Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, was a guest recently on The Washington Post’s Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt:
Q: How do I know if I have lead paint in my house? It dates back to the 1930s; what’s the best way to check and see?
A: An important question, especially if there are young children who live in or regularly visit your home. The best way to check is to hire a certified lead risk assessor. They will perform an X-ray fluorescent test for leaded surfaces, as well as test for leaded dust.
Q: I use lots of bathroom products I know are not great for the environment. I would appreciate suggestions to keep grout, tiles, shower door and toilet clean without bleach.
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A: You can find great truly green cleaning products at grocery stores and even Home Depot and Lowe’s. We often use Simple Green to clean up after we perform Healthy Home rehabs. Be careful, though; some companies call their products green, but they are not natural. Read the label! Often it’s vinegar, baking soda, lemons and water that do the trick.
Q: I would like to incorporate more green products into my routine — but as a student, I am on a tight budget. Any recommendations?
A: It’s cheap and easy to be green and clean. Here’s your shopping list: Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, lemons and white vinegar. A couple of brushes and some lint-free cloths or even newspaper and you should be good to go.
Q: Is there an effective way to get rid of wasp nests under the eaves of your house without chemicals? We get a lot of sun and a lot of nests.
A: The best action is prevention. Scout from mid-spring on for small nests. Early on a chilly morning, before wasps have revved up, knock down the nests with a pole, a strong jet of water from a hose, or even your kid’s Super Soaker — then step on the nest. If wasps set up shop too close to home (especially in wall voids) and you didn’t catch them early, hire a professional to remove the nest.