts baking soda into a paste. Apply to grout and let sit for 10 minutes.  Scrub with a toothbrush and remove with a damp sponge.
  • Cookware– Mix baking soda and water into a paste and use to scrub pots and pans.
  • Toilets - Pour undiluted white vinegar into the bowl and scrub with a brush.
  • Floors  - Mix 1/4 to 1/2 cup white vinegar with 1 gallon of warm water in a bucket for mopping.

A quick internet search reveals endless DIY recipes for cleaners from laundry detergent to dish soap. In the unfortunate event that a spill, ingestion, or burn accident occurs, help is just a phone call away.

The Poison Control Hotline (1-800-222-1222) is a free service which connects you to your local poison center. If someone has trouble breathing, call 911.