A clean home free of germs is a universal ideal. However, achieving that safe and healthy home environment often means making a choice between using man-made chemicals and more eco-friendly cleaning products.
In our eternal quest for a clean, fragrant home, we regularly resort to a combination of chemicals and eco-friendly cleaning products to clean the myriad of household surfaces, releasing them into the very air we breathe.
The Eco-Friendly Promise
“Eco-friendly” has emerged as a powerful marketing buzzword in our home-cleaning aisles. Specialty companies now offer cleaning supplies for every situation, usually in green distinctive packaging and fragrances.
Eco-friendly cleaning products and cleaners are also frequently premium-priced, but the key question is whether they actually work and make a difference both in your home and for the environment.
Consumers are increasingly greeted with terms such as “green,” “eco-friendly” and “biodegradable” on many cleaning products when they venture into the cleaning aisle of their store.
The hope is that these products are non-toxic, noncorrosive, and definitely non-carcinogenic. The reality is that these terms are more advertising than medical and often mean little or nothing.
Few certifications offer you assurances that you are actually purchasing an eco-friendly cleaning product. However, “Green Seal” is a certification adopted by more rigorous eco-friendly products. Certification is voluntary, so many eco-friendly cleaning products may carry no certifications but remain safe and effective to use.
Regular, chemically based man-made household cleaners rely on chemicals such as chlorine bleach and ammonia to clean and disinfect your home. While these products certainly do a good job when it comes to cleaning your home effectively, they may be not so wonderful for the environment and may even pose some health risks to humans and animals.
Citrus-based solvents, vinegar, essential oils, and natural abrasives generally power eco-friendly cleaners in their cleaning and disinfecting action. Thus, they don’t need to use potentially harmful chemicals.
Price And Performance
Eco-friendly cleaning products and cleaners often come with a significantly higher price tag, but you may be concerned they may not work as well as chemical cleaning products. On the whole, they have been shown to be effective.
However, buyers should remember that most eco-friendly cleaning products require a lot more effort than standard household cleaners. So, if you are going green, look for the right cleaner for the job. Good quality cleaning supplies, including mops and scrubbing brushes, will improve the effectiveness of your eco-friendly cleaning products.
If you are looking to replace your traditional household cleaners, you will find many stores that offer a range of eco-friendly options on their shelves. This may also be a good opportunity to reduce the sheer number of cleaning products you have in your cupboard.
At the bare minimum, all you really need is a good all-purpose cleaner and an effective glass cleaner. You may also want a specialty toilet-bowl or bathroom tile cleaner to make your routine cleaning jobs easier. Always look for minimal packaging or cleaners that can be refilled from concentrate to cut down on your waste packaging.
Making Your Own Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products
If you want to make the switch to eco-friendly cleaning products, one of the best options is to make your own. You can clean most things in your home using vinegar, lemon juice, a basic liquid soap, borax, and baking soda.
Combine 1 tsp. of liquid soap, a squeeze of lemon juice, 1 tsp. of borax and 1 qt. of warm water in a large spray bottle and hey presto, you have an easy-to-use and effective general household cleaner.
Baking soda can also be mixed with liquid soap to create an excellent bathroom tile cleaner. You can even combine borax, washing soda, and grated bar soap to create your very own laundry detergent.
How Effective Are “Green” Products Really?
The often-frightening reports about the impact of chemical cleaners make it easy to want to “go green”. However, misreporting of the chemicals in green products also happens. The guidelines on what is allowed and not allowed in environmentally friendly products are notoriously lax.
Some green products have buzzwords that evoke a phenomenon termed “greenwashing” when a product isn’t actually environmentally-friendly but is simply marketed that way.
Today, “biodegradable” has been defined to mean a product must break down within a year. Another issue deterring consumers from buying green products is the perception that the consumer is paying more for a far less efficient product.
Purchasing name brand green cleaning products may seem to be more expensive, however, most green cleaning products currently on the market require less product per average application to effectively do the job.
Similarly, many green cleaners are multi-purpose, requiring only one cleaner for multiple uses, rather than a separate product for each job. In most cases, the non-green chemicals have been demonstrated to actually make your cleaning job easier, without necessarily making your home any cleaner.
Are “Regular” Cleaning Products The Villains?
Products that aren’t “green” aren’t necessarily bad for you, your home, your pets, or the environment. However, some cleaning products can contain chemicals that are either untested or known to be harmful to the environment.
Air fresheners and cleaning products that release byproducts into the air are not harmful unless these chemicals bind with contaminants already in the air to create carcinogenic secondary byproducts that can be dangerous if breathed in.
Similarly, some phosphates in automatic dishwashing detergents and laundry detergents pollute rivers, which results in the build-up of excessive chemical concentrations that eventually kill fish and other aquatic life.
Cleaning Materials That Linger
Today’s reality is that cleaning chemicals are present in the home from the moment you get out of bed to the time you go back to sleep at night.
Despite being wiped or rinsed after use, chemicals from cleaning products can linger despite being ‘cleaned’, invisibly impacting you via touch, ingestion, and inhalation. These chemicals may be on your beddings, in your shower, on your breakfast table, your clothing, in your car, and even on your keyboard and telephone.
For some consumers, this lingering chemical presence can trigger allergic reactions that can be quite disabling.
Green Meets Chemical
Today, most analysts see the key difference between eco-friendly cleaning products and man-made chemical cleaning products as being four key areas:
- Green products often require more elbow grease to get the cleaning job done
- The byproducts of chemical cleaning products can linger long after you have finished cleaning
- Eco-friendly cleaning products can be more expensive
- Green products may not be as resource-effective in a commercial or industrial setting where time and labour costs are critical inputs
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Recent studies show nearly one-third of consumers in the United States believe eco-friendly cleaning products do not match the performance of regular chemically-based cleaning products. With the increasing environmental awareness, eco-friendly products have been on the rise. However, most consumers still perceive “green” products as being less effective. The truth seems to be eco-friendly products do work, they just require far more elbow grease to get the job done.