Are you the type of person to buy a random multi-purpose cleaner from the store without a second thought? If so, it might be time to break the cycle. Did you know that there’s more than likely a whole host of toxins in your current cleaning product that you don’t even know about? We’re here to help you make the right choice before you go out and buy something that is secretly damaging both your physical health and the environment. Let’s get started.
Your Immediate Physical Health
But before we go any further, grab your multi-purpose cleaner right now and look for anything that says “phthalates”, “phthalate esters”, “DBP”, or “DEHP” on the ingredients listing. These chemicals are “fragrances” that are commonly added to cleaners to enhance the overall smell of the product. If you see those ingredients somewhere on the bottle, throw it away.
The reason being is that phthalates are endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with hormone systems, causing a whole host of problems such as learning disorders, brain development issues, cancer, and sexual development problems. Luckily, in the US, phthalates have been cracked down on. But there are still a large number of consumer products out there that do contain phthalates.
For the folks who look to the back of their sink cabinet to find a cleaner that could be 5-10 years old, consider that these cleaners are not as harmless as you might think. Consider green cleaning options to help keep your health in check.
Other Health Concerns
Now that we have one of the most toxic and common chemicals out of the way, let’s talk about asthma, allergies, and how both natural and chemical fragrances alike can bring about health issues. Not all natural cleaners are going to be allergy free but you can rest assured that most chemical cleaners will induce allergies and bring about asthma flare-ups. If you or anyone you know has asthma or typically gets allergic to cleaners of any kind, consider going the natural route and be sure to take a look at those ingredients to make sure you’re not going to run into any adverse allergic reactions.
While most chemical cleaners are harmful to your respiratory system, one combination of chemicals can be fatal. Make sure to never mix ammonia and bleach together, as it creates chlorine gas that is extremely poisonous and will cause severe harm if inhaled.
Most chemical cleaners are toxic and irritative even when normal use occurs. Simply spraying chlorine bleach or ammonia based products can cause respiratory issues and allergic responses. Ingesting these products can be extremely harmful and even deadly in some cases depending on the amount ingested. What is the point in using these products if you can achieve similar cleaning results by using all natural cleaners? Some natural cleaners are harmful upon ingestion, but most of the time if a natural product is ingested, all that is required is to flush your system with water and contact your physician.
Note how we say “most natural products”. While many products are indeed safe and can be ingested without serious consequences, some natural cleaners claim to be more non-toxic than they actually are. Always refer to the companies ingredients list and dilution scale to ensure that you are well informed with the contents of the cleaner.
It’s very clear that most if not all chemical cleaners have a generally negative effect on the environment. Most of these cleaners are non-biodegradable. Eventually, after sustained use with a high enough concentration, these products make their way through your drain and will end up in the local water supply. While this is fine for humans because of the filtration processes that occur, wildlife and natural environments do not have the luxury of water filtration. These chemicals will end up polluting natural water supplies and can have serious negative effects on the environment and the animals that inhabit that environment. People often underestimate the effects that their products can have on the environment, especially when being used en masse. While chemical cleaners almost always run into environmental problems like these, natural cleaners aren’t entirely off the hook.
Every Natural Cleaner is Environmentally Safe = False
Many “natural” products claim that their cleaners are all natural and for this reason, should not be able to harm the environment, right? Not entirely. Just because something is natural does not mean it won’t negatively affect you or the environment. For example, common natural cleaners that use pine oil or citrus oil emit terpenes that react with the atmosphere and create dangerous organic compounds such as Formaldehyde, which is extremely irritating and can cause cancer to anyone exposed. Try to avoid natural cleaners that attempt to use naturally scented compounds, as they may have unintended consequences on the environment.
Are There Any Safe Cleaners?
So at this point, you may be wondering, “Is any all natural cleaner safe from scrutiny”? The answer to that is yes, absolutely. There are a number of cleaning products that are safe for use in terms of both the environment and immediate human safety. Often times cleaners that claim they are environmentally safe actually are, but it can help to make sure.
Some natural cleaners use certain chemical-like substances that are non-toxic or extremely low in toxicity. Chemicals like sodium metasilicate and Butyl Cellosolve are very low in toxicity and are not considered environmental contaminants. These chemicals typically biodegrade and do not cause any adverse to the environment. However, getting these chemicals exposed to your eyes may cause eye irritation and requires flushing with water.
