Cleaning products are big business.
As consumers, we have been sold the notion that we need an array of multi-coloured bottles and sprays to clean our homes and protect ourselves. In truth, we need a handful of products which can be easily made at home. This is what we call ‘green cleaning’ – products made with environmentally friendly ingredients that have no negative impact on human or animal health or the quality of our environment.
To understand the health concerns behind shop-bought products we need to be aware of a few things. Unlike beauty products, there is no requirement for manufacturers to list all of the ingredients in their products on the bottle itself, nor do they have to list the quantity of a particular chemical. Your average household cleaning product contains around 60 chemicals and if you look on the label you’ll see words like hazardous, corrosive and irritant which should give you an inkling that the ingredients are potentially harmful.
Toxins are also hidden behind generic words such as:
The use of the word ‘fragrance’ is a good indication that phthalates are present. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors – this means the phthalates mimic estrogen in our bodies, disrupting normal hormonal function. Sometimes you see products labelled ´unscented´ which unfortunately just means that the scent of the chemical mixture has been masked with another agent which in itself is a toxic chemical. We also see products labelled as ´natural fragrance´ or with ´essential oils´, however most essential oils in consumer products are processed with a toxic solvent, they also contain terpenes such as pine which can react with the surrounding air creating a secondary pollutant called Formaldehyde.
Colourants are another issue – blue window cleaner, yellow surface spray, green loo cleaner – all contain dye´s that are coal derived from petro-chemicals. They also serve no purpose at all when it comes to actually cleaning, some colourants contain traces of heavy metals such as arsenic which are harmful to our nervous system.
When we use these products we absorb the chemicals through our skin, we also inhale them. The chemicals released can result in the air in our homes being polluted. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that on average the air inside our homes was 2-5 more polluted than the air outside and in some extreme cases up to 100 times more polluted. Researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway published a study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine finding that regular use of cleaning sprays as little as once a week may cause a decline in lung function that’s comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day.
Aside from the disruption caused to our hormonal and nervous systems, everyday household cleaners have been linked to other health concerns such as:
If you want to learn more about any potential health risks from a particular product www.ewg.com is a great resource. It’s an American run site so a lot of the products are US specific, but you can also search by ingredient. There is also an app called Chemical Maze which is more ingredient based but another source of reliable information.
Apart from the health risks posed by some of these products, why else should you start thinking about green cleaning?
So, if you want to get rid of your shop bought products and make an immediate change for the better in your home what do you need to get started? Below is a list of the basics, with these ingredients you can make a multi-use surface spray, glass/window cleaner, bathroom cleaner, soft creamy scrub for harder stains, oven cleaner and your own dishwashing liquid.
Over the next few months we will be moving through the home, giving you recipes and DIY cleaning solutions for the kitchen, bathroom and laundry plus other tips and guidance to help you swap out your shop bought products for safe, effective and affordable home-made one´s. We will also be offering online zoom classes to help you get started so please get in touch using the email address on our contact us page if you are interested in taking part.