Make Your Home a Safe Place to Work and Live!
An important component of being a fair employer is ensuring that your home is a safe and healthy place to work. Here are some basic steps to make this happen.
Prepare Your Home
- Remove the source of toxicity or hazard such as bleach, ammonia, 2-butoxyethanol, and other chemicals (According to the SF Department of the Environment, soap and water can kill 99% of germs, so toxic chemicals in cleaning products are often not necessary.)
- Prevent injuries, don’t ask workers to do unsafe things (like washing windows above the first floor).
- Provide safety equipment (such as gloves, goggles, masks).
Use Non-Toxic Products
- Provide or offer to pay for non-toxic cleaning products.
- Pay for the additional time it may take the cleaner to clean using cleaning products with fewer chemicals.
- Check out our resources below for a list of non-toxic cleaning products for purchase or that you can make.
Take the next step
- Join Hand in Hand’s email list to get updates about fair employment practices, and action and campaign alerts.
General Resources on Toxics and Healthy Living:
Information on Cleaning Products You Can Buy:
- Some non-toxic cleaning products
- Dr Bronners
- Earth Friendly
- The Honest Company
- The Environmental Working Group Green Cleaning Product List
How to Make Your Own Non-toxic Products:
- Green Cleaning Tip Guide from the National Domestic Workers Alliance
- On How to Make Your Own Cleaning Products by SF Environment
What if the worker I employ does not want to use non-toxic cleaning products?
We have heard from many domestic employers that it can be challenging to ask workers to use non-toxic cleaning products if the worker is used to using other products. Here are some best practices.
Things to Remember
- Set goals for the conversation. What would you like to see changed? For example, is your goal to simply replace one cleaning product with a non-toxic alternative or do you hope to use this conversation to invite the worker to partner with you to make a more comprehensive transition?
- Power dynamics are at play. As the employer, you have the power in the relationship and this is often reinforced by your relative power in society based on class, race, gender and citizenship status. Don’t forget this!
- The person you employ is a professional. They may have been doing this work for many years and have developed their techniques and their cleaning products based upon training or experience.
- Schedule regular check-ins. This is just one conversation and so you may not get to an agreement right away that is satisfactory to the both of you. Schedule a regular check-in, that is paid-work time for the worker, to assess your progress together.
Be Prepared to Compromise or Make Adjustments
- Some non-toxic cleaning products may work “less effectively” and take more time to clean with. Be prepared to pay more for the extra time it may take for the worker to do the same job with the non-toxic products.
- Some non-toxic cleaning products cost more than conventional cleaning products. Make sure you budget for the additional cost.
Ways to Approach this Conversation
- Start from a place of concern about your health and the health of your employee. Why is it important for you to eliminate toxic products from your home? Bring information in case the employee isn’t aware of the health impacts for them (see resources on page 1) .
- Recognize the worker’s expertise and invite them to problem solve together.
- Ask if they know of any alternative cleaning products that they would like to try.
- Ask if they would try a new product and see how it goes so they have a voice in the decision-making about the transition to new products.
- Give the worker a chance to voice any concerns they might have and be prepared to make adjustments. Be sure to listen and really hear where the worker is coming from and seek common ground so that you can get to an agreement that feels satisfying and fair to both employee and employer.
Use this as a chance to establish a follow up conversation and regular check-ins, if you don’t already have them. This way you and your employee can bring any concerns you may have about non-toxic cleaning or other components of your work agreement. (Oh! And if you don’t yet have a work agreement in place, this conversation is a great foundation for creating one. See Hand in Hand’s sample house cleaning agreement.)