When It Can Be Appropriate to Use Industrial Cleaners
While most jobs can be completed with all purpose cleaners, there is the occasional job that should be completed with harsher chemicals. While not ideal to use, it can be safe if you use the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well as dispose of the chemicals properly. Often times the cleaners as well as the mess to be cleaned need to be disposed of properly. While there are a number of ways to clean toxic chemicals after use, consider educating yourself before attempting to use these chemicals. If at all possible, try not to avoid chemical cleaners in the first place and stick to natural, non-toxic, and environmentally safe cleaners to get the job done.
Natural Cleaners Can Be Just As Effective
Chemical cleaners like Lysol and Pledge are effective in cleaning up messes just like any other cleaning product, but their ability to do this and remain non-toxic is non-existent. This is why natural all-purpose cleaners that have reputability in actually getting the job done is the obvious way to go. If a cleaner doesn’t leave behind a potent smell of flowers or lemon after the job is done, that doesn’t mean that it’s not clean. As said before, these fragrances are often synthetic chemicals that give the impression of cleanliness. If you are interested in using a natural cleaner that is good for the environment, it may not smell like a fresh garden.
One way you can improve the smell of something you just cleaned is to add essential oils or use a diffuser to naturally improve the smell of your house, office space, or school. Remember, it may be extremely enticing to go with a chemical cleaner because of the great smell, but just know that these fragrances are not good for the environment and they can cause respiratory distress in people prone to allergens. Simply using an all natural and all purpose cleanser, along with a diffuser with your favorite essential oils will make your overall health and well-being skyrocket.
Packaging and Dilution
A great perk among natural cleaning companies is the ability to limit the amount of packaging and overuse of the product. The goal of making natural cleaning products is to limit the ecological ramifications of cleaning supplies, so naturally choosing packaging techniques that limit overuse of plastic can be just as important as using eco friendly ingredients. On top of this, selling a concentrated product with a dilution scale can be great if you want to decrease the overall waste of the product.
It is rare that you find chemical cleaners that promote dilution tactics, as these companies are solely interested in making money rather than offering the most environmentally advantageous solution, so selling canister after canister is not a problem for them. Find a company that uses a dilution scale, and promotes tactics on saving yourself from overbuying plastic containers to simply clean your house.
On a side note, most cleaners on the market today use a spray bottle function, but some use aerosolized canisters. Make sure you do not use these products, as not only are they bad for the ozone layer and the environment as a whole, they are much more easily inhaled than spray bottles.
The DIY Option
Yes, creating your own cleaner can be great, especially if you’re only using it for the simplest of jobs like cleaning your countertops. For cases like this, using diluted vinegar or baking soda can serve your purpose. But the versatility of these methods is questionable. Make sure you’re not using vinegar on metals, chrome, or surfaces with thick substances, as you can run into a variety of problems such as corrosion or ineffective cleaning.
If you want to use a cleaner that can do it all: clean any surface effectively, make little to no ecological impact, and help you save money all at the same time, all natural and all purpose cleaners can do that for you. If you’re out of your usual cleaner and need to clean a food mess up from your counter or something that spilled on the floor, vinegar does a great job. Just remember that vinegar is acidic, and if it’s left on metal for an extended period of time it will begin corroding.
So what now?
Now that you have armed yourself with the ultimate cleaning knowledge, take the next step and take responsibility for yourself, the people around you, and the environment. Either purchase a natural all-purpose cleaner that can get just about any job done, or use a DIY method that can get simple jobs done on the fly. Just remember that DIY options really depend on the job you need to do, and sometimes going with an all purpose cleaner can prove much more useful and versatile in just about any situation.
By now you should be scavenging through your kitchen counters looking to throw away those toxic brands of cleaners and hopping on the green train as soon as possible. While doing your part alone can make a positive impact on your personal health, when everyone rises up and gets to green cleaning, the entire environment experiences the positive results.
If you haven’t been paying attention to current trends, then we’re here to tell you that the green revolution is picking up steam. More people than ever are switching to green cleaning and other green alternatives to get their dirty jobs done. If you think that you don’t make a large enough impact to feel the need to switch to green cleaning, you’d be wrong. Being a piece of the puzzle for a healthy environment isn’t a bad thing, especially when you’re improving your physical health in the process.