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With the days getting longer, and temperatures getting warmer, it finally feels like spring is coming. And with it, often comes some serious spring cleaning. Whether you’re planning on scrubbing your grout with a toothbrush, or just keeping up your normal routine, take some time to re-evaluate what cleaners you’re using. Here’s a look at why you should choose green cleaners, and how you can get started.
To start, choose a day that’s warm enough to open the windows while you clean. According to Environmental Defence, the cleaning products we use in our homes can negatively affect indoor air quality. The study found conventional products as well as those marketed as “green” had adverse effects. Don’t fall victim to greenwashing and take some time to research the products you use.
It does take some extra digging to find out what’s in a product, since cleaner manufacturers are not required to disclose their ingredients. You may see some ingredients listed, or generic terms (like preservative, fragrance, or surfactant), but to find the specific ingredients in cleaning products you often need to search online and maybe even contact the manufacturer for the material safety data sheet (MSDS). Opt for products that fully disclose their ingredients, and look them up on the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. This handy tool provides details on ingredients, and rates products on an A – F scale (like a school report card). If you decide you no longer want to use products already in your home, make sure you dispose of them with household hazardous waste, like you would paints or other chemicals.
It should be noted that “phosphate free” is a fairly useless marketing ploy as they have been banned since the 1970s in Canada (2010 for dishwasher detergent). Check the ingredients not only against health impacts, but also against their impact on the environment. Everything we use to clean our homes is washed down the drain. And since septic systems and municipal water treatment plants may not remove all chemicals, they end up in our waterways or soils, and ultimately our drinking water and food supplies.
If you’re used to using antibacterial products, now is the time to stop. One of the common ingredients, triclosan, is toxic to aquatic life and its safety with respect to human health is unknown. Studies have found that it also might be contributing to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Vinegar is a good alternative; for an extra punch, follow a vinegar wash with three percent hydrogen peroxide. You can add essential oils or citrus peels to your vinegar to cut the smell and make for a more pleasant cleaning experience.
Even if you’re not into DIY projects (I’m not!), you might be surprised at how easy, effective, and budget-friendly making your own can be. You can technically do everything with just vinegar, baking soda, and some soap. Check out this recipe card for five basic cleaners that you can use to clean just about everything in your home. Although many of the ingredients would be found in your kitchen, it’s important to keep all cleaning products labelled and away from children and pets.
While it will take some extra time up front to re-evaluate your cleaners, using natural and safe ingredients will make your home healthier for you and the environment.