Can 'green' cleaning products get the job done?
We all want our homes to be clean and safe, especially in these times of increased awareness of health and hygiene.
Traditionally, we’ve been taught that chemicals are the only way to clean, and that natural alternatives just aren’t up to the job. But the truth is that depends entirely on the task at hand, and conventional cleaning products come with a whole lot of dirty secrets.
Recently we’ve had a lot of questions from those looking to make the switch but uncertain about whether green cleaning products are up to the task when it comes to ridding the home of germs, so we thought we’d share a little bit about cleaning with green, in the hopes to answer some of them!
The dirty business of (conventional) cleaning
Yes, harsh chemicals can unclog your drain in minutes. But traditional cleaning products may contain chemicals that can put people and pets at risk of respiratory problems, allergic reactions, headaches, and other side effects. When you use conventional cleaning products that have harmful toxins over a long period, you risk harming your health and the environment – and oftentimes, those harsh chemicals aren’t necessary for a good clean.
Here’s what the Environmental Protection Agency has to say about them:
- Regular cleaning products can contain ingredients known to irritate eyes and skin.
- Chemical cleaners contain volatile organic compounds, which diminish air quality as they evaporate off surfaces and are released into the home
- Many surfactants used in conventional products biodegrade slowly or biodegrade into more toxic, persistent, and bioaccumulative chemicals, threatening aquatic life.
- People who use conventional cleaning products on the reg risk prolonged exposure to toxic, dangerous ingredients.
- Dumping unused chemicals can pollute waterways.
In the same report, the EWG then lists the following (pretty serious) potential risks of exposure to everyday cleaning chemicals:
- chemical burns
- exposure to carcinogens (known cancer-causers) like 1,4-dioxane or formaldehyde
- asthma caused by certain chemical fumes
- fetal development issues due to exposure to cleaning chemicals during pregnancy
On top of those known risks, you could be exposed to an ingredient not listed on the label. You may have noticed that not every cleaning product label lists all the active and inactive ingredients – your guess is as good as ours as to what’s actually in there.
Obviously these are pretty serious health risks which begs the question – do we really need to be using these chemicals to get our homes clean and safe, especially in these times of increased focus on hygiene?
The reality is that unless there’s a particular to disinfect with harsh chemicals, more natural alternatives can do an equally good job at cleaning the surfaces in our homes while also reducing the toxins we breathe in and their environmental impact.
But how, you ask? One of the key points lies in the difference between cleaning and disinfecting.
Cleaning vs Disinfecting 101
The Centers for Disease Control in the US, describes cleaning as the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. While it doesn’t outright kill germs, it removes them, lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
Disinfecting, or sanitising, refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces and adds another level of protection against the spread of germs and infection. So for surfaces or situations that are particularly dirty/risky and where a more thorough disinfection is required, disinfectant is a sure-fire way to cut through bacteria.
And while we’re at it, sterilization refers to a process of destroying or eliminating all forms of microbial life and usually refers to the process carried out in health care facilities by physical or chemical methods.
Here at The Botanist, all our products are castile soap based, which works effectively to get rid of bacteria and viruses. When washing surfaces, the soap particles wrap around the micro-organisms, breaking down the microbes and viruses, allowing the bacteria and grime which stick to surfaces to be wiped and lifted off.
So in a nutshell, while some traditional cleaning products outright destroy germs, The Botanist castile soap instead lifts dirt and germs off surfaces allowing them to be wiped away. The short answer: it’s not a bleach-level germ killer or a disinfectant, but it cleans up most nasties.
Plus, let’s not forget the essential oils! Yes they make your home smell like a spa, but the oils used in our products such as tea tree oil, eucalyptus and peppermint also contain anti-bacterial agents. One study found that a long list of essential oils could fight around 22 types of bacteria and around 11 types of fungi.
So now we have that clear, let’s look at what we can do at home to keep things spick and span at home. It’s important to remember that for everyday use, mopping floors, cleaning the kitchen counters and the bathroom, we can lean on all the wonderful things nature gave us to do the job. Sure, there’s a time and place for disinfecting, but there’s no need to ‘disinfect’ our home on a daily basis if circumstances don’t call for it.
Going ‘green’ – what does it even mean?
If you’re on the fence and still mulling over ditching the toxic chemicals from your cleaning routine, remember that going green with your cleaning just means choosing products made from ingredients that are safe for you and your family. Of course, it’s also good for the planet. Avoid chemicals that pollute the water or air around you. And remember to look for recyclable (or already recycled!) packaging and reduce single use plastic.
A handy list of things to keep in mind during your quest for green cleaning products:
- Is this product biodegradable?
- Are the ingredients nontoxic?
- Does it offer bulk packaging or refills?
- What about recyclable packaging or packaging made from recycled materials?
- Is the product free of phosphates, dyes, hypochlorite, and chlorine?
- Are the yummy-smelling sprays and scrubs scented with natural fragrances?
- Does the product label fully disclose all active and inactive ingredients?
This is a great checklist, but be vigilant when picking your brands. Some products labeled nontoxic or natural are a lot like wolves in sheep’s clothing—they can appear more innocent than they really are.
Because labeling for these products is often unregulated, manufacturers can simply throw buzzwords like clean, green, nontoxic, and natural on labels, even if the formulas contain toxic chemicals and harmful ingredients.
The takeaway? Always read the ingredients list, just like you would on a food item, and if it’s not fully disclosed, that’s a red flag.
We know it can feel overwhelming, but educating yourself and making a few small, simple changes to the things you buy and use every day can make a huge impact on your personal health and the health of the environment. When it comes to home cleaning, what’s best is to assess the job in hand, and choose your product accordingly, but there’s no reason why your regular cleaning routine can’t be handled by a natural cleaning product.
Ready to make the switch?
Click here to get started with The Botanist’s toxin-free, sustainable and family-safe home cleaning range. We promise, you won’t be going back!