Vinegar a good replacement for toxic cleaning products

We have a new maintenance man in the building where my clinic is located. Our last maintenance man was a great guy. He would do anything for me, change light bulbs, help me move stuff about and was always ready for good a laugh.

We have a new maintenance man in the building where my clinic is located. Our last maintenance man was a great guy. He would do anything for me, change light bulbs, help me move stuff about and was always ready for good a laugh.

The only challenge I had with him was his choice of cleaning products. He mopped the floors, shined the taps in the sink and wiped down the baseboards in the hallways with a toxic spew disguised as cleaning products.

After a scrub and polish of the hallways and bathrooms, I could hardly breath for the noxious fumes.

I mentioned this to my building manager a few times. She would exhale deeply, furrow her brow and tell me she understood my concerns. Shrugging her shoulders she would tell me, “Our wonderful maintenance man was set in his way with the cleaning products and, well, it is difficult to find such a reliable, happy and efficient maintenance man!”

I would nod my head; she had a point. Back to my office, I would secretly continue to plot to rid the building of the toxic-cleaning agents.

Then it happened: our helpful, happy man was offered a great-paying job and a new guy arrived. This was my chance to change the cleaning protocol in the building before the new guy, who is also very nice and helpful, developed the bad habit of using nasty-smelling cleaning products.

At the first opportunity, I nudged my building manager: “What do you think of replacing the floor cleaning detergent and the window shining liquid with white vinegar?” She nodded and agreed on a trial run.

This morning, as I entered the building I noticed two things immediately. One, the floors were so clean and the smell of vinegar lingered in the air. Excited I checked out the woman’s bathroom. It looked fresh and again there was the faint aroma of vinegar.

My patience has paid off and I have gotten our building off the toxic cleaner habit.

So what’s the big stink about a little smelly cleaning product?

Forbes Magazine recently reported on study involving cleaning products and their ingredients. Here is the summary:

“There’s been a lot of work done on exposure to these chemicals in average households, and we know that these chemicals are found in air and dust in people’s homes, and the CDC [Center for Disease Control] has shown that we find them in our bodies as well,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Robin Dodson. “Now we’re trying to understand where the chemicals are coming from, and how people are exposed to them.”

Let’s just consider two common chemicals found in window cleaners and all-purpose cleaning products.

Spraying the window cleaner releases ammonium hydroxide into the air. This nasty compound is a respiratory irritant triggering both asthma and allergies. Breathing it in gives it a direct route to the blood stream, where it is suspected as disrupting both the nervous and endocrine system.

After mopping the floor, pouring the bucket of dirty water containing the all-purpose cleaning product down the toilet releases nonylphenol ethoxylate into the water system. This compound does not break down in water and interferes with the reproductive abilities of fish and other aquatic creatures. It is commonly found in human blood and breast milk. The European Union has banned this nasty toxin for interfering with the human endocrine system. Perhaps it is time to seriously consider using less of these toxic, life-endangering products in the name of killing germs and creating cleanliness.

During this time in history, so many of our world problems seem insurmountable to the average human being.

This is what I love about white vinegar. Simply replacing toxic products with pure white vinegar (which is super cheap) is an easy solution to a big problem. Vinegar is anti-bacterial and cuts through grease and grime without leaving a toxic residue.

There is an expression — act locally, think globally. I can’t think of a more local place to begin than in my kitchen and bathroom.

Oh, by the way, when cleaning requires a little abrasive action, baking soda will do the trick.

Herbs for Life is written by Abrah Arneson, a local clinical herbalist.

It is intended for information purposes only. Readers with a specific medical problem should consult a doctor. For more information, visit Arneson can be reached

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