How to choose the best eco or green cleaning products; Global Awareness and Packaging (Part 4)

When selecting eco cleaning products, the Global Awareness step is often overlooked. Products can be safe and natural but not ‘eco’.  The decisions you make here will depend on your own views – so ask yourself:

4. Is it as environmentally friendly as possible?

Orangutans need rainforests.

Image source DeviantArt, by hatestock

Consider the many products that contain palm oil.  Palm oil may be labelled as plant oils, palmate etc. The trees that produce palm oil grow in massive plantations in places where tropical rainforests used to grow. Don’t be misled by claims that the palm oil is certified or ethically sourced. All palm oil plantations compete with rainforest for habitat. Without rainforests we are depriving animals of their habitat, the orangutan is an example. Participating in bringing about their extinction with knowledge and foresight, that’s not eco1, 2. Also, the rainforests have been described as ‘the lungs of the earth’. We need rainforests to clean the air, more than we need palm oil.

How eco is your cleaning product?

How eco is your cleaning product? Image Source DeviantArt by AleckJo

Another common ingredient which is not eco is peroxide, or oxygen whitener. Peroxide is a far better choice than chlorine or bleach (hazardous), both are used to whiten. However, the manufacture of hydrogen peroxide is energy intensive, and often derived from petrochemicals3 . Wear more coloureds, even tennis players wear colours now!

If you cannot get a local product, whenever possible select a product endorsed by a recognised Fair Trade Organisation4. Why should someone else suffer poverty on your behalf?

Do soap nuts wash your mouth out?

Soap nuts?
Image by rustedscrapmetal from DeviantArt.

Understand your product. Soap nuts, for instance, are a very eco cleaning choice in those regions where the trees grow. Be wary of claims that the soap nuts come from plantation trees; they are very slow growing trees, it takes about 10 years before they become productive. Check the species, as the seeds from the commonly used plant (Sapindus Mukorosis) are a prohibited import to Australia because it could readily become a weed5,6.  Remember too, if it is not a local product, it has already failed at step 2, buy local.  An eco-option here is to do a bit of research on the trees native to your area. Many plants have a high saponin (soap) content, and could be useful for washing.  (for example:  Alphitonia excelsa (Red Ash or Soap Tree),  an Australian native tree (and there are others), soapwort is a herb that can be used, and the roots of the Yucca contain saponin.)

5. Is the packaging ‘eco’? Packaging is also an important eco consideration:

  • Not biodegradable means forever.

    If it doesn’t biodegrade, it’s here FOREVER! Image by !M10tje from DeviantArt

    Look for products that keep packaging to a minimum.

  • Look for biodegradable packaging, recycled packaging (eg FSC paper or cardboard, soy based inks) or at the very least recycle-able packaging.
  • Buy in bulk; it saves a lot of packaging as well as being economical.
  • Buy where you can refill your own containers.
  • Buy concentrates, don’t transport water unnecessarily.

6. Do eco cleaning products work? When you see a new cleaning product advertised, or displayed at the supermarket, do you interrogate the shop assistants about the products manufacture or ingredients? Or do you just try it and see for yourself? You will find that an eco cleaning product works as well, if not better, than the toxic chemical cleaners which are so heavily advertised and ‘in your face’ available.  Do a bit of research, or just give it a go! You have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.

Scales of Justice

Image by LunaNYXstock from DeviantArt

The price and value of eco cleaning products is very competitive on a straight cost for cost basis. But there’s more to life than money, and eco cleaning products give you more benefits. Never forget that buying local boosts your own welfare, staying healthy is much cheaper than treating illness, and that the happiness of all creatures is necessary if we want to live in a wonderful world.

(If you’re in Sydney, check out our range of excellent Australian Eco cleaning products here.)

References:

  1. http://www.orangutan.org.au/
  2. http://www.orangutans.com.au/
  3.  http://naturesgreenremedy.com/are-baking-soda-hydrogen-peroxide-and-vinegar-truly-green-cleaning-products/
  4. http://www.fairtrade.com.au/ 
  5. http://www.aqis.gov.au/icon32/asp/ex_casecontent.asp?intNodeId=8559996&intCommodityId=25559&Types=none&WhichQuery=Go+to+full+text&intSearch=1&LogSessionID=0
  6. http://www.aqis.gov.au/icon32/asp/ex_casecontent.asp?intNodeId=8559977&intCommodityId=25559&Types=none&WhichQuery=Go+to+full+text&intSearch=1&LogSessionID=0

How to choose the best eco or green cleaning products; Check the ingredients! (Part 3)

The obvious thing to check when you’re buying cleaning products (and anything else) is the ingredients list. So what are those ingredients anyway? You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘Ignorance is no excuse’, it means that no one else is looking out for you, you have to be informed. The law doesn’t offer you much help if you chose to be ignorant. This step takes a little more effort, but as they say, “you’re worth it!”

