Clean, Green Sweep

So you're throwing open the windows and beating the winter blues out of the house. Spring cleaning is under way -- why not do it in an eco-friendly fashion this season?

Many of the cleaning products found in the kitchen and bathroom are full of harsh chemicals that are toxic for you and your family plus the planet.

The Union of Concerned Scientists notes that most cleaners contain petroleum products, phosphates, phthalates, or chlorine. These ingredients are either nonrenewable resources, polluting to the environment, or harmful to our health. Bad news all around!

And frankly, they're not necessary to get stuff clean. Our grandmothers kept the homefront spotless with good old-fashioned ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, borax, and plain soap. If you want a fancy scent, add a natural essential oil. Planet Green has a bunch of easy recipes to make your own green cleaners.

If you don't have time to mix your own stuff, look for certified biodegradable products, such as Planet brand. The EcoLogo certification is a globally recognized environmental certification worth looking for on cleaning products too.

Seventh Generation has an excellent guide to getting the toxins out of your home, and this brand of papers and cleaners lists all of its product ingredients on its website.

Even eco-celeb Ed Begley Jr. has weighed in on green cleaning with his own line of products called Begley's Best. The cleaners earned a Crade-to-Cradle certification, which means the product is not only environmentally safe but the design itself is efficient and the company is socially responsible.

Lastly, when you do get rid of any toxic cleaners, be careful. Don't just pour them down the drain. Check this saftey info about disposal, and contact your local hazardous waste department (check your phone book), if necessary.