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Home truths

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We all know pollution levels are at an all-time high. And according to a recent study by Kolkata environmentalists and Calcutta University’s Economics Department, as quoted in The Times of India, the air in the comfort of your home can actually be three times worse than outdoors. Other than the increase in the toxicity of air inside the house, cooking emissions, cobwebs and dust as well as pesticides and cleaning agents used on a daily basis can exacerbate the problem. In fact, a study conducted from April 1999 to March 2002 by the National Poisons Information Centre at the Department of Pharmacology, AIIMS, revealed that 47.3 per cent of calls received at the Centre related to household products found in insecticides, phenyl, detergents, corrosives, kerosene, naphthalene, and so on.

With World Environment Day on 5 June, we present all-natural home solutions that reduce your exposure to toxic substances while improving your indoor air quality.

Combine ⅔ cup of baking soda with ½ cup of vegetable oil in a jar or a bottle with a spray nozzle. Add ½ cup water and 2 tbsp vinegar to the paste. Shake well before using. Spray or apply with a cloth or a sponge and let it rest for 15 minutes before cleaning with water.

Combine 2 cups of hot water, 1 cup of white vinegar and 10 drops of essential oil (lemon, peppermint or tea tree) in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture inside your fridge and let it sit for 2 minutes before wiping it off with a damp cloth. The hot water and white vinegar will loosen stuck food and eliminate odours.

Combine ½ cup of water, ½ cup of rubbing alcohol and 10 drops of essential oil (lavender or chamomile) in a bottle. Shake well and spray as needed.

Mix 1 cup of water, ¼ cup of vinegar and 15 drops of lemon essential oil in a bottle and shake well to mix. Spray directly on furniture and buff it off with a clean cloth. If you have wooden furniture, you can add 2 tsp olive oil to the mixture for extra shine and to protect the wood. Remember, water and oil don’t mix, so shake well before each use.

Combine 2 cups of water, ½ cup of white vinegar, ¼ cup of rubbing alcohol, and 1-2 drops of orange essential oil and store in a spray bottle. Apply directly on glass and wipe off with soft cloth or paper towel. White vinegar and alcohol help remove greasy fingerprints and stains.


  • According to a study by the Poison Information Centre (PIC) of Mysore, over a period of one year in 2012, 15.8 per cent of queries received were regarding poisoning from household products and 23.2 per cent from accidental poisoning.
  • Phthalates, known as endocrine disruptors, are found in many fragranced household products such as dish soap, air fresheners and even toilet paper.
  • Perchloroethylene or PERC, found in dry-cleaning solutions, carpet and upholstery cleaners, is a neurotoxin classified as a ‘possible carcinogen’ by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that can lead to dizziness and loss of coordination, among other symptoms.
  • Aerosol cans use CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) that contribute significantly to ozone depletion and global warming. Aerosol sprays are also triggers for migraine and asthma.
  • In 2000, cleaning products were responsible for nearly 10 per cent of all toxic exposures reported to US Poison Control Centres, accounting for 206,636 calls. Of these, 120,434 exposures involved children under six, who can swallow or spill cleaners stored in the house.
Photo: iStock
Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
June 2018