Instead of opting for commercial cleaners -- which can be pricey and chemically dicey -- hit your pantry for more natural alternatives. Baking soda will absorb odors, clean counters, and even clear clogged drains when mixed with vinegar.
Lemon juice can brighten your laundry, freshen drains, and polish metals. A mixture of vinegar and water cleans glass, mirrors, and hardwood floors.
Indoor pollution can be more than 10 times worse than outdoor pollution, thanks to chemicals like formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that evaporate from home-decorating and cleaning products.
To avoid exposure, opt for low-VOC paints and cleansers; steer clear of pressed wood products that contain formaldehyde such as hardwood plywood paneling and medium density fiberboard; and keep your house well-ventilated with open windows and air-cleaning devices such as mechanical air filters or electronic air cleaners.
Does your drinking water contain chlorine, nitrate, lead, or other harmful chemicals? Is it hard or soft? Your water company provides a federally mandated water-quality report each year. Many are posted at epa.gov/safewater , or you can test it yourself with a kit such as the Watersafe All-In-One Drinking Water Test Kit.
If you want to err on the side of caution, consider a water filter. Some fit easily onto faucets, showerheads, and your refrigerator's water dispenser. Other systems go beneath the sink or in the basement.
Mold and mildew thrive in damp places and can cause health problems. Fix leaks right away; remove standing water from basements, refrigerator drip pans, dehumidifiers, or air conditioners; and make sure that rainwater drains away from your house.
Clean mold with bleach and water and a stiff wire brush in a well-ventilated place, so as not to inhale the spores. A toothbrush will make easy work of mildewed grout.
Dust mites can aggravate allergies, but there are easy natural ways to eliminate them. Wipe windowsills with a damp cloth, and mop floors with a damp mop. Vacuum with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter.
Wash cloth toys, sheets, and other bedding once a week with hot water, and dry these items in the sun to let ultraviolet rays kill germs and dust mites.
Before you reach for your usual insecticide, herbicide, or fungicide (which can be harmful to you, your pets, and the environment) consider a more natural approach called Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
IPM helps you control unwanted pests by the least toxic means, such as using ladybugs to control aphids, electric mosquito traps to kill mosquitoes outdoors, and corn gluten meal to prevent crabgrass and other weed seeds from germinating without threatening other plants.
Want to know what's really in your favorite green food, building material, personal care products, or household cleaners? Visit the Eco-labels Center at Consumer Reports. You can search by product, category, or certifier, and easily compare labels using their handy report cards.