Last Updated Mar 10, 2017 · Written by Rob Schneider
We discussed why choosing sustainable and eco-friendly paints in a recent article. Many of the cleaning products we use, too, have harmful chemicals in them. We can often smell them when we open and use a cleaning product, but often don't think about the consequences to our health.
Paints that have high levels of petrochemicals in them continue to release harmful airborne ingredients into the air for up to five years after they have been applied. Many of our cleaning products do the same.
As concern grows about the harmful health effects of chemicals, more sustainable and eco-friendly cleaning products are being offered. They work as well as the more harmful cleaning products, but are safe to use and store.
Cleaning products contain harmful chemicals such as nitrogen, phosphorous, ammonia and a variety of petrochemicals. Some of us are more prone to the immediate effects of these ingredients than others, but they can have an effect on our health even if we don't experience headaches or rashes when we use them.
In many cases, we dilute cleaning products in water. Often we use them in the sink, the shower or the bath and rinse them down the drain. The accumulation of these chemicals in millions of homes and offices contributes to the pollution of our drinking water and oceans.
The effects of cleaning products containing harsh chemicals has been documented. Griffith University is just one university that has studied the harmful effects of phosphates, sulphates and petrochemicals. The problem has only been addressed recently because the effects on our health and environment took time to be noticed.
Aside from the harmful effects of chemicals in the home, chemical levels in our water supplies are reaching alarming levels. In some cases, it's due to local causes, but chemicals can be found in most of Australia's tap water. Chlorine is used to kill bacteria in water, but other chemicals come from homes and offices. Some of the other chemicals found in tap water include:
Our tap water is a cocktail of chemicals.
You can also see the results of chemicals in our lakes and oceans. The algae that collects on the surface of the water is a direct result of the phosphates that have accumulated in the water. Phosphates can be found in many of the cleaning products found on supermarket shelves, including dishwashing detergents. It's worth mentioning that phosphates were banned in the EU in 2013.
What are eco-friendly cleaning products? Basically, they are products that contain natural ingredients that are not harmful, produce no unpleasant fumes and break down over time. Most chemicals do not break down and accumulate over time.
Unfortunately, our supermarket shelves are full of such products. The do work and clever advertising attracts us to them, but they come at an environmental and health cost. Even the fragrances used in these products are chemical based. While they may smell good, some are known to contribute to health problems, including neurological disorders.
Eco-friendly cleaning products are sometimes called "green" or "natural" cleaning products because they are largely made from plant or natural mineral ingredients. Many of them were used in the past, before the advent of chemical based products. Some homemade cleaners included:
Those are just a few of the ingredients previous generations used for cleaning. More natural ingredients have been discovered and eco-friendly cleaning products also use natural ingredients in their fragrances.
People who have switched to green cleaning products often remark that they have noticed a difference in their own home. The natural fragrances are invigorating and they don't feel fatigued after using them.
Another reason for choosing eco-friendly cleaning products is that they are biodegradable. They can safely go into a septic tank or be recycled as grey water without having to be filtered out. Many products go so far as to package their products in biodegradable plastic made from sugarcane. If they come in a cardboard container, the cardboard is often made from recycled paper.
As eco-friendly cleaning products become more popular, a wider variety of products are becoming available. You might be amazed by the number of products that are available today. They include:
Dish washing detergents
Detergents for dishwashers
Soaps and shampoos
The list goes on. You can replace almost all your chemical cleaning products with green cleaning products. They work just as well as their chemical counterparts and are safe to use and safe for the environment.
In the past, most eco-friendly cleaning products were purchased by people who suffered from allergic reactions to chemical cleaning products. Gradually, the wider public is catching on to their benefits. Many house cleaning services now offer clients the option of using only green cleaning products and some use them exclusively. Some even use eco-friendly carpet cleaning ingredients.
An office supply retailer recently released an article: Green is the New Black: Why You Should Choose Green Office Products. The article begins by saying, "Shopping for green products has become the new normal, not just the alternative." It goes on to say that price reductions and improved quality is the reason why businesses are making the switch.
While the article focused on recycled paper products and other office products, the title applies to cleaning products as well. In fact, some office cleaning services use only environmentally friendly products and are in demand because they use them exclusively. Office workers often prefer eco-friendly cleaning products and remark about their safety and effectiveness.
If you can't find eco-friendly cleaning products, you can always make your own. Some DIY green cleaning solutions include:
Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar to clean and disinfect kitchen cutting boards
Clean chrome with a paste made from two tablespoons of salt and one teaspoon of vinegar
An effective oven cleaner is a paste made from a cup and a half of bicarbonate of soda or baking soda and white vinegar. Apply in the evening and wipe off with dish liquid and water the next morning
A window cleaner made from one part vinegar and one part water will leave your windows sparkling clean
Clean grout with a mixture of half a cup of baking soda and a quarter cup of vinegar. Apply with an old toothbrush and allow to sit for five minutes before you rinse it off
Baking soda, borax and vinegar make an environmentally friendly toilet bowl cleaner
Commercial air fresheners contain toxic chemicals. An easy way to make a non-toxic air freshener is to mix a few drops essential oils with water. Use a spray bottle and your house will smell fresh and clean. Tea tree oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil and lemon oil make excellent substitutes and are far better for your home environment.
According to statistics, over 800,000 chemicals are used today. While we can't control their use, we can minimise our exposure to harmful chemicals in the home or office. There is a green solution for every cleaning problem. You and your family will notice the difference. Chemicals contain everything from skin irritants to neurotoxins and carcinogens. Eco-friendly cleaning products contain none and can improve the quality of your life.
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