Welcome to the first installment of a series of special “spring purge” posts that I’ll be publishing over the next couple of months. The topic? Environmentally dubious household items that you might want to take a second look at while tackling spring cleaning duties — some of them, like the subject of today’s post, are even found in or used as cleaning products themselves. And when I say “take a second look at” I mean you should reconsider using and/or replace with a more eco-sensible alternative.

Up to bat today are products containing the ubiquitous and totally purge-worthy chemical, triclosan.

I’ve talked about triclosan before — most recently in an advice column about natural sponges — and you might already be familiar with it since it’s found in a ton of household and personal care products, particularly those labeled as being "antibacterial." In our pandemic-obsessed culture, antibacterial products are insanely popular and provide much relief to both serious germaphobes but those who just want to keep their homes neat, clean, and germ-free. The popularity of antibacterial products extends well outside the home, too. Here in NYC, bottles of antibacterial hand lotion are just as commonplace in handbags as Metrocards and cell phones.

But here's the thing: plain old soap is just as effective at removing germs when washing up. In fact, the American Medical Association advises against using antibacterial soaps at home. One of the best triclosan resources out there is the Environmental Working Group's Guide to Triclosan. Not only does it outline the health and environmental risks associated with the chemical but it lists, room by room, every single product in your home — 140 of them — that might contain the stuff. I tend to dwell on dish soap and things like toothpaste and deodorant but vacuum bags, garden hoses and pet training pads? Triclosan is everywhere.

Since triclosan is so prevalent, purging your home of anything that’s possibly treated with it might be a bit much to ask (not to mention create a lot of waste). After all, I wouldn’t want you to part with your favorite pillow shams. But here’s what you can do since we’re dealing with spring cleaning: if you have any cleaning products that list triclosan as an ingredient, give ‘em the heave-ho. Or, use them until they run out and don’t replace them. If germ slaughter is a top priority in your home, consider an eco-friendly alternative that doesn’t involve the use of toxic pesticides.

Some bill-fitting products that I’ve had the chance to try out recently are from the new line of natural disinfectantsDisinfecting Wipes, Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner and Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner — from Seventh Generation. Harnessing special, chem-free CleanWell technology, the active ingredient in the line is herb-derived thymol; the essential oils of thyme and lemongrass are also included to naturally deodorize and combat odors. The line is the first EPA-registered line of natural disinfectants approved to claim "kills over 99.99 percent of germs naturally on hard, non-porous surfaces.”

I normally don’t use disinfecting products unless I'm traveling, but I went to town on my kitchen countertops with the Seventh Generation Disinfecting Wipes this past week and was quite pleased with the results, especially the smell. In a time when keeping a home clear of both toxic chemicals and disease-spreading germs is a top priority, it looks like Seventh Generation’s partnership with CleanWell is a home run.

Stay tuned for the next installment of “the spring purge” where I’ll tackle — drum roll, please — paper towels. Do you have any purge-worthy items worth recommending this spring cleaning season?

Middle image: Jack Black's Stunt Double; product images: Seventh Generation

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

The spring purge: Triclosan
Eliminating unwanted domestic detritus this spring? Consider chucking products containing triclosan, an antibacterial agent found in an array of household produ