A recent EPA study found that regardless of geographic location, household air now contains more airborne contaminants than outdoor air. Whether in a rural community or a smokestack metropolis, indoor air has up to five times the chemical content of the air outside.

A lot of this pollution comes from the cleansers and cleaners we use to clean our houses.Household products on our supermarket shelves contain more than 55,000 chemicals, points out the Clean Water Fund, a non-profit environmental research and education organization based in Washington, D.C. And more than 1,000 new chemicals are introduced on the market every year.

"Only 10 percent of these compounds are tested for their potential effects on human health and the environment," says Deborah Keller, spokesperson for the education group.

These modern-day wonders offer instant results - but at a cost to our health and to the environment. In addition, in order to manufacture the products that chemically pollute our homes, U.S. industries produce more than 250 million tons of hazardous waste each year.

We get used to thinking that things aren't clean unless they have that chemical smell, but there are non-toxic alternatives to harsh cleaners. They may require a bit more elbow grease, but they are kinder to both you and to the environment. When you do your spring cleaning, you might want to think "green" cleaning.

Here's a list from the Clean Water Fund of alternatives for many of the common household cleaners and chemicals.AEROSOLS

The problem: New propellants such as isobutane, propane and butane now replace freon. These don't destroy the earth's ozone shield, but in studies of laboratory animals they are toxic to the heart and central nervous system.

The solution: If a spray is necessary, use a pump dispenser.ALL-PURPOSE CLEANERS

The problem: Many contain ammonia or chlorine. Ammonia attacks the lungs, and chlorine forms cancer-causing compounds when released into the environment. Mixed together, they form a deadly chloramine gas.

The solution: Clean with hot water, soap and borax. Or use 1/2 cup washing soda per bucket of water (on all but aluminum surfaces).AUTOMOTIVE PRODUCTS

The problem: Many products are toxic. One quart of motor oil can contaminate a million gallons of water.

The solution: As there are few alternatives, proper handling and disposal are essential. Proper vehicle maintenance also helps. Fix fluid leaks immediately. Avoid spills. Carefully bottle used motor oil and take it to a licensed service station for proper disposal and recycling.DEODORIZERS

The problem: The cresol, phenol and formaldehyde in deodorizers and air fresheners desensitize your nose.

The solution: To absorb odors, place baking soda or white vinegar in small dishes. Sprinkle baking soda in trash cans and kitty litter pans. Houseplants also absorb pollutants and purify the air.DISINFECTANTS

The problem: Most contain phenol, formaldehyde, cresol, ammonia and chlorine.

The solution: Mix 1/2 cup borax in 1 gallon hot water. This disinfectant was tested in a California hospital for one year and met all germicidal requirements.DRAIN CLEANERS

The problem: The lye, hydrochloric and sulfuric acids found in these cleaners can burn human tissue, causing permanent damage. They are especially dangerous around children.

The solution: To maintain clean drains, mix 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup salt and 1/8 cup cream of tartar. Pour this mixture down the drain and follow with hot water. Clear clogs with 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 1/2 cup vinegar. Cover drain and sink overflow vent until fizzing stops, then flush with hot water.FLOOR AND FURNITURE POLISH

The problem: These products often contain phenol, which is highly toxic. Wood polish may cause skin irritation.

The solution: Dust furniture with a barely damp cloth. On unfinished wood, use vegetable oil to replenish luster. Polish finished wood with butcher's wax once or twice a year.GLASS CLEANERS

The problem: Glass cleaners emit ammonia mist, which you breathe.

The solution: First, use rubbing alcohol to clean the wax left from previous use of commercial glass cleaners. Then clean with a mixture of half white vinegar and half water.HOUSE AND GARDEN PESTICIDES

The problem: These contain some of the most toxic synthetic chemicals ever developed. Many have been linked to birth defects, leukemia and cancer.

The solution: Avoid "quick fix" chemical warfare against pests. Creative alternatives include organic insecticides and fertilizers, traps and biological pesticides.LAUNDRY PRODUCTS

The problem: Many are non-biodegradable detergents.

The solution: Use soap products rather than detergents, and boost cleaning power with washing soda and borax instead of bleach.METAL POLISHES

The problem: The fumes from phosphoric and sulfuric acids and ammonia contained in metal polishes contribute unnecessary pollution to the air in your home.

The solution: Boil silver flatware in 2 quarts of water with 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt and a piece of crumpled aluminum foil. Polish silver and stainless steel with a paste of baking soda and water. For brass, use equal parts of salt and flour with a little vinegar. For copper, use lemon juice or hot vinegar and salt. For chrome, use rubbing alcohol or white flour on a dry cloth. For aluminum, dip cloth in lemon juice, polish, then rinse with warm water.MOLD AND MILDEW CLEANERS

The problem: These cleaners contain pesticides and may have side effects.

The solution: Make a concentrated solution of borax or vinegar and water and clean affected areas. Borax is an excellent inhibitor of mold growth. Keep damp areas well ventilated.MOTHBALLS

The problem: These products contain p-dichlorobenzene, a known carcinogen. And they often look like candy to young children.

The solution: To deter moths, store clean woolens with cedar blocks or in cedar chests or closets. A gauze bag containing either cedar chips or 2 handfuls each of dried lavender and rosemary, plus 1 tablespoon each of fresh cloves and dried lemon peel, will also deter moths.OVEN CLEANERS

The problem: The basic ingredient in oven cleaners is lye, a powerful caustic. Exposure to fumes can scar your lungs. A splash in your eyes can cause blindness.

The solution: Avoid spills and grease buildup as much as you can. Clean oven with a paste of baking soda and hot water. Steel wool or pumice stone will remove resistant black spots. Self-cleaning ovens avoid the problem.PAINT/PAINT THINNERS

The problem: Up to 300 toxic substances, including solvents and fungicides, have been found in commercial oil and latex paints. Harmful vapors are emitted for months after paint dries.

The solution: Use non-toxic, vegetable-based paints, stains and lacquers. Use a heat gun, sandpaper and scrapers to remove finishes from wood. Protect yourself with face mask, gloves, etc. as needed.TOILET CLEANERS

The problem: These products contain chlorine and hydrochloric acid, which can burn your skin and eyes. The fumes alone can corrode metal.

The solution: Use soap and borax. Remove stubborn rings with white vinegar or a pumice stone.