Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Greener cleaning - safe and effective household cleaners

I have never been a clean freak and although we have a clean-enough house you won’t find any of the typical household cleaners under our sinks or in our broom closet. Typical household cleaners make me uncomfortable, and I fear them more than I fear household germs.

Most cleaners on the market (including many that are marketed as “green”) are quite toxic. Deep down I think that we all know this but people tend to trust their favourite brands and depend on them to keep their house feeling sparkling clean.

The big worry is that there is no information that addresses the long-term effects of exposure to the chemicals in household cleaners. And as we all know, cleaning a house is a long-term thing so those products you know and love are affecting you each and every time you use them, and those effects are accumulating.

As well, manufacturers aren’t required to list ingredients on their cleaning products so it’s often hard to tell what’s in them. Not that many consumers can actually identify toxic chemicals by name if they were listed (I know I can’t).

So there they sit under our sinks in the kitchen and bathroom. Sprayed or splashed here or there for a quick scrub or polish. Stacked on grocery store shelves an aisle over from food and packaged in friendly-looking containers. Many people hardly consider these various household cleaners chemicals. (Although those exact same products, when used in the workplace, require detailed safety sheets and proper handling procedures.)

So how do you stay healthy and have a clean house? David Suzuki Foundation has created a wallet guide to help you avoid the worst chemicals. Go to for the list of cleaning ingredients to avoid.

Going a step further, Environmental Working Group has launched a searchable database of cleaners so you can rate your favourites (see how awful they really are) and search for the safest. Do you have any of these cleaners under your sink: Citra-Solv Cleaner & Degreaser, Clorox, Fantastik, Febreze, Formula 409, Mr. Clean, Spic and Span. They are among the most dangerous for you and the environment and contain chemicals that are (or form) carcinogens and hormone disruptors, and are known to cause or trigger asthma.Visit the full list.

If you’re ready to try some safer cleaners look for Nature Clean, Seventh Generation, Down East and Dr. Bronner’s brands in the natural food section of the grocery store. These products are safe and effective.

Avoid a cleaner if the ingredients aren’t listed in the label.

Opt for fragrance-free products (unless they’re scented with essential oils)

Remember that you can clean just about everything with vinegar and baking soda, from ovens to toilets. Vinegar can disinfect just as well as any other household cleaner, and won’t eat through your skin.

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