Obvious signs of hazardous ingredients need to be understood!

It’s best to avoid products labelled ‘Poison’ ! Image source DeviantArt by HauntingVisionsStock

3.  Does it contain any hazardous chemicals? A Poison sign, or a caution symbol, or a flammable substance symbol, or a ‘keep out of reach’ notice; these need to be considered and understood.

Take extreme care with flamable products.

Take extreme care with flamable products, they are generally toxic. Image source DeviantArt by lilith187

If it is designed to kill insects or mould it may not be very healthy for other living things, like people, especially cute little people, or pets.

Keep in mind that people or animals with a lower body weight can tolerate a much smaller amount of chemicals before they are affected. Someone a quarter your size gets a dose of chemicals 4 times what you get (proportionately).

Checking the ingredients is really important. If you need help (and who doesn’t?), get a copy of The Chemical Maze, in Book form or The Chemical Maze App (iPhone).

The Chemical Maze App

The Chemical Maze App is easy to have on hand.

Chemical Maze - Complete Edition -The ultimate shopping guide to decode the Food Additives and Cosmetic Ingredients Maze - Gridstone Pty Ltd The Chemical Maze is an indispensable and quick and easy reference for looking up the ingredients in food and cosmetics. The cosmetics section covers most cleaning ingredients. Yes, we put the same sorts of chemicals on our faces as we use to clean our floors! (All for the sake of beauty or fashion.) The internet is of course a great way to research ingredients too. Make sure you go to reputable sites, preferably university research papers or one of the not-for-profit groups’ chemical indexes.

If the ingredients appear acceptable, consider the confidence you have in the manufacturer. Cleaning products only need to have 80% of their ingredients listed. So if there’s anything a bit ‘iffy’ in that 80%, you can be sure the undeclared 20% is not going to be better! To find out about the other 20%, you need to approach the manufacturer and ask for a full ingredients declaration, or ask for a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). The MSDS will give details of possible hazards, which will indicate how safe it is.

Heed the warnings on packaging!

This warning label was on a box of wire. Not all manufacturers are as socially responsible in declaring the hazards of using their products.  Image source DeviantArt by JennyAnyStock

When you’ve followed the three steps outlined so far, you’ll have culled most of the greenwash products. Your shortlist of products will be modern, locally made and have healthy ingredients. But there’s more to consider, see part 4 of this series.

How to choose the best eco or green cleaning products: Buy Local (Part 2)

You’ve decided to switch to nontoxic, Eco cleaning products, but how do you start? The first Part of this series covered going 21st century, using modern science. This is Part 2, the next step to choosing the best Eco or green cleaning products, ask yourself:

It's time to do the laundry!

Fred the Cocker Spaniel, helping with the laundry! Image rights: Donna Kelly

2. Is it made locally? Buying local is very important if you want to consider your product eco! You’ve heard of food miles? The same applies to cleaning product miles; and in fact all FMCGs (Fast Moving Consumer Goods, or supermarket items)  For us in Australia that means not imported from anywhere further away than Sydney to Perth. A cleaning product which has traveled a long way (some travel half way around the world) is in no way Eco. It may be safe and natural, but not environmental. There are very effective, safe and natural cleaning products made locally. Why would you bring a litre of something that is mostly water, half way around the world, just so you can wash your smelly socks? If anyone is going to do any traveling, it’s going to be me, not my laundry liquid!

There are many more reasons for buying local, so if you need further convincing, here goes: We have laws regarding wages and work conditions, laws for ingredient declaration and laws for truth in advertising and labeling, laws for permitted ingredients and we have weights and measures regulations. Whilst these laws can still be improved on, we have better controls than some other places and there are some ingredients which are allowed to be used elsewhere but not (or no longer) allowed here. And if you encounter a problem with a product, there are avenues for recourse. Last but not least, waste is controlled by local regulation, so you can be more confident that rivers are not being polluted just so that you can do your cleaning.

