Green cleaning, a term more people are becoming familiar with but not necessarily acting on… Not only are eco cleaners beneficial for you and your loved ones, but they are also beneficial for the environment.
This is something you can easily accomplish and will make a significant impact on future generations! All it takes is making some simple product changes by going for eco-friendly or green cleaners and you can make a big difference.
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When you are purchasing cleaning products do you really know what you’re cleaning your house with? Do you take the time to read the label of your all-purpose cleaner before you bring it home? If you are reading the label can you identify the chemicals you are bringing into your home and exposing or absorbing them into your body?
Or do you find yourself blindly selecting cleaners at the store based on smell, or a label saying it does x,y & z, or worse yet, a clever marketing campaign?
If you do, then you’re not alone. Many Companies with these types of products have done such a good job using fear-based marketing. We’ve become so accustomed to toxic chemicals with long drawn-out names that we can’t even pronounce, that we stopped questioning the dangerous products we buy.
Have you come across the term “greenwashing?” It is another great marketing ploy to make products appear eco-friendly, non-toxic and/or chemical-free… when in reality they are far from it.
In fact, greenwashing is becoming more and more of an issue leading consumers to believe they are buying safe products to protect their families and environment. So even if you think you’re buying green cleaning products - you may not be.
Flashback to the old advertising campaigns that said smoking menthol cigarettes were good for your health and helped soothe a cough or sore throat… marketing, it works.
What Is Green Cleaning?
Green cleaning is a blanket term used for describing eco-friendly cleaning procedures or products that are used and created with the environment in mind. The goal of going green is to stop emitting pollutants into the environment as well as poisoning our animals and ourselves with toxic chemicals.
Eco cleaning products are designed to be safe for the planet, pets and human population.
Green cleaning products can be completely natural, or can even be manufactured in an eco-friendly way to be non-toxic and prevent emitting pollutants when being used. They can also be certified as fair trade when they meet specific labour and environmental standards and labelled as low VOC (volatile organic compounds) or even better as no VOC meaning they are more people and planet-friendly. More on this later.
Why is green cleaning important?
Choosing to use a green/eco cleaner does more than you’d think. It reduces ozone depletion, air and water pollution and also has an impact on climate change. In manufacturing a closed-loop system promotes recycling which reduces the use of raw, often harmful chemicals and materials and reduces the need for specialized disposal of toxic waste.
In addition to the environmental benefits of green cleaning, it makes your home a safer place for you, your family and your pets.
If you have ever read the packaging on traditional cleaning products, you would have seen warnings like ‘Flammable’, ‘Toxic’, and ‘Corrosive’ along with recommendations to wear gloves, avoid getting the product on your skin or in your eyes and never to inhale the fumes… This gives us a pretty good idea that these products are far from safe, even in small doses.
If that isn’t bad enough, the National Poison Control Center reported that household cleaning products are in the top 5 reasons for calls! Many of the toxic ingredients used in traditional cleaning products are hazardous to your health, some even being carcinogens or endocrine disruptors!
The Benefits of Switching to All Green Cleaning Products
So, now we know what green cleaning is and why it’s so important, let’s talk about the real benefits of switching to an all-green cleaning routine… And trust me when I say there’s a ton of benefits!
Harsh, chemical-laced, household cleaners have a big impact on our health. It may not seem that way as we aren’t directly ingesting it, but with every spray, you are getting exposed to poisons via inhalation and contact with your skin that is then absorbed into your body.
By choosing to switch to eco cleaning products you are…
Reducing yourself and your loved ones exposure to harsh chemicals;
Eliminating leftover, toxic surface residue from traditional cleaners that can be easily absorbed by your skin;
Improving air quality in your home with fewer chemical gases in the air;
Reduce the risk of chemical burns to the skin or eyes (though even non-toxic cleaners can irritate the eyes and skin so be sure to test your products);
Eco cleaners effectively reduce the amount of dust and chemical allergens in the environment, reducing respiratory issues like asthma and reducing common issues like headaches, and even sneezing!
Taking back control, and making informed decisions about the products we’re using as we have a better knowledge of the ingredients.
If the health benefits of switching weren't enough, the added environmental benefits are sure to have you second-guessing your go-to cleaner.
For some, it’s hard to believe that a small bottle of liquid can make such an impact on our planet, but it does. And one small bottle turns into millions, billions of gallons when you look at it on a larger scale with widespread use.
While you can’t do anything about everyone else you can do something about yourself and when you do you can feel good that your carbon footprint is helping to…
Minimize your impact on Ozone depletion as well as your impact on global climate change;
Reduce pollution from runoff into our water and soil (which then goes into the food chain);
Reduces chemical pollution in our air;
Reuse containers with peace of mind that chemicals aren’t still inside, which results in less waste being sent to landfills;
Know that the cleaners you are using are biodegradable and eco-friendly;
You are helping preserve our wild animal populations and keeping harmful substances out of the ocean.
