Do “green” cleaning products really work?
The Washington Post – Now that store shelves are fully stocked with cleaning supplies again and you don’t have to settle for what you can get, maybe now is a good time to think about greening your cleaning routine. I don’t mean throwing away all store bought products for DIY formulations, although that is certainly an option; I’m talking about switching to cleaners formulated with fewer harsh chemicals and additives that can harm the environment.
The disinfectants, bleaches and sanitizers we relied on during the pandemic can irritate our eyes, skin and throat, not to mention ruin some of our favorite clothes. (Goodbye, bleach-stained workout pants.) And, sure enough, they can be tough on the planet. Many consumers are greedy for anything that claims to be “free” from these things. But how do you know which green cleaners are actually better for the environment and which work as well as their proven, chemical-laden counterparts?
“The promise of green cleansers isn’t necessarily better cleaning, but that you can use them more often with less care,” said Taryn Williford, director of lifestyle at Apartment Therapy, a home and home website. the style of life.
The problem with the term “green” cleaning is that green doesn’t mean the same for everyone, said Williford. “Are you more concerned about whether a product is safe and gentle for humans, if it comes from sustainable sources and / or if it is harmful to the environment?” Likewise, “clean” is subject to interpretation. For some people, that means removing toothpaste from the bathroom mirror. For others, it deeply disinfects all tactile surfaces.
To complicate matters further: certain words – natural, plant-based, non-toxic, organic – regularly used on cleaning products are not regulated, making their appearance on labels meaningless. Even the word “green” could mean that one or two ingredients are less harmful to the environment but are not necessarily non-toxic or safe for humans, said an expert on environmental toxins and author of The slightly greener method Tonya harris
Here are a few ways to navigate the growing bounty of eco-friendly brands in the cleaning aisle.
LEARN (SOME) LINGO.
You don’t need a chemistry degree to add a few keywords to your green cleaning dictionary. Some ingredients – lemon oil, vinegar, thymol – are more like making a salad dressing with a few extras added. task.
For example, sodium bicarbonate is baking soda, which cuts fat. Sodium percarbonate (generally referred to as “oxy” something) is a combination of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide which helps in whitening and brightening. Hydrogen peroxide works like a disinfectant. Citric acid is a degreaser, stain remover and disinfectant of vegetable origin. Do some research online. What do acids (like vinegar) do? What are bases (like baking soda) used for? What chemical reactions occur when you put them together or add a surfactant, such as pareth C12-16 or alkylbenzene sulfonate?
WATCH THE RED FLAG WORDS.
Key ingredients to avoid when looking for more environmentally friendly cleaning products include bleach, perfume and ammonia, said Mélanie Berliet, senior vice president and general manager of the home website. and gardening The Spruce. “Also avoid labels that contain words like flammable, poison, danger and corrosive,” she adds. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group has a Label Decoder (ewg.org) that explains technical terms and cleaning ingredients.
Although government agencies cannot regulate household cleaners, the Environmental Protection Agency certifies products through its Safer Choice program. Manufacturers are seeking certification, and receiving the label means EPA scientists have evaluated the product’s ingredients to make sure it is safe for people and the environment and that it works. You can search over 2,000 Safer Choice certified products at epa.gov/saferchoice/products.
Also check out guides from reputable sources. Berliet said the Environmental Task Force’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning is an environmentally conscious shopper’s best friend (ewg.org/guides/cleaners). The searchable database features over 2,000 cleaning products, ratings from A to F, and details and rates each ingredient. And sustainability website Treehugger has partnered with Spruce for its “Best of Green Awards 2021,” naming cleaning products that are both effective and environmentally friendly.
TRY – AND MAYBE TRY AGAIN.
“I am loyal to the brand. If a company’s shower cleaner works, maybe I’ll try their dish soap, ”Berliet said. “If it works, so much the better. Otherwise, don’t buy it anymore.
Before you decide something isn’t working, make sure you’ve followed the directions, Williford said. Ask yourself: have I used it correctly, left it on long enough, and have the right cleaning tool? Was this the right product for the job? “A green cleaner will clean, but if you have 10 years of baked-on gunk in your oven, you may need to put on rubber gloves and use a less environmentally friendly workhorse,” she said.
Finding a single cleaner that does it all reduces waste and is healthier on your wallet. Williford, who hosts the Instagram show “Taryn Cleans It All,” uses dish soap as the cleaner of choice in the kitchen and bathroom. Harris swears by Force of Nature electrolyzed water, which uses electricity to convert salt, water, and vinegar into a non-toxic all-round cleaner and EPA-registered disinfectant that can be used on floors. , tubs, glass, counters, toilets and kitchen appliances. While the initial cost wasn’t cheap (from $ 65 for a starter kit to $ 94 for a one-year supply), Harris said she has replaced 99% of her cleaners and all disinfectants with new ones. electrolyzed water.
MAKE YOUR OWN.
To ensure that the cleanser is as pure as possible, create your own. You will find many DIY cleaning recipes online. Key ingredients typically include baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, vinegar, and / or lemon juice. For example, a 50/50 mixture of distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle can clean windows. And if you want the thrill of this fifth-year erupting volcanoes science experiment, sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda on a dirty stove, spray vinegar on it, and watch the grease bubble to the surface. Then just wipe it off. You can find similar tips for drain cleaner, stain remover and more.
DON’T GO CRAZY.
Green cleaning products wouldn’t be on store shelves if they weren’t effective to some degree, but be aware that there are times when heavy damage will force you to go into attack mode. “If you can go green 80 percent of the time, don’t worry about the 20 percent of the time you have no control,” Harris said.