green your cleaning

Submitted by sproutingforth on Thu, 2007-08-23 11:40

Have you noticed just how many products it takes to clean your home? From your floor to your toilet bowl, there’s a different product for every surface – sprays, antibacterial agents, tablets, powders and gels - and aside from the fact that this on its own begs the question: do we really need so many different products to clean our home? there is also the added hazard of the chemicals contained therein – more and more studies are implicating health problems associated with these chemicals.

And it isn’t just about the poisonous chemicals you are introducing into your homes and onto your skins; it’s also what you’re pouring down the drain...

Some sobering statistics:

• Of the 17 000 petrochemicals available for home use, only 30% have been tested for their affects on human health and the environment
• Of chemicals commonly found in homes, 150 have been linked to allergies, birth defects, cancer, and psychological abnormalities
• Only 1% of toxins are required to be listed on labels, because companies classify their formulas as "trade secrets".
• In the past 50 years more than 75 000 chemicals have been introduced into the environment. Today 300 synthetic chemicals are found in the bodies of humans
• Bleach, paint stripper and carpet cleaners used in the home can cause wheezing and asthma in children

The cupboard under our kitchen sink is the most toxic part of the home, and its contents, generally used without reservation, beg an urgent ethical overhaul. Going green means affecting our environment as little as possible. We’ve allowed ourselves to become a people obsessed with getting rid of germs, with dangerous consequences. It’s time to exercise our power as consumers, and find alternatives.

Alternative green brands that are non-toxic, biodegradable (although this term can sometimes be rather misleading – make sure that it’s qualified, and that the ingredients are listed) and made from resources other than petroleum-based products are fast entering the market and providing us with organic and green alternatives.

Going natural
We can also ‘go natural’ and make our own cleaning products. All one needs is white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, water, and a bit of elbow grease. Not only are these ingredients cheaper than other products on the market, they come in fairly large containers from your local supermarket – white vinegar, for instance, is available in 2 litre bottles (plastic, unfortunately, but it is recyclable).

general cleaner – white vinegar+bicarb+water - it even foams, and cleans just about anything
odour-remover - bicarb - sprinkle it on carpets to soak up smells and then vacuum; place it in a cup in your fridge or cupboards
loo freshener –water mixed with essential oils, or just add plants to a room – they act as air filters
basic bleach - hydrogen peroxide (believe it or not, this is a totally biodegradable product – we were also surprised) available from chemists [arkema] It can, however, irritate the eyes, skin and mucous membranes, so use with care
oven cleaner – dampen oven surfaces, sprinkle bicarb over surfaces and leave overnight; for stubborn dirt, use steel wool
mildew zapper – 2 tsp tea tree oil with 2 cups water – just spray on surface and leave
furniture polish – ½ tsp olive oil & ¼ cup vinegar/lemon juice – wipe on furniture with a rag – olive oil also preserves wood
toilet cleaner – ¼ cup of bicarb into toilet bowl, let it stand for about 30 mins and then scrub. You can use borax for tough stains (just keep this out of reach of little fingers)
window cleaner – 2 tsp vinegar and 500 ml water, spray on windows and wipe dry with newspaper

other niggles:

cloths and towels – paper towels and other disposable cleaning things like paper serviettes can be replaced with re-usable cloths and microfibre cloths. These are easily cleaned and don’t clog landfill. Try not to use sponges as these are not biodegradable, or look out for natural sponges from your health shop and use these instead
carpet cleaners – try to use companies that use only water or natural solvents when getting your carpets cleaned

If you enjoyed reading this green guide, then you'll also enjoy:

green your personal care
green your baby
eating & shopping organic in Jo’burg
eating & shopping organic in Cape Town

For details of organic or eco-friendly cleaning product suppliers:
cleaning products in the ubergreen organic eco directory.