National

TOXIC BACKLASH

Safe cleaning products win praise

Concerned over the potentially dangerous chemicals present in commercial cleaning products, a growing number of women are turning to a book of DIY recipes based on simple and safe household ingredients.

Baking soda, vinegar and soap are being touted as alternatives to mainstays such as synthetic detergents, which have been in use as household cleaners since the early 1960s.

The simple concoctions can be used to clean a significant portion of a home, including ovens, bathtubs, windows and floors. The cleaners can also be used to shine faucets and clear blocked drains.

The original recipes come from “Clean House, Clean Planet,” published in 1997 by environmentalist Karen Logan.

Having translated this book into Japanese in 1997, Noriko Sakou decided to write her own version for the domestic market, based on Logan’s work.

In March 2002, Sakou published “Natural Cleaning,” which logs her experiences practicing Logan’s methods. Around 100,000 copies have been sold.

“People get into it because (the cleaning method) is simple,” Sakou said of her book, which targets women in their 20s and 30s.

Sakou said she altered some of the recipes from Logan’s originals to suit Japanese tastes, recommending her readers use, for example, odorless citric acid instead of vinegar. Many Japanese men do not like the smell of vinegar, she said.

The cleaning method is based on simple chemistry: alkalies neutralize acids.

Soap and baking soda are alkaline, while vinegar and citric acid are acidic.

Vinegar and citric acid are used to clean alkaline dirt such as soap scum and water stains, while soap and baking soda are used to clean acidic dirt, including grease and grime.

This cleaning method is gaining support from women, especially those who have children and pets, as an alternative to using synthetic detergents.

“I really like them,” said Junko Goka, a resident of Machida in western Tokyo.

“My hands don’t get chapped.”

Goka, 38, said she started using baking soda and citric acid for everyday cleaning last year.

The mother of an 8-year-old daughter, Goka said she uses these products because they are environmentally friendly and pose no threat to her family’s health.

The products are cheap and effective, she said, adding that she uses baking soda mixed with a few drops of fragrant essential oils to clean her family’s clothes and canvas shoes.

Switching to natural cleaners has allowed Sakou, a mother of three, to clean her house while her children are around.

Previously, Sakou had to keep her children away while she was doing the household cleaning.

A growing number of TV programs and women’s magazines are promoting this trend, while manufacturers of cleaning products are also jumping on the bandwagon.

Responding to mounting demand, cosmetic maker Kanebo Ltd. introduced in September a baking soda-based kitchen cleaner.

Kanebo is targeting mothers with young children and women in their 50s and older

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