Keeping household asthma triggers at bay can be difficult. An asthmatic friend of mine covers her mattresses, pillows, and box springs to protect against dust mites, uses a negative ionizer to clean the air, sprays for mold, and vacuums regularly. Ensuring that your house is free of potential allergens requires diligence and constant cleaning; however, some of those cleaning supplies may do more harm than good.
The strong odors and chemicals in cleaning supplies, especially those that are sprayed into the air, can trigger an asthma episode, say experts. Avoiding excessive exposure to these domestic cleaning products may be especially important for pregnant women and young children. A 2004 study in the journal Thorax found that children who were exposed in the womb to high levels of domestic chemical-based cleaning products were twice as likely to wheeze throughout their lives compared to those children exposed to low levels of cleaning solutions.
The situation is no better for adults. A 2007 report in the American Thoracic Society found that glass cleaning, furniture, and air-freshening sprays were risk factors for adult asthma, and that even weekly use of cleaning sprays was associated with increased asthma symptoms.
Keeping clean without using products that exacerbate asthma is not as hard as it sounds. Alternatives to commercial cleaning products abound. Below is a list of easy and inexpensive solutions, many of which can be used every day as household products. As an added benefit, these simple recipes are also environmentally friendly.
All Purpose Cleaner:
1 quart warm water
1 teaspoon liquid castile soap (such as Dr. Bronner’s)
1/4 cup undiluted white vinegar
Mix ingredients and store in a marked spray bottle. Use to clean countertops, kitchen floors, carpets, and upholstery.
1 quart warm water
2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1/4 cup white vinegar
Mix ingredients and store in a spray bottle. Use a newspaper to clean glass; it won’t leave streaks and also avoids lint particles that a rag may leave.
To prevent mold or mildew from forming in areas like window sills, use 1/2 cup borax in one gallon of hot water. Don’t rinse off the borax solution. Make sure to keep leftover solution in a safe spot; although borax is natural, it is toxic if consumed.
For bathroom or kitchen mold, try mixing one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water and spraying it on affected areas.
Tub, Toilet Bowl, and Sink Cleaner:
Liquid castile soap
Sprinkle baking soda on porcelain fixtures and scrub with sponge. Add liquid castile soap to the sponge to wipe down. Rinse well. For toilet, scrub with baking soda and rinse with soap and water solution.
Alternative Air Fresheners:
Pour vanilla extract on a cotton ball in a small dish.
Baking soda with lemon juice in small bowls will also absorb household odor. To deodorize kitchen sinks, pour 1/4 cup baking soda down drain, followed by 1/4 cup white vinegar. Let sit for fifteen minutes and wash down with hot water.
Mix 4 tablespoons baking soda and one tablespoon salt with warm water. Scrub inside of oven with scrubber. Alternatively, you can make a soda/salt paste and let sit on oven stains overnight; scrub off in the morning.
For more asthma information see: Managing Your Child’s Asthma