Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Green Post #2 Household Cleaners

Wow! It is hard to know where to start on a post about household cleaners because it could be a very LONG one!

Being green when it comes to household cleaners can be an easy change in a physical sense but more difficult mentally. What I mean by that is that we are so accustomed to smelling harsh chemicals and equating that smell with "clean" that we perhaps are a little skeptical when it comes to using biodegradable green products for cleaning our houses.

I remember growing up with the scent of Pine Sol every Saturday so in my mind Pine Sol=CLEAN. There are so many chemicals in household cleaners that are not good for us or the earth. I know when I switched to using more earth friendly products I had to remind myself that harsh chemicals aren't necessarily better.

Avoid household cleaners with these ingredients:

Petroleum is a non-renewable resource. Paraffin, mineral oil, diethylene glycol, perchloroethylene, or butyl cellosolve are all common ingredients found in detergents or solvents and are derived from petroleum.

Phthalates (which have recently been in the news a lot) are used to maintain scents in cleaners. Phthalates have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems in lab animals. Phthalates are found in beauty products, shampoos, lotions, toys, and cleaning products. Manufacturers are not required to put "phthalates" on the label it is often under the label "fragrance" which makes it a little trickier to avoid the products with phthalates in them. I think that some companies are catching on to the danger of phthlalates in products (especially for babies) and we will soon be seeing labels letting us know that shampoos and lotions are "phthalate-free". Phthalates are also found in plastic toys that are have vinyl and PVC in them. Plastics numbered 3 are likely to have phthalates in them so you can choose to avoid those toys too.

I think your best option is to avoid products with non-specific labels of "fragrance" in them.

Phosphates/EDTA are used to soften water and increase the effectiveness of cleaning power. Phosphates effect the environment by causing more algae growth in natural water habitats which can in turn have an effect on oxygen supplies for animals. EDTA is often used as a substitute for phosphates and they are slow to breakdown in the environment. Phosphates are often found in laundry detergents.

Antibacterial chemicals in cleaners are suspected to increase bacteria resistant superbugs like MRSA. There are lots of natural antibacterial agents out there to use for cleaning (more on that).

If you are looking to buy a household cleaner that works well and has natural, biodegradable ingredients these companies have a good reputation for making cleaners that are earth friendly and work well: Method, Mrs. Meyers, and BioKleen. Those are some of my favorite companies.

If you are wanting to be EXTRA-green you can make you own products by using common household products like distilled white vinegar, essential oils, baking soda, water, and liquid soap and simply reuse the same spray bottles for each of your homemade cleaners. By making your own you are helping the environment by not purchasing more plastic that takes 10000 years to biodegrade.

Essential oils are great because they are pleasant smelling and often have their own antibacterial agents in them.

Here are a few recipes from the herb company, Nature's Sunshine:

For a safe disinfectant and laundry freshener:
7 drops of tea tree oil
5 drops lavender
3 drops thyme
2 drops rosemary
7 drops lemon (dark colors only)
Sunshine Concentrate (follow directions on bottle)

You can use Sunshine Concentrate to clean a TON of things. A 32 ounce bottle is 15 bucks and will last a long time.

I got these recipes from this website called EarthEasy. It has a TON of green living information on it and I highly recommend the site. There are recipes for your specific cleaning needs like coffee and tea stains, dishwasher detergent, dishwashing soap, floor cleaner, oven cleaner, and laundry detergent.

All purpose cleaner:
1/2 C. vinegar
1/4 C. baking soda
1/2 gallon water
(my personal addition would be to add 5ish drops of an essential oil for a natural fragrance)
Use with a microfiber cloth to clean bathroom fixtures, tiles, showers, and mirrors.

Bathroom mold cleaner:
one part 3% oxygen to 2 parts water in a spray bottle. spray on area and wait one hour before rinsing.

(Some) Homemade cleaners may take a little extra elbow grease but when you know you are helping the environment and making your home a more non-toxic place the effort seems worth it.

I am not the queen of green just so you know. I don't want anyone to get the impression that I am feeling superior to anyone because I am "so green". The truth is that I often feel convicted about changing my consumer habits the more I learn about how we need to help our environment. I wanted to commit to learning more about how to be green more for myself than anyone else and having a once a week goal helps me continue to do the research and try new things. The only homemade cleaner I make is a diaper pail disinfectant out of water and tea tree oil! I do use Method cleaners for most of my household cleaning products, however writing this makes me want to make some cleaners. The EarthEasy site has so many recipes that I know I will look there before buying any new specialty products that I need.


The Herd said...

I would be a greenie--but my reasons are not necessarily for the environment, so I would be voted out.:). I have started making my own laundry detergent!! So much cheaper. I might try out some of your recipes! Thanks for sharing the tips! I love them.

Sharon M said...

Thanks for the great resources Amelia! I'll be sure to check out the websites. I'm not sure where to buy "essential oils" here (other than perhaps olive oil, heh heh), but I'm sure there's a place SOMEWHERE in this tiny country.

ceciliabrie said...

Yay yay yay! Thank you! i'm going to bookmark this post!