Wednesday, 7 February 2018

An in-depth look at domestic green cleaners

By Noel Johnson

We have recently looked at the topic of green cleaners and their claims to be environmentally safe. There is so much to cover on this topic so let's take a look from a domestic situation.


The aisle for cleaning products in the supermarket has changed over the last couple of decades. Companies now compete over who is able to offer effective cleaning whilst being environmentally friendly.

But can we have the best of both worlds?

Since ‘green’ cleaners came to the market, several companies have been warned that their claims may be misleading. When issued with a warning, these companies simply changed the wording of their claims, rather than the ingredients of their products.

As we said in our previous post, it’s still an unregulated market.

In fact, manufacturers are not required to disclose exactly what’s in their products. Hazardous chemicals are only required to be listed on the label if they measure above prescribed levels.

So what should we be looking for in domestic green cleaners?

Let’s take a look at a few key factors.

Cleaning stove with cleaning products

Just how safe are domestic green cleaners?

Warning labels on cleaning products can seem a little alarming.

  • Caution

  • Toxic if swallowed

  • Corrosive

  • Keep out of reach of children

However if we ‘use as instructed’ as each label suggests, are our families safe no matter what cleaning product we choose to buy?

The onus is largely on the consumer to do their research on the chemicals in their cleaning products. As most of the names of chemicals are too long to even pronounce, we often skim past the ingredients and trust the claims instead.

Given the lack of regulation, we suggest you look into it yourself if you have any doubts.

Couples researching green cleaners

Chemicals and their consequences

Did you know that only 1% of bacteria in our homes can make us sick?

Even though this makes our homes very low-risk, we have become clean freaks! It’s our obsession with being extremely clean that can have dire consequences, not the bacteria themselves.

The use of antibacterial cleaners has resulted in stronger, more resistant pathogens.

Asthma, chronic headaches, dizziness, reproductive problems, allergies, skin inflammation and irritation have all been linked with inhaling or coming into contact with the chemicals used in conventional cleaning products.  

Studies show that this can also lead to poisoning and developmental issues in children.

Two particular chemicals of concern are nitrobenzene and phosphates. 

Nitrobenzene

This chemical is a common precursor for detergents but comes with many risks. Nitrobenzene decreases the body’s ability to carry oxygen through the bloodstream. Even low levels of exposure can cause fatigue, weakness, headaches, and dizziness. Higher levels of exposure can result in breathing trouble, vision issues, and even coma in more serious cases.

Studies show that long-term inhalation has caused cancer, reproductive disorders, and nervous system failure in laboratory animals.

Phosphates

Various types of phosphates harm our environment.

Found in conventional dish soaps, cleaners, and laundry detergents, these drain into our aquatic ecosystems and cause a tremendous overgrowth of algae. As the algae die, oxygen-consuming bacteria form and kill other organisms, resulting in ‘dead zones’.

Although wastewater treatment plants do remove some phosphates, a significant amount still pours into our waterways each day.

Testing by the EPA found that the air inside a typical American home is two to five times more polluted than the air immediately outside!

They showed to be 100% more contaminated as a direct result of the overuse of chemical cleaners.

The situation won’t be much different in New Zealand.

Dishwashing tablets

Is your cleaning product really as ‘green’ as it claims?

As previously noted, manufacturers are only required to list ingredients that are active or potentially hazardous, not those that may be detrimental to your health.

This results in many companies promoting the perception of being environmentally friendly by using product names and natural imagery to evoke an eco-friendly feel.

We call this practice ‘greenwashing’ and companies achieve it in the following ways:

  • Using terms like non-toxic, natural and environmentally friendly. These are unregulated and available for use, regardless of validity.

  • Reducing the amount of harmful chemical ingredients by the slightest fraction and then claiming that the product is now ‘green’.

  • Spending advertising money to distract the consumer from the unappealing aspects of a product or practice.

Kitchen oven and dishwasher

Never fear! Safe cleaning alternatives do exist

Natural cleaners are just as effective at removing dirt and bacteria from household surfaces as their conventional counterparts, without contributing to antibacterial resistance.

We know many people are serious about doing their bit for the environment, as are we.

So instead of reaching for the spray bottle next time you’re cleaning, try these tried and tested green cleaners you can make yourself.

  • Baking soda is a great all-purpose cleaner. Use on its own or mixed with water, castile soap, and essential oils to create a chemical-free scrub for tubs, toilets, and countertops. It also removes red wine and coffee stains.

  • Grapefruit seed extract mixed with water makes a great mold and mildew spray.

  • White vinegar kills germs and works well on linoleum floors and glass. Apply to a microfibre cloth dampened with water-and the cloth can be rinsed and used again. 

 Clean hand basin

Trying to be more environmentally friendly is the way of the future and most of us try, in some way, to minimise our carbon footprint. However, when it comes to green cleaners, it is important we have a look at the list of ingredients and decide for ourselves whether it’s going to be the right choice for our home.

Our team have a very in-depth knowledge on chemicals and know what is best to use and when. We are an environmentally conscious bunch and keep this in mind on whatever job it is that we’re doing.

Some jobs require no chemical use at all. But when the job calls for chemicals, we use the right ones in the safest and most responsible way.

Are you looking for an industrial cleaner?

Call us today and get our environmentally conscious team on the job!