Most conventional cleaning products are petroleum based which have questionable health and environmental consequences. Think about it, we use cleaning products on our eating utensils, our dishes, our countertops, our clothes, our floors, in the air in our homes - these products are everywhere. In our battle against dirt and germs, might we be making things worse? Instead of using harsh commercial cleaners there are other options. Treehugger.com (via MSN Green) offers the following 10 tips to make your cleaning greener and then 5 additional steps if you really want to kick green cleaning up a notch.
1. Cleaner, greener, meaner
As the health and environmental impacts of conventional cleaning products become more thoroughly understood, more and more brands of healthy, green, and effective cleaning products have started hitting the market and competing for that coveted place of honor under your sink. Many of these products are non-toxic, biodegradable, and made from renewable resources (not petroleum). But if designer labels aren’t for you, home-mixed cleaners can get the job done and then some. Vinegar and baking soda can be used to clean almost anything. Mix in a little warm water with either of these and you’ve got yourself an all-purpose cleaner.
2. Healthy airflow
It is not uncommon for the air inside a home or office to be more toxic than the air outside. This is because of the presence of toxic materials and substances and the fact that homes and buildings are better insulated than ever before (which is a good thing from an energy standpoint). Keeping windows open as often as possible allows fresh air in and keeps toxins flowing out. This is especially important when cleaning your home.
3. Are we breeding supergerms?
The antibacterial and antimicrobial ‘cleaners’ that many people think are necessary, especially during cold season, don’t clean hands better than soap and water, and also add to the risk of breeding “super germs,” bacteria that survive the chemical onslaught and have resistant offspring. The FDA has found that antibacterial soaps and hand cleansers do not work better than regular soap and water, and should be avoided.
4. Help your home smell soda-licious
Baking soda not only removes those strange smells coming from your fridge, it’s also a great odor-eliminator for your carpet. Just sprinkle on a little baking soda to soak up some of those odors and then vacuum it up.
5. Clean peace
Skip the store-bought air fresheners and instead try boiling cinnamon, cloves, or any other herbs you have a fondness for. Fresh chocolate chip cookies also have been known to create a friendly aroma. Also, plants may not make your house smell different but are good for filtering interior air — pretty much any broad green leaf plant will do. Peace Lilies are a favorite choice.
6. The toxic toss
When replacing your cleaning products, don’t just throw the old ones in the trash. If they’re too toxic for your home, they won’t be good for the drain or the landfill either. Many communities hold toxic & electronics recycling days and will take all of these off your hands. Throwing chemicals in the trash or down the drain means they might end up back in your water supply and come back to haunt you.
Conventional dry-cleaners are the largest users of the industrial solvent called Perchloroethylene, or perc, which is toxic to humans and also creates smog. The two most common green dry-cleaning methods are carbon dioxide cleaning and Green Earth. Seek out cleaners that use green methods. If you do take clothes to conventional cleaners, be sure to air them outside before wearing them or putting them in the closet.
8. Green house cleaning service
For people who don’t have the time to clean their own homes, fortunately there are an increasing number of green cleaning services out there to help get things spic and span. If you can’t find one in your area (or their rates are outlandish), call around until you find a service willing to use the products and methods you specify.
9. Leave the toxins at the door
Imagine what’s on your shoes at the end of the day. Bringing that oil, antifreeze, animal waste, particulate pollution, pollen, and who knows what else into the house is not good news, especially for kids and other critters that spend time on floor level. Keep the sidewalk out of your home with a good doormat or a shoeless house policy. Many green buildings now include entryway track-off systems as a means of maintaining a healthy interior environment. Less dirt also means less sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming, which means less work, water, energy, and fewer chemicals.
10. Clean design
Designing houses and other building with cleanability in mind can create spaces that are cleaner, healthier, and require fewer substances to maintain. In larger buildings, good cleanability can also be a big money-saver as cleaning costs can often add up to as much as half of a building’s total energy costs.
Five Additional Ways to Kick Green Cleaning Up a Notch:
Create your own cleaning solutions made from products you have around the house. These save money and also keep toxic chemicals out of your house. See below for suggestions on homebrewed cleaners.
2. Taking it to the cleaners
Talk to your boss/co-workers/custodial team about switching cleaning products to green cleaning products. The people most at risk from the toxic effects of cleaning chemicals are custodial workers.
3. Underneath it all
Consider replacing your carpets with wood, linoleum or other non-carpet flooring. This will reduce the toxic cleaners needed for rugs as vinegar and water works great for cleaning non-carpet floors. This can also save energy, because you won’t need to run that vacuum.
4. Clean carpets
When getting carpets steam cleaned, look for companies that use only water or natural solvents.
Paper towels and other disposable, single-use cleaning things can be replaced with reusable clothes and mircrofiber wipes. Clean them in the dishwasher and whiten them with hydrogen peroxide when they need it. Also, when it comes to buying sponges, natural ones are biodegradable and can break down or be composted when their useful life is through. But make certain that the natural sponges you buy come from a “sponge farm” and not from a natural ecosystem.