Green Cleaning Products that Work
Green cleaning products, taken as a whole, may not be as pure and simple as the DIY varieties you can mix yourself, but more and more companies are stepping up to the challenge and offering products that are easier on both you and the Earth.
Modern homes are a plentiful source of chemical exposure in our lives. Current construction practices trade adequate air movement for energy efficiency, resulting in homes that retain stale air, laden with chemical residues from building materials and irritants created or released in the course of every day life.
There is little you can do about the materials that were used in the structure of your home, but there is an easy way you can eliminate the addition of potentially harmful chemicals to your living environment: by using green cleaning alternatives.
These cleaning products offer an immediate opportunity to reduce chemical exposure that is renewed every time you clean the bathroom or do the dishes.Natural cleaners can greatly reduce chemical contamination; and with an eye toward Earth Day on April 22, you can be as good to the Earth as you are to yourself.
Keep in mind, that unlike cosmetics and body care products, manufacturers are not required to disclose what goes into a bottle of cleanser. Even natural products take advantage of this situation in order to protect formulations from competition.
In these instances, you must decide whether or not to take a company at its word when it claims to be a natural product. There are, however, companies that opt for full disclosure, and we applaud them for their transparency.
The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) has an online database called “Skin Deep” that you can use to reference the toxicity of many common chemicals. It uses two different evaluations to provide you with the best information available. The Natural Products Association (NPA) has a certification program that ensures adherence to strict guidelines (npainfo.org). Look for their logo on certified products.
The US Environmental Protection Agency also has a certification, called Design for the Environment, with a Standard for Safer Cleaning Products component (epa.gov/dfe). Cradle to Cradle certification includes four levels of product design and manufacturing standards designed tonfluence product safety, environmental impact and sustainability, transparency, and social responsibility (mbdc.com).
One final note about natural cleaner formulation: Being derived from natural sources, intended to break down after use, natural products must contain a trace of some preservative to maintain a shelf life long enough to account for distribution and use in your home. Currently, there is not a suitable natural alternative, so many companies use the least amount possible of the synthetic preservatives methylisothiazolinone and/or benzisothiazolinone. Research to find a replacement is ongoing, according to the NPA web site.
Once, you had to be highly motivated to find natural or green cleaning products, as the most common source was specialty shops and coops. However, Natural Solutions recently surveyed common grocery stores and big-box retailers and found a relatively wide selection of products that fit within the green and natural spectrum. Remember, just because the label claims that a product is natural or green doesn’t mean that delivers on its promise. You still have to pay attention and do some checking.
Here you will find a sample of products from our survey of widely available cleaning products that qualify for or approach the standards set by NPA. It is by no means a complete roundup of what is available, but these products will get your house clean and can most likely be obtained in places that you already shop.
DIY Green Cleaners
You don’t have to be a mad scientist to make your own household cleaning products. Starre Vartan, author of The Eco Chick Guide to Life (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008), and Kimberly Delaney, author of Clean Home, Green Home(Knack, 2009), share their simple cleaner recipes made from common ingredients.
Universal cleanser: 1 ounce concentrated citrus solvent + 1/2 gallon water. “You don’t need all those chemicals in conventional spray cleaners to keep your counters clean,” says Vartan. “Try a simple, cheap mixture of concentrated citrus solvent and water, and store it in a reused spray bottle.” Vartan recommends Citra Solv Natural Cleaner & Degreaser.
Toilet and drain cleaner: 1 cup distilled white vinegar + 1/2 cup baking soda. “This is great for cleaning every surface in your bathroom, including the toilet,” says Delaney. “In the drain, the bubbling can help eat away clogs caused by soap build-up and hair.” To clear a clog, pour the baking soda in the drain, add vinegar, cover with a rag for 20 minutes, then follow with boiling water.
Tile and grout disinfectant : 2 cups baking soda + 1/2 cup castile soap. “Castile liquid soap with baking soda makes a nice paste for cleaning,” says Delaney. “I like to use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap Peppermint Pure Castile Liquid Soap.”
Mold killer: 1 teaspoon tea tree oil + 2 cups of water. Tea tree oil is much more effective than bleach in fighting mold, says Delaney, who also recommends people in need of mold cleaner address the reason why they have mold in the fist place. “The key is to buy 100 percent essential oil, not a fragrance or perfumed oil, neither of which is effective for fighting mold.” Always buy tea tree oil in glass containers, since the liquid dissolves plastic.