Green/Eco Cleaning Products VS “Traditional” Chemical Laden Cleaning Products
Now, you know what green cleaning is, what the benefits are and how going green makes a difference environmentally. It's time to really dig deep and look at the difference between green cleaners vs your everyday all-purpose cleaners.
So, What’s the real difference between green products vs traditional?
The solution or chemical makeup is the obvious answer, but it goes even deeper than that with the manufacturing process, down to the materials used to create the containers cleaning products are sold in.
The difference between eco cleaners and commercial cleaners is vast, I am going to focus on what I feel is the most concerning for people… the toxins and chemicals used to make these cleaners. I do want to mention that good companies who are making green cleaners typically have better business practices in place too, I'll break this down a little later.
Toxic chemicals found in cleaning supplies
Okay… so, we know that traditional cleaning products aren’t great for us or the environment… But how bad are they really? I’ve done the research so you don’t have to, and here’s what I found:
Ammonia - Typically found in polishing agents and glass cleaners as it evaporates quickly and doesn’t leave streaks, however, it’s a very powerful irritant. It can trigger asthma attacks and causes issues in people with other repository issues.
Exposure is typically due to being inhaled, and if accidentally mixed with bleach it creates a poisonous gas! For a chemical-free alternative, you can use Vodka for making your glass sparkle, and did you know toothpaste is a wonderful polish for silver?!
Chlorine - Typically found in toilet cleaner, mold and mildew remover, and laundry whiteners. You can be exposed to chlorine through inhaling fumes but also through the skin when cleaning.
This is another irritant and can easily trigger asthma attacks, but it can also cause long-term damage to the thyroid. Swap with baking soda for scrubbing sinks, toilet bowls can be cleaned with vinegar or Borax, or you can choose a natural, chlorine-free bleach from a green manufacturer like this all-purpose bathroom scrub! It's so good!
Phthalates - The key ingredient in almost anything scented, and yes that includes dish soap. The real issue here is that companies often don’t have to disclose what is in their scents and for that reason, you might not find Phthalates on the label… But treat anything marked with ‘fragrance’ with caution.
Research has shown these chemicals are endocrine disruptors and can reduce male sperm counts, even if just exposed through scented soaps! Switch to fragrance-free or organic products for washing hands, and for dish soap.
Perchloroethylene (also known as Perc) - Typically found in spot removers, carpet and upholstery cleaners, and dry-cleaning solutions.
The EPA classifies this neurotoxin as a possible carcinogen, meaning it has a link to causing cancer in humans. The EPA instructed a phase-out of perc machines in residential buildings by 2020 due to reports of illness suffered by residents, and California is eliminating all use of Perc by 2023 due to its health risk.
For a green alternative, anything that requires dry cleaning can be taken to a ‘wet cleaner’ which uses water technology to clean instead of chemicals. Fabric stains can be removed by using undiluted Castile Soap directly on them before washing.
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (also known as Quarts) - Often found in fabric softeners and most cleaners labeled as antibacterial. Quarts are an antimicrobial, meaning they help promote drug-resistant bacteria, but they are also one of the main causes of contact dermatitis and a culprit for lung disorders!
Did you know that white vinegar is an excellent fabric softener, and removing soap residue AND dryer static?! If you’re looking for a healthier antibacterial, add a few drops of tea tree oil to water along with a small amount of white vinegar for a safe all-purpose cleaner. If you like your cleaner to have a nice scent, try adding lavender or sweet orange oil too!
Triclosan - Found in most liquid dish soap and hand soaps labelled as ‘antibacterial’ this toxin actually promotes the growth of drug-resistant bacteria like its counterpart Quarts.
This toxic is currently being investigated by the EPA to assess just how dangerous it is as it’s a suspected hormone disruptor, a probable carcinogen and studies have shown its negative impact in rivers and streams as it’s toxic to algae.
There are plenty of dish soaps and hand soaps that do not contain this product, so look for those labelled as 'all-natural'. If you’re concerned about using hand sanitizer, especially during this pandemic, then opt for one that uses alcohol to sterilize, not this chemical.
Sodium Hydroxide - Typically found in harsh oven cleaners and products to unblock drains, this chemical is extremely corrosive and can cause severe burns! It’s this ingredient that often carries a warning of using gloves and only using in well-vented rooms as the issues occur when the chemical fumes are inhaled or it touches the skin.
You can make the switch to natural products for cleaning ovens and drains, vinegar, and baking soda! Make a grime-busting baking soda paste with Dawn dish soap, lemon juice, vinegar, and baking soda to make even the dirtiest ovens sparkle! To tackle smelly, blocked drains pour a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down your drain, plug it for 30 minutes and run hot water down to clear it. Your drains will be free of blockages and smell fresh!
2-Butoxyethanol - This sweet-smelling solvent is commonly found in kitchen cleaners, window cleaners, and all-purpose cleaning sprays. It has been linked to severe liver and kidney damage when exposed to high amounts and needs to be used in ventilated areas to avoid breathing the fumes.
