The use of cleaning products is indispensable as they are necessary for keeping our homes attractive and free from detrimental microbes and bacteria that could possibly harm our fragile health. However, most of the cleaning products that we usually use are petroleum-based, and carry with them several potential health and environmental hazards. They may contain chemicals that are associated with many of our health issues like skin, eye and respiratory irritations. In addition, concentrated forms of cleaning products that are classified as hazardous create particular concerns as regard to their disposal and storage.
What are the foremost concerns with cleaning products?
- During normal use, cleaning products are released into the environment through evaporation of volatile components and rinsing down the drain of residual product from cleaned surfaces, sponges, etc.
- People whose occupations expose them to cleaning products should have greater concern like janitorial staff and others who do cleaning can be exposed to concentrated cleaning products. According to the cleaning industry employs about 2.8 million potentially exposed janitors. In addition to these professional janitorial staff, who can be assumed to use cleaning products daily, many other building occupants perform light cleaning on a routine or occasional basis, e.g. dusting, wiping off desks and counters, etc. All building occupants are potentially exposed to the volatile components of cleaning products.
- Proper training on storage and use should, however, be able to minimize this issue.
- Cleaning products can have certain ingredients that can pose hazard to populations who are exposed to them like skin and eye irritation in workers. As an environmental concern, these chemicals can be toxic to aquatic species in waters that do not receive adequately treated wastes. Alkylphenol ethoxylates, a common surfactant ingredient in cleaners for example, has been shown in laboratory studies to function as an “endocrine disrupters,” causing adverse reproductive effects of the types seen in wildlife exposed to polluted waters.
- Ingredients containing phosphorus or nitrogen can contribute to nutrient-loading in water bodies, leading to adverse effects on water quality.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC) in cleaning products can affect indoor air quality and also contribute to smog formation in outdoor air.
Fortunately, at present, we can now avail of natural cleaning products that could help us maintain cleanliness in our environment and at the same time preventing ourselves from grasping the detrimental side effects that goes along with conventional cleaning products.
The modality of using natural cleaning products is called green cleaning. This process involves the use of environmentally healthy and safe cleaning solutions such as lemons, vinegar, and baking sodas. These substances are very essential cleaning agents that will truly serve their purpose. There are also products that are now sold commercially that are also safe for the environment. These products usually do not contain artificial fragrances, phosphates, artificial colors, and chlorine which are already noted to be harmful substances. It is also advisable for you to purchase those cleaning products that are biodegradable.
The use of green cleaning products is certainly helpful for the environment and human health. Among the various ways and means that you can employ to ensure that your mode of cleaning your home is safe are the following:
Be mindful with the use of antibacterial cleaners
People would think that antimicrobial hand sanitizers are highly needed especially during the winter season, what they need to put in mind is the fact that these antimicrobial cleaners do not clean your hands the way soap and water do. The use of antibacterial cleaners can also increase your risk of breeding “super germs”. As a matter of fact, a study that was initiated by the FDA showed that antibacterial soaps and hand cleaners do not work better than regular soaps and water, therefore as much as possible; you should avoid the use of these items because aside from being less effective, these products are also harmful for the environment.
Keep away from poor indoor air quality
It is very usual that the air that circulates inside a house is more toxic than the air outside due to the array of toxic substances that are used in various ways. To prevent the buildup of these toxic materials, you have to make it a habit to regularly keep your windows open to allow toxic air to ventilate and allow fresh air to come in.
Baking soda for your fridge and carpet
Baking soda is not only effective in removing the pungent smell that comes from your fridge but also effective in eliminating the undesirable odor of your carpet. All you have to do is to sprinkle a little amount of baking soda and leave it for a few minutes before vacuuming it.
Freshen-up your air with natural fresheners
Avoid the use of air fresheners because of the harmful chemicals it contain. Instead, use natural air fresheners like cloves, cinnamon and other fragrant herbs.
Why choose green cleaning products?
- When you choose less and reduce exposure to hazardous products that have positive environmental attributes like biodegradability, low toxicity, low volatile organic compound (VOC) content, reduced packaging, low life cycle energy use, you minimize harmful impacts to product users (including yourself), improve indoor air quality, and reduce water and ambient air pollution while also ensuring the effectiveness of cleaning in removing biological and other contaminants from the your home’s or building’s interior.
- Buying less hazardous cleaners may reduce costs when it comes time to properly dispose of any leftover cleaners.
Important: Carefully read and understand the label warnings on cleaning products.
This can be challenging, but this is your best defense. All household cleaners that contain known hazardous chemicals must carry a warning label that spells out potential risks, along with precautionary steps and first-aid instructions.
Generally, the more serious the safety warning on a product, the more likely that it poses risks to your health and the environment. Products labeled “Poison” or “Danger” are more toxic than those labeled “Warning” or “Caution.”
“Danger“ refers to products that are corrosive, extremely flammable, highly toxic, or poisonous. Products that often carry this label are commercial toilet-bowl, oven, and drain cleaners.
“Caution“ or “Warning“ are catchall terms for many other hazards. Other specific labels that you should scan are “Vapor harmful,” “Causes burns,” or “May be fatal or cause blindness if swallowed.”
“Irritants“ refer to substances that cause injury or inflammation on contact.
“Corrosives“ refer to chemicals that destroy tissue.
“Sensitizers“ are ingredients that can cause allergic reactions and chronic adverse health effects that become evident only after continuing exposures.
“Chronic Health Hazards“ may include effects ranging from sterility and birth defects to cancer.
Products claimed to be “eco-friendly” or “environment friendly” are not necessarily safe products. However, there are lists of household cleaning products that were manufactured to leave less eco-footprints. The list follows:
- Green4Kleen (Ipax Cleanogel, Inc.)
- Responsibly Clean Bath and More Cleaner, Responsibly Clean Heavy Duty Cleaner, Responsibly Clean Rug and Carpet Cleaner (NexGen Chemistries)
- Oxy-Clean Powdered Bleach (Oxy Company. Ltd)
- Roundy’s green bath and more cleaner, Roundy’s green heavy duty all purpose cleaner, Roundy’s green rug and carpet cleaner (Roundy’s Supermarkets
- Simple Green Naturals Floor Care, Simple Green Naturals Glass & Surface Care, Simple Green Naturals Multi-Surface Care (Simple Green)
- Sustainable Earth By Staples Glass Cleaner, Sustainable Earth By Staples Multi-Purpose Cleaner (Staples, Inc.)
You as purchaser have the option to verify with product manufacturers for their eco-friendly claims on their products. To help guide you in purchasing green cleaning products, look for these attributes as provided by the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program of the Environmental Protection Agency:
- Minimizes exposure to concentrates
- No ozone depleting substances
- Recyclable packaging
- Recycled-content in packaging
- Reduced bioconcentration factor
- Reduced flammability
- Reduced or no added dyes, except when added for safety purposes
- Reduced or no added fragrances
- Reduced or no skin irritants
- Reduced or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Reduced packaging