Spring Cleaning is not typically a favorite home activity. Maybe that’s why it feels like an extra burden to figure out what “green cleaning” is – isn’t cleaning enough of a chore as is? However, the cleaning products used in your home impact the indoor air quality, your health, and the environment.
Making a few simple changes to the products you use means your normal routine — whether you are a strict cleaning-calendar adherent or you run through the house with a rag when company is on the way – just got greener.
We’ve listed 5 starter steps that’ll have you well on your way down the road to a people- and planet-friendly clean home.
1. If they won’t list the ingredients, don’t buy it
There’s no US Federal rule that requires cleaning products companies disclose their ingredients. THAT’S CRAZY! If someone can’t, or won’t, tell you exactly what’s in their bottle, put it back on the shelf. Then find a company with the good, common sense to list the ingredients on the label.
Not only on the website. Not at some 1-800 number. On. The. Label.
Every. Single. Ingredient.
The companies making cleaning products know what’s in them. You should, too. You deserve to know what’s in your home. That’s why we’re proud to be a part of Women’s Voices for the Earth’s Safe Cleaning Campaign, and why we at Meliora K pledge to disclose every ingredient in our cleaning products.
2. Say no to “fragrance”
If an ingredient list includes “fragrance” or “perfum(e)”, back away. These are industry terms that represent a mystery blend; the mixture can include any combination of over 3,000 different chemicals. Many fragrance chemicals have never been tested for their effect on people and the planet. Some are totally fine, but others are known to be not so people- or planet-friendly.
Some claim this lack of transparency is necessary to protect “trade secrets.” However, business competitors have access to really, really cool labs that can analyze the fragrance blends. The only people left in the dark are those without such resources, which is you. We think “trade secret” is a different way to say, “If you knew what was in this product, you wouldn’t buy it.” You deserve better.
People- and Planet-Friendly alternative: Fully-listed scent blends, preferably those made from essential oils* or natural extracts with a proven safety record for people. Or skip scent altogether! You don’t need it to clean.
If you or someone in your home is particularly sensitive, find the true “Fragrance-Free” options in the skin care and cleaning products aisles.
3. Back off on the anti-bacterials
The FDA has found no evidence that using triclosan makes families healthier and safer than cleaning with regular soap and water. In fact, last September, the FDA actually banned the use of triclosan and 18 other less commonly used antibacterial chemicals from household antibacterial soap products. (Companies have until the end of this year to reformulate, so take note that antibacterial soaps containing these chemicals may still be on the shelves.) To quote Janet Woodcock of the FDA:
“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.” (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 9/2/16)
People- and Planet-Friendly alternative: Stick to good ol’ soap and water; wash your hands for 20 seconds. Simple is better here.
4. Buh-Bye to Bleach
Chlorine and bleach are very strong respiratory and skin irritants. In almost any case around the house, you don’t need them. Cleaning a surface and sanitizing are NOT the same, nor are they interchangeable.
People- and planet-friendlier alternatives: Sodium percarbonate (aka “oxygen bleach”) and hydrogen peroxide are solid bleach replacements, however in most cases, clean is all you need. An all-purpose home cleaner, such as soap and water, is fine for wiping down counters, floors, and walls if they get dirty. Save the sanitation for when it’s really needed around raw meats and seafood, commercial/restaurant kitchens, or the home brewer in you.
5. Adios Ammonia
Ammonia is another powerful respiratory, eye, and skin irritant. If you can’t get rid of ammonia, NEVER mix ammonia with chlorine (like toilet bowl cleaner). Ammonia reacts with the chlorine to create toxic chloramine vapor.
People- and planet-friendlier alternatives: Vinegar is a less irritating general cleaner. Rubbing Alcohol can step in as a surface disinfectant.
Wrapping It Up
If you conquer these 5 steps, you’re off to a great start! WVE is a great resource on this topic, so stay tuned for their industry reports and other great information! If you’ve got any questions, or want to add some facts to our research, drop us a line. We want to help you along the journey to a friendlier home and love to geek out on cleaning better!
Kate Jakubas is the founder of Meliora Cleaning Products, a People- and Planet-Friendly home cleaning and laundry products manufacturer. A Certified B Corporation whose products are all made in Chicago, IL. Every product is MADE SAFE Certified. Meliora Cleaning Products is a Proud Supporter of Womens’ Voices for the Earth and a Member of 1% for the Planet.
*It should be noted that some people can be highly sensitive to essential oils, leading to symptoms such as headaches, asthma exacerbation or other health effects.