The simplest way to clean up your home is to reduce the amount of dirt that comes in. These are the four steps you can take to prevent grime from setting in:
Stop it at the Door.
Reduce cleaning time indoors by sweeping walkways regularly and putting entry mats both inside and outside the door. "Outside, sisal mats, made from natural fiber, are great for knocking dirt off shoes," says Stephen Ashkin, a green-cleaning expert based in Bloomington, Indiana, and a consultant to the EPA and school districts around the country. Once you step inside, you'll need a good quality mat with tight fibers to capture fine particles. If you really want to stop dirt in its tracks, have people leave their shoes at the door.
Grow Closer to Your Vacuum.
"A vacuum cleaner is the most important tool in your cleaning arsenal," says Ashkin. It not only cleans away potentially toxic dust particles, but it can also keep insects, such as fleas, at bay. Quality matters, since poorly functioning vacuum cleaners can send dirt particles back into the air. The Carpet and Rug Institute evaluates cleaners to make sure they get the job done while keeping indoor air clean. Use its Web site carpet-rug.com to find the Green Label vacuum that's right for your home.
Watch What People Touch.
Wherever people put their hands, you're sure to find germs. A prime example is children's toys. "Most people never think about cleaning them," says Ashkin, "but when children share toys, they often share illnesses too." Clean toys periodically by plunking them in a tub of hot water with a little added detergent, and then rinse and dry. Keep all commonly used surfaces clean.
Don't Overdo It.
"Skip antibacterial, germ-killing soaps and sterilizing sprays," says Philip Landrigan, M.D., director of the Center for Children's Health and the Environment at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. No matter how much you use, you still won't be able to achieve a "germ-free" kitchen or bathroom. In fact, Landrigan says, these germ killers can actually encourage the growth of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs." So, instead of trying to maintain a sterile environment, create a clean one by using fewer toxic products.
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