The main goal of Green Cleaning is to use cleaning solutions and methods that keep our family and our environment healthy. Natural cleaning products offer environmentally sound, cost-efficient alternatives to the toxic and potentially lethal household cleaning products used in many homes today. This is especially important because most traditional cleaning products eventually contact the air, water, and/or soil, where they can cause significant and irreparable harm to animals, plants, drinking water, and food supplies.
The average American uses about 40 pounds of toxic household cleaning products each year. These cleaning products contain dangerous ingredients, including neurotoxins, carcinogens, allergens, central nervous system depressants, heavy metals, and other agents that cause or contribute to cancer, respiratory problems, reproductive abnormalities, allergic reactions, and behavioral problems, among other issues. Ingredients from household cleaning products make their way into the environment through various routes: they are flushed down toilets, poured down sinks, sprayed into the air, thrown into the trash, and dumped onto the ground. In fact, many hazardous cleaning products are landfilled or incinerated, upon which they release their toxins into the environment and contribute to depletion of the ozone layer, pollute groundwater, contaminate the soil, and harm plant and animal life. For example:
- Phosphates, found in dishwasher and laundry detergents, cause algae bloom, which kills fish and aquatic plants, and produces chemicals that are toxic to animals and people who drink the water.
- Trisodium nitrilotriacetate is a possible carcinogen in laundry detergents. It can disrupt the elimination of metals in wastewater treatment facilities.
- Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite), available alone and in detergents and other products, is toxic to fish and can bind with organic compounds in water to form organochlorines, which break down slowly in the environment and accumulate in the fatty tissues of wildlife. Chlorine is especially toxic to organisms that live in water and soil.
- Napthas and mineral spirits, found in furniture polishes, are neurotoxins and considered hazardous waste. Mineral spirits break down very slowly and contaminate air and water.
- Formaldehyde, an ingredient in furniture polish and various cleaning products, is a potential human carcinogen and a known cancer-causing agent in animals.
Phthalates, found in furniture polish, disrupt hormone function and can cause genetic defects in both animals and humans.
- Ether-type solvents, methylene chloride, butyl cellosive, and petroleum distillates, found in oven cleaners are hazardous waste and can contaminate the air, water, and soil.
- Sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide, in drain cleaners, can change the pH of water and cause fish kills.
HOW TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE:
So, given all this information how can you make a difference in your home for the health of your family and the earth? There are several ways in which you can switch to natural cleaning products in order to protect the environment and your family's health. Some may choose to only use substances like baking soda, vinegar, and lemons to clean the home surfaces. Others may seek out commercial cleaners that are healthy for the environment and family by avoiding phosphates, chlorine, artificial fragrances, and artificial colors. Many cleaners on the market now are marketed as being biodegradable. Whatever choices you make about your cleaning supplies, there is a huge variety of environmentally friendly choices for those interested in green cleaning.
NATURAL CLEANING PRODUCTS YOU CAN MAKE YOURSELF:
Basic Ingredients and Uses
- Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) neutralizes acid, softens fabrics, as well as deodorizes, cleans and polishes metals and plastics
- Borax deodorizes, prevents mold and mildew, and removes stains
- Cornstarch cleans windows and carpets, and polishes furniture
- Isopropyl alcohol disinfects
- Lemon juice deodorizes, cleans glass, and removes stains
- Mineral oil polishes furniture
Vinegar removes mildew, grease, and wax; deodorizes; cleans windows, brick, and stone
- Washing soda (sodium carbonate decahydrate) removes grease, and cleans laundry
How to make them
- Air freshener: Place shallow plates of vinegar in rooms to absorb odors; sprinkle ½ cup borax in the bottom of trash cans or diaper pails to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold that cause odors
- All-purpose cleaner: Place 4 tablespoons baking soda in 1 quart warm water and shake well.
Disinfectant: Mix ½ cup borax into 1 gallon of hot water.
- Drain cleaner: Pour ½ cup baking soda down drain, add ½ cup white vinegar, and cover the drain. Wait 15 minutes and then pour 1 gallon of hot water down the drain. Also, you can use a lemon or orange peel to freshen the drain and the kitchen by putting a whole lemon or orange peel through the garbage disposal.
- Metal cleaner and polish: For stainless steel, use undiluted white vinegar; for tarnished copper, boil the item in a pot of water with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 cup white vinegar.
- Oven cleaner: Moisten oven surfaces with water and sprinkle baking soda on them. Scrub with steel wool.
- Toilet bowl cleaner: Mix ¼ cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into toilet, let set for 5 minutes, then scrub with brush.
- Fabric Softener: Use vinegar as a natural fabric softener. This can be especially helpful for families who have sensitive skin. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store bought fabric softener. Vinegar has the added benefit of breaking down laundry detergent more effectively. (A plus when you have a family member whose skin detects every trace of detergent.)
- Hardwood floor polish: Mix 1 cup olive oil with ½ cup lemon juice and you have a furniture polish for your hardwood furniture.
- Check out this great site for more information on how to make your own cleaning products: Eartheasy.
Natural Cleaning Products:
There are now several great brands out there that sell products safe for the environment and your family's health. These products are not only available at natural food stores, such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, but also become increasingly available at stores, such as Target and Costco.
We use Seventh Generation products a lot. They are widely available at Target, Whole Foods etc. Seventh Generation provides quality products free from chlorine, phosphates and guaranteed to be biodegradeable.
Method products is another line of cleaning products that I see more and more in stores. I have tried several of their products and really like them. All method products contain natural ingredients derived from renewable and abundant sources whenever possible. All ingredients have passed through a comprehensive green and health screen and are considered safe for people and the environment.
Another great brand I love. The company's washing and cleaning products are produced in an ecological, economic and socially responsible way in a unique ecological factory. Ecover has received awards and recognition on many occasions for its special contributions and achievements in the field of environmentally friendly, sustainable development. Among various recognition, perhaps the most prestigious was being named to the Global 500 Roll of Honour of the United Nations Environment Program, in 1993.
Another line I really like. You can find their products at Target or Whole Foods. All of their cleaning supplies are made with natural essential oils, are biodegradable and phosphate-free, and never tested on animals. All products are good for your home, your family, and the environment.Please see our Did You Know ~ disclaimer here.