What are some green-friendly hardwood floor waxes I can use in my home

What are some green-friendly hardwood floor waxes I can use in my home that aren’t as toxic as conventional brands?

—Pat Montgomery, Phoenix, AZ

Most of us spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, so minimizing the use of harmful chemicals in our homes, offices and schools is important to keep the air we breathe healthy and the constructed surfaces we live on free of irritants and toxins.

But there are trade-offs, as proper maintenance of most types of flooring requires that occasional waxing to protect the finish beneath our feet. Among the worst offenders commonly found in mainstream floor waxes is cresol, which can cause liver and kidney damage if inhaled over extended periods of time. Formaldehyde, which has been linked to everything from asthma to reproductive problems to cancer, is also a key floor wax ingredient that should be avoided whenever possible. Some other hazardous ingredients in traditional floor waxes are nitrobenzene, perchloroethylene, phenol, toluene and xylene.

Luckily for the eco-conscious homemaker, a number of forward-thinking companies have risen to the green challenge by manufacturing floor waxes that help maintain a more healthy and pure indoor environment. Seattle’s Environmental Home Center, one of the country’s foremost green building product retailers, recommends and sells BioShield’s all-natural Furniture and Floor Hardwax for wood floors. The beeswax, carnauba wax and natural resin paste that make up the basis of BioShield’s formula produce a dirt- and dust-resistant final coat to protect floors without compromising your health or indoor air quality.

Eco-House Inc., based in New Brunswick, Canada, manufactures a similar formulation for wood floors called #300 Carnauba Floor Wax. It contains beeswax, carnauba wax, refined linseed oil, rosemary oil, a mild citrus-based thinner, and natural resins. It can be ordered directly from the company or through various green-building retailers across North America.

Meanwhile, Sensitive Design, a green architectural firm based in British Columbia, Canada, recommends that its clients maintain their wood, cork or open-pored stone floors with BILO floor wax. Made by the German company, Livos, which manufactures home care products that contain only biologically and environmentally responsible ingredients grown without pesticides, BILO is available online from the Green Home Environmental Store.

For the do-it-yourself crowd, the free online Guide to Less Toxic Products (from the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia) recommends concocting your own all-natural wood floor wax by warming up a combination of olive oil, vodka, beeswax and carnauba wax in a tin can or glass jar in simmering water. Once the concoction has been mixed and allowed to harden, it can be rubbed directly into wood floors with rags. For more detailed instructions, visit the association’s website (listed below).

CONTACTS: Environmental Home Center, www.environmentalhomecenter.com; BioShield, www.bioshieldpaint.com; Sensitive Design, www.sensitivedesign.com; Green Home Environmental Store, www.greenhome.com; Guide to Less Toxic Products, www.lesstoxicguide.ca.