Green Cleaning Products

Greenwashing. While it sounds encouraging, it’s actually a term that describes a way that companies abuse eco-friendly, natural, organic, and other environmentally friendly sounding terms to market a product, when in fact the products fall short of its implied worthiness.

Unfortunately, the cleaning supplies category is one of the biggest green-washing offenders on today’s store shelves.

Our team here at Green Blizzard believe that this is the perfect green irony.

CleaningThe problem all began in the 1960’s when the government passed regulations that did not require companies to disclose harmful chemicals in their cleaning supplies unless the cleaning supplies were immediately dangerous to the user.

Although some chemicals aren’t instantaneous harmful, studies show that 15% of all asthma cases are linked to prolonged exposed to cleaning products.

The EPA found that fumes and chemicals from cleaning products are much more dangerous than air pollutants you might be exposed to outside. All in all, what’s bad for you, is also bad for the environment, and these cleaning products contribute to a lot of destruction to the environment when you use them or dispose of them.

From an environmental perspective you have two options.   Highly scrutinize your cleaning purchases or make your own cleaning products.  Making your own is not a hard as you might think.

Purchasing Green Cleaning Products

Many so called green cleaning products falsely advertise or imply that their products are “green”.  Companies plaster “natural ingredients” all over their products.  In essence, what cleaning companies are doing is using the words “natural” the same way that a gasoline company would advertise on their billboards that the gasoline comes from “all-natural” ingredients. It’s true, but we also know the environmental impact of using such products is very dangerous. Natural is not always a synonym for good for the environment.

Unlike food products which the USDA closely regulates to keep the consumer fully informed, its difficult to discern what actually in these cleaning products.

Green Seal – Look for a Green Seal on the cleaning products.  This independent company breaks down cleaning products and provides a handy online search of evaluated green products.  Green Seal does a stellar job of making sure a product uses biodegradable chemicals and eco-friendly chemicals.

Design for the Environment DfE is another label you might want to look for too, though it is less rigorous than the Green Seal. DfE basically ensure that the product you buy is using the least environmentally harmful chemical in its class.

Seventh Generation – The only thing is many smaller companies and even large companies like Seventh Generation don’t have these seals. This isn’t a case of greenwashing however, as Seventh Generation’s guidelines are often stricter and at the least equal to Green Seal’s guidelines. They don’t want to be lumped into the Green Seal category however because they feel their products go above and beyond Green Seal’s guidelines, and they are right. In most cases, they are better than Green Seal, so they have opted not to get Green Seal’s certification because it would make it seem as if they were competitors with less eco-friendly products, when in fact Seventh Generation is more eco-friendly.

For instance,  green products producer Seventh Generation tries very hard to make sure the farms on which the oils and ingredients for their cleaning products are grown are committed to sustainable farming and will even have third parties evaluate them. The bottom line is, don’t be fooled by labeling. We’ve seen how with food, words like “natural” have morphed into supposedly eco-friendly terms, so you need to educate yourself on the product you are buying especially when you realize that what hurts the environment can also have serious ramification for your health as well. Green cleaning supplies are less regulated with no overarching USDA setting standards, so you need to be more careful.

Mixing Your Own Green Cleaning Products

For any of these chores, all you will need is baking soda and white vinegar.  Everything else, you probably already have around your home.

Bathrooms Keep your bathrooms and kitchen tile spotless and hygienic without harsh commercial cleaners. Baking Soda and Water (with kosher salt): Dust surfaces with baking soda, then scrub with a moist sponge or cloth. If you have tougher grime, sprinkle on some kosher salt, and apply a little muscle.

Windows White Vinegar, Water and Newspaper: Mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with a gallon of water, and dispense into a used spray bottle. Squirt on, then scrub with newspaper, not paper towels, which cause streaking. Not crazy about vinegar? Substitute undiluted lemon juice or club soda.

Hardwood Floors Want to restore their natural glow?  Using vinegar, make a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar and 30 ounces of warm water. Put in a recycled spray bottle, then spray on a cotton rag or towel until lightly damp. Then lightly mop your floors.

Clogged Drain Baking Soda and Boiling Water (vinegar if needed). Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the problem drain, followed by 2 cups of boiling water. If that isn’t doing it for you, chase the baking soda with a 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover tightly, allowing the vigorous fizzing of the chemical reaction to break up the gunk. Then flush that with one gallon of boiling water.

Oven Cleaning Oven cleaning products are loaded with toxic ingredients, including ethers, ethylene glycol, lye (sodium and potassium hydroxide), methylene chloride and petroleum distillates – products harmful to skin and eyes. Instead, use Baking Soda and Water: Coat the inside of your dirty appliance with a paste made from water and baking soda. Let stand overnight. Then, wear gloves and scour off that grime. Make spotless with a moist cloth.

Sustainable Living writer John Garnett
Be sure to check out our green lifestyle store Green Blizzard Store. Check out these related Green Blizzard articles: Seafood Watch, Are We Eating Fish Into Extinction.


About the author

John R. Garnet

John's work in the energy market fostered his interest in the environment. He recently completed his graduate work at George Mason University, But more interestingly, John has a passion for food and cooking and to provides some light-hearted tips to make people's lives greener while enjoy the good life with everyday practical tips from brewing tea, growing basil, or drinking raw milk.