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Is There a Safer Alternative?


One of the best means of avoiding exposure to household hazardous products is to use safer alternatives whenever possible.

Learning Outcome

Students identify safer alternatives for some household hazardous products and test some of these safer alternatives in the classroom.

Teacher Background

See Teacher Introductory, pages 8-10. There are a variety of alternatives to household hazardous products, especially cleaning products. Alternatives include home-made products which are typically less expensive and are easy to make. However, they may require more elbow grease and a more rigorous cleaning schedule to be as effective as commercial products.


Empty Spray Bottles
Ingredients: vinegar or vanilla, cornstarch, baking soda, water
Recipe cards

Learning Procedure

1. Ask students to name some potentially hazardous products used in the home to clean and freshen the house. List their responses on the board.

2. Explain to students that many potentially hazardous products that we purchase are not always necessary, and are sometimes expensive. There are safer alternatives for some of these products available at most grocery stores. Hold up the vinegar, baking soda, and cornstarch. Ask: Where have you seen these products? What are they used for?

3. Explain to students that, although these products are typically used in cooking, they can also be used as ingredients in cleaners. Tell students that they are going to create their own cleaners by following recipes. Discuss measurements and how to follow recipe directions.

4. Divide the class into small groups and assign each group the task of cleaning desks or washing windows. (You may want to do this activity with the whole class for younger grades.) Give each group the appropriate recipe, ingredients, and necessary materials to complete the task.

5. After the groups have finished cleaning, ask each group to report to the class their results of using the safer alternative.


* What are some advantages of using the safer alternatives?
* Can you think of any disadvantages of using the safer alternatives?

Extended Learning

Create advertising for safer alternatives. These can be in the form of posters, essays, or flyers. Display them at school and at home.


Adapted from Toxics In My Home? You Bet! and Teaching Toxics.

Recipes for Safer Alternatives for Household Hazardous Products

Glass and Window Cleaners
Mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1/4 cup white vinegar, and 1/2 gallon warm water in a spray bottle. Apply to surface and dry with a soft cloth.

Scouring Powder for Desks
Sprinkle baking soda onto a damp sponge. Rub the desk with the damp sponge and rinse with a wet rag.

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