Cleaning products can often harbor a number of toxins that impact our health and the environment. Unfortunately, unregulated labels and false claims have made it difficult for the consumer to understand what is actually in the product. Label hints like POISON, WARNING, and DANGER are indicators that a product is toxic. Beyond simple warnings, how do you know what is safe and what to avoid?
- Greenwashers – Greenwashing is the process of using fancy graphics or earth-friendly terms to deceptively promote a product as organic, natural, or eco-friendly. Since labels aren’t regulated and terms like non-toxic and biodegradable are freely used, greenwashed cleaning products can be just as harmful as their chemical counterparts.
- Phthalates – Phthalates are endocrine disrupters that are common to fragranced products like air fresheners and dish soaps. A healthier alternative is to make your own deodorizers with essential oils like lavender, vanilla, and lemon.
- Triclosan – Many hand soaps and liquid detergents labeled “antibacterial” have triclosan. Triclosan is an endocrine disrupter, known carcinogen, and can promote drug-resistant bacteria.
- Ammonia – From glass cleaners to bathroom polishing agents, ammonia is a strong smelling chemical that has been known to contribute to asthma, chronic bronchitis, and lung issues. A healthier alternative is vodka or white vinegar to get that special shine in your windows and mirrors.
- Chlorine – Often found in toilet bowl cleaners, laundry whiteners, and scouring powders, chlorine produces strong fumes and skin irritations. My favorite alternatives are baking soda, white vinegar, and borax.
Did you know that the following terms carry NO technical or legal definition, meaning that anyone can use these words without any regulation: Natural, Nontoxic, Environmentally Friendly, and Biodegradable?
The best solution for green cleaning is using your own recipes from natural ingredients. Step one is to slowly get to know your ingredients. They all have different properties and work well for many applications. Step two is to keep it simple. Our Green Cleaning Guide is full of recipes, tips, and resources for making your own cleaning products, largely from ingredients you already have in your home. Here’s a sneak peak at some common ingredients for several homemade green cleaning products:
- Baking Soda– Powerful all purpose cleaner that deodorizes, neutralizes acids, softens hard water, and can be used as a mild abrasive (won’t scratch!).
- Borax– A light cleaner that removes odors, prevents mold & mildew growth, increases cleaning power of soap. Also a disinfectant, but milder than bleach, it is even more effective when combined with vinegar. Its usually found in the laundry aisle. NOTE: Although this is a natural and non-toxic product, it is harmful if ingested (keep out of reach of children).
- White Vinegar– Kills bacteria, mold, mildew, and germs; cuts grease, mineral deposits, soap scum, dirt, hard water deposits, and even wax. Once the vinegar dries, the smell will disappear – taking other undesirable odors with it. NOTE: Do not use any other type of vinegar (red wine, apple cider, etc.) as it will stain.
- Lemon Juice– Excellent cleaner because it cuts grease, deodorizes, cleans glass, removes stains from porcelain and cloth. Use caution- it can bleach.
Did you know? If every household in the U.S. replaced just one box of 112oz. petroleum-based laundry detergent with a plant-based product like Seventh Generation’s Natural Laundry Detergent, we could save 171,000 barrels of oil – enough to heat and cost 9,800 U.S. homes for a year.