There is also the very timely issue that buying local is better for the economy. We need jobs locally, and we really need to keep some manufacturing industry locally.

So use some Eco Common Sense and buy ‘Local, Local, Local!’, wherever you are. (Of course if you’re in Sydney, check out our range of excellent and Australian Eco cleaning products here.)

How to choose the best eco cleaning products; 21st Century style! (Part 1)

Deciding to switch to non toxic cleaning products is easy.

Do you wear safety gear when cleaning?

That ‘clean’ smell could be damaging your respiratory system! Think of Health and Safety at home.
Image Source DeviantArt by WWGMwC1

That ‘clean’ smell, which you know is chlorine bleach, or ammonia, is damaging your respiratory system and who knows what else! So switch to non-toxic cleaners, it’s not scary or hard! But where do you start? How can you tell if it’s ‘greenwash’? What are those ingredients anyway? And how do you know it will clean properly?

In the first part of this series which helps you choose the best eco or green cleaning products, ask yourself:
1.    Is it 21st century? You can opt to clean the old-fashioned way using Bicarb Soda and Vinegar to replace some of your cleaning products, it just requires a bit of preparation time and a little effort scrubbing.

Not all old-fashioned cleaning methods are safe.

Old-fashioned cleaning methods require a bit of effort, and are not always safe by modern standards.
Image Source: DeviantArt by GothicBohemianStock

However, don’t think that old fashioned is the same as safe and natural; not all old-fashioned cleaning recipes are safe.  For example cleaning glass with Methylated spirits and newspaper is not such a good idea; Methylated Spirit is toxic and flammable, so it is dangerous to have around the house.

Eco cleaning products use modern science and safe ingredients to clean, without the old fashioned hard work.

Look for products which are safe and natural, biodegrade quickly, and are formulated to clean easily and effectively.
A good Eco cleaning product does not kill the garden if you use the waste water (grey water) to water the plants.

More details

Natural Mould Removal

Mould thrives in damp, humid conditions, the sort of conditions frequently felt in Sydney! Mould spores can present a health hazard, especially for people with respiratory issues such as asthma, and it is best to deal with the problem quickly. Fortunately, there are several natural mould removal options for you to chose from. Avoid using strong and unnecessary chemicals, they have a whole different range of health issues!

There are 3 natural products that perform really well.

Lencia Bathroom mould and mildew cleaner

Lencia removes mould and mildew from bathrooms.

First, I can recommend Lencia, made in NSW by Citrus

Lencia dilution bottle with foaming trigger

Lencia spray bottle with foaming trigger.

Resources Lencia is specifically designed to address bathroom mould. Lencia contains a natural mildecide and fungicide, and is extremely economical. It is available in a 1 Litre or 5 Litre concentrate, and is used in a 1 in 10 dilution. This means that you use just 50ml in a 500ml spray bottle! I recommend the specially marked spray bottle, it is calibrated, which means it has markings showing 50ml, 100ml, 150ml etc on the side of the bottle, and it has a foaming trigger, so the froth stays put on the wall when you spray it. It also has the full instructions printed on the bottle. It can be used in other areas of the house, such as on paths that have become slippery and black, or on exterior paintwork that has developed a green hue!

Fungiver Mould and Mildew Remover

Fungiver Mould and Mildew Remover

The second is a more expensive but very effective spray called Fungiver. Fungiver will also lighten any staining that has resulted from mould.

The third is Clove Oil – in 25ml or 5ml bottle. Clove Oil is particularly

Clove Oil

Use Clove Oil to kill mould on leather and wood.

useful if you have leather shoes, bags or jackets that have developed mould. You can use a few drops of clove oil on a damp cloth, the mould will wipe off the leather, and get killed in the process. There is an added bonus of a very yummy fresh smell! You can also put a few drops of clove oil in some water, and rinse your wash cloth in that, then clean the mould away.  Clove oil is also good for removing mould from timber furniture or decorative items, a common problem with furniture and artifacts which have come from the tropics.

There are ‘common’ remedies for mould, which also work and are part of the natural bicarb soda and vinegar cleaning routine. The basic premise is that acid kills mould. Vinegar is an acid commonly found in most homes (get some cheap vinegar, dont waste the balsamic!). Do a test patch on leathers and wood to make sure you don’t damage the surface.