Cleaners labeled “safe,” “non-toxic” and “green” can contain hazardous ingredients.
What are Green Cleaning Products?
A green cleaning product is one that is environmentally friendly (eco-friendly) and does not pose any threat to human health as well as the quality of the environment.
They do not contain toxic chemicals and the products should be capable of decomposing back into natural elements (biodegradeable) easily during waste management. Also the manufacturing process, including packaging and distribution must not affect the environment.
Using a green cleaning product means that you are using a product that is made from plant based ingredients and not petroleum, does not contribute to smog in the air,does not contain carcinogens (which causes cancer) and actually cleans like it is meant to do.
What are the ‘Safe Ingredients’ in cleaning products
Below is a list of some common household ingredients and their cleaning properties as presented on Eartheasy.These substances can be used alone or in combination of some others to provide safer and eco-friendly cleaners
- Baking Soda – cleans, deodorizes, softens water, scours.
- Soap – unscented soap in liquid form, flakes, powders or bars is biodegradable and will clean just about anything. Avoid using soaps which contain petroleum distillates.
- Lemon – one of the strongest food-acids, effective against most household bacteria.
- Borax – (sodium borate) cleans, deodorizes, disinfects, softens water, cleans wallpaper, painted walls and floors.
- White Vinegar – cuts grease, removes mildew, odors, some stains and wax build-up.
- Washing Soda – or SAL Soda is sodium carbonate decahydrate, a mineral. Washing soda cuts grease, removes stains, softens water, cleans wall, tiles, sinks and tubs. Use care, as washing soda can irritate mucous membranes. Do not use on aluminum.
- Isopropyl Alcohol – is an excellent disinfectant. (It has been suggested to replace this with ethanol or 100 proof alcohol in solution with water. There is some indication that isopropyl alcohol buildup contributes to illness in the body.
- Cornstarch – can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs.
- Citrus Solvent – cleans paint brushes, oil and grease, some stains. (Citrus solvent may cause skin, lung or eye irritations for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.)
The article also highlights some health concerns on the use of Sodium Borate, also called Borax. It says – borax is considered a mild skin irritant similar to baking soda. A health concern with borax is with its potential to disrupt the reproductive system. Studies have not been done in humans regarding this; however, potential reproductive issues in mice are suspected from high levels of ingested borax. Use of borax for home cleaning formulas, where no borax is ingested, has not been shown to pose health hazards. Borax is a natural substance which is non-carcinogenic, does not accumulate in the body, or absorb through the skin. It is not harmful to the environment.
Importance of Labelling and Active Ingredients disclosure
For consumers, the easiest way to find out what a cleaning product is made of is to read the labels. But most of the time, the label provides only vague descriptions (For example “surfactant” “solvent”) or just a few ingredients information.
Some of the reasons include the fact that the manufacturers consider details of the formulation of the product their proprietary trade secret which must be kept away from the public. So your “eco-friendly” cleaning product may contain some hazardous chemicals which have not been mentioned on the label.
Manufacturers should provide as much information as possible about the product ingredients. This is the right of the consumers which enables them to make healthy decisions. Environmental Working Group in this article, suggests best practices for making adequate disclosure of product ingredients and advises that you don’t buy any products labeled “poison,” “danger” or “fatal” if swallowed or inhaled.
Make your own Green Cleaning Product
You can make your own natural cleaning products using natural ingredients such as baking soda, fresh lemon, pure soap flakes, salt, soap nuts, washing soda and white vinegar as they all have cleansing and scouring properties. The best cleaner in the world is water. Most bacteria are killed by hot, soapy water. Soaking is one of the most effective ways of removing dirt. Find out from The Organics Institute how you can combine these natural ingredients to make your own green cleaning products.
Here is a list on how to protect your family from the harmful effects cleaning products – save money in the process – as recommended by The Organic Institute.
- Most importantly, educate yourself and use safer alternatives as much as possible.
- Choose those with no synthetic chemicals if possible.
- Minimise cleaning products to a few essentials that can do the entire job and you will also save money in the process.
- Store all cleaning products in their original containers out of the reach of children.
- Use non-toxic alternatives made from basic ingredients such as baking soda, washing soda, lemon and white vinegar.
- Always read and follow the instructions on the label and use only the amount required for the job.
- When using chemicals, ensure there is adequate ventilation, wear goggles and rubber gloves.
- Never combine cleaning products as they can interact in dangerous ways and give off toxic fumes.
- Stop using the product if you feel dizzy, nauseous or develop headache.
- Minimize the use of harsh chemicals.
[Callistus Dike – Easycleantips]