For a green (and cheap) alternative, clean reflective surfaces with white vinegar and newspaper for a streak-free, non-toxic shine. You can purchase many green kitchen cleaning products but if you want to make your own formulas with our new best friends baking soda, vinegar, and your favourite essential oils.
Are Green Cleaning Products More Expensive?
There’s much debate around if green cleaning products are more expensive, but we’ve found this is simply not the case. A bottle of Lysol all-purpose cleaner will run you $9.99 for 650ml or you can opt for Attitude all-purpose cleaner which comes in bulk, refill, will cost you $11.95 for 2L. This is just one example, there are other conventional cleaners like Mr. Clean that are cheaper.
This might be a little more expensive than their mass-produced chemical-ridden counterparts, but you don’t need to use as much as it’s more concentrated, and many people who have switched to green cleaning have actually found they have cut down the number of different products they need to purchase as green products can be all-purpose. This will also help to reduce the number of plastic bottles you bring into your home.
You also have the option of making your own cleaners from natural products as mentioned above, you can do wonders with Vinegar, Baking Soda, and essential oils!
Are eco friendly cleaning products better?
We know they’re better for the planet, for people and pets, and we know they’re kinder on the wallet, but are eco-friendly products as effective for cleaning?
Well, green products must be doing something right as the market for them is rapidly expanding, and consumers keep coming back for more! If the products weren’t cleaning effectively, removing stains and providing homes with the same level of cleanliness as their traditional counterpart, sales wouldn’t be expected to increase dramatically by 2025.
Humanity as a whole is really starting to appreciate the planet, and we’re more aware of how our behaviours can be changed to help keep our planet healthy. Making the switch to green cleaning is just one of the many ways we can help tackle the battle to keep Earth happy, and as the market is expanding drastically every year we expect manufactured green products to improve even more!
How do you tell if a cleaning product is green?
If you’ve decided to switch your cleaning routine up and use green products, but don’t have time to make your own then the best way to tell if a cleaning product is green is by doing some research into some green companies.
Some companies can be green by using recycled packaging and donating to environmental causes, but their products may still contain toxic chemicals. Here enters the greenwashing we talked about earlier!
When looking for certification, check it’s EcoLogo certified as this is Canada’s only recognized environmental standard and certification. Companies such as Net Zero, Aspen Clean and Attitude Living (use code CANDICEB) are all-natural, non-toxic cleaning product manufacturers that use naturally sourced materials (like coconut derivative and essential oils) to help your home remain clean and fresh, without the nasty stuff!
Best green cleaning products: Alternatives to the “bad” stuff
Here is just a sampling of some of the cleaners I have used and LOVE.
Attitude Cleaning: By far one of my favourite cleaning brands. It's a Canadian company out of Quebec and they offer at-home refillable cleaning products, which I can't get enough of. They are also EWG verified, so no nasties here. ALL of their products are so good. Use the code CANDICEB for a deal.
Unscented Co: An excellent brand for most people can find and afford. It's scent-free for those who are sensitive to fragrance. I love the hand and dish soap.
Green and Frugal: Is local to the GTA, if you want to support a small business. I love the laundry detergent and you can also get Castille soap in bulk too. Use code THEECOHUB15 at checkout.
BioKleen: Makes great dishwasher soap, stain and odour remover, and laundry soap.
Dr. Bronner’s: I use their soap for almost all of my DIY cleaning recipes. it's cheap, cheerful and super effective.
Switching to Green Cleaning is not only good for health & the Environment it is easy on your wallet
Eco cleaners are becoming more accessible in stores and online, it’s time to ditch the conventional crap and take a stand for your family and the planet. A gallon of white distilled vinegar and a box of baking soda is all you really need to get started. Being able to have peace of mind knowing that by cleaning with something you can actually ingest you and your family are safe is priceless.
How I Choose the best green cleaning products on The Eco Hub
When it comes to products I feature on The Eco Hub I have pretty strict criteria for brands to meet. Similar to what you see in my sustainable fashion, zero waste living and clean beauty guides, any cleaning product I feature, I always take the following into account:
Corporate Responsibility, is the brand going above and beyond in its day-to-day business?
Ethical sourcing, how and where are the ingredients sourced?
natural or organic ingredients; are they 3rd party-certified if they make these types of claims?
Environmentally-conscious packaging (plastic alternatives);
Who can access and use this product?;
Equity and cost;
no animal testing or derivatives!
Botton line when it comes to what is green cleaning?
There is no better feeling than walking through a clean home, you know that feeling you get after you've spent hours making your home spick-and-span? I love it!
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Cleaning and organizing our homes, without dirtying the planet, is easier than ever. Becoming an eco-conscious homeowner does not happen overnight. My best advice is as you run out of one item try replacing it with a more eco-friendly one.
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