Welcome to the seventh installment of a series of special “spring purge” posts. The topic? Environmentally dubious household items that you might want to take a second look at while tackling spring cleaning duties. And when I say “take a second look at,” I mean you should reconsider using and/or replace with a more eco-sensible alternative.

Thus far, I‘ve recommended a household purge of antibacterial cleaning products containing the chemical triclosanaerosol air fresheners that can compromise your health through lowered air quality, toxic oven cleaners, caustic drain openers, chemical roach killers, and a partial purge of the common paper towel roll. Today I'm taking a look at a purge-worthy item associated with a particularly unpopular spring cleaning task: cleaning the toilet bowl. 
Even I, someone who enjoys cleaning, can’t stand to clean toilet bowls. Allow me to make the bathtub nice n’ shiny, mop the floors, clean out the fridge, and wash the windows but spend five minutes scrubbing the toilet? No thank you. Once upon a time, I tossed bleach tablets (no, not those “Smurf Pee” things) in the toilet tank so I wouldn’t have to do the deed. I’m not sure exactly what it is about the act that I find so painfully degrading. I guess it’s just the fact that it involves cleaning a toilet

Corrosive, petrochemical-filled toilet bowl cleaners rank with oven cleaners and drain openers as the most hazardous household cleaning solutions. Ingredients in commercial toilet bowl cleaners can include chlorine bleach, ammonia, hydrochloric and sulfuric acids, the potent antibacterial agent triclosan, and even formaldehyde, all health-compromising substances that must be handled with utmost care. That is unless you’re a big fan of painful chemical burns and lung-irritating chemical fumes.

Additionally, many of these ingredients don’t break down easily in the environment, so when they enter water supplies after you clean and flush there’s the potential for some real eco-damage. Ammonia, in particular, is harmful to aquatic life

Long, not-so-pleasant story short, if you have to pick only a couple of cleaning products to purge, make toilet bowl cleaners one of ‘em. But not so fast ... this doesn't mean that just because you purged your home of chemical toilet cleaners you can neglect cleaning the toilet altogether. That bowl still needs some lovin'. Luckily, there are plenty of safe, nontoxic toilet bowl cleaners on the market from brands such as Seventh Generation, Method, Ecover and Clorox Greenworks. These products can effectively remove rust, hard water stains, and other gunk while leaving your bowl smelling non-artificially fresh.

DIY toilet cleaning solutions are also an option and normally include three inexpensive key ingredients found in your pantry: baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice

Do you have a favorite nontoxic toilet bowl cleaner? Or how about a homemade solution? 

Cleaning product image: Krikketgirl; MNN homepage photo: belknap/iStockphoto

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

The spring purge: Toilet bowl cleaner
Cleaning the toilet ranks high on the tedious list, but somebody's got to do it. Just make sure it's not done with a product that puts you and the planet at ris