Green Wheel Keeps On Turning: What’s in Your Cleaning Products?
Not long after I spoke to Megan, I caught up with Helen who has recently launched Green Wheel Cleaners, a specifically non toxic cleaning service in Victoria BC. Helen offered me an article for my website Victoria Mom discussing toxins in everyday cleaning products. You can see for yourself that this article is informative and very well researched, so I thought to follow on from last week, I’d put a quick fire round of questions to Helen for my UsedEverywhere readers. Helen’s knowledge on this subject is quite something.
Okay Helen, so let’s talk cleaning products. What we see on the shelves in our local supermarket, is it all toxic?
No. There are non-toxic products out there. As people become more educated about the possible dangers of conventional cleaners, we are seeing an increased number of healthier cleaners in the supermarkets. The problem for customers is that not all products that claim to be green and eco-friendly are non-toxic. In fact not all products that claim to be non-toxic are non-toxic. Terms like “natural”, “green” and “eco-friendly” are used so often within the industry, there is even a term for this kind of marketing; it is called “greenwashing”. CBC’s Marketplace did an investigation into greenwashing, and it makes for very interesting reading. You can read it here.
The problem is that all these terms are unregulated. There is not a single standard system in place that defines the terms. Earlier this year The David Suzuki Foundation did a survey of over 10,500 Canadians and asked them about the cleaning products in their homes. They found that only 42% of products contained a complete list of ingredients. 70% of the products claimed to be green, even though only 47% had any kind of third party eco-certification. Take for example the product Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner. This product is labeled as non-toxic, but none of the ingredients are labeled on the bottle. The cleaner actually contains 2-butoxyethanol, which is listed by Environment Canada as a toxic health hazard. The company that makes the cleaner states that the product was tested and found to be non-toxic by independent labs. This has caused many people to call into question the interpretation of the term non-toxic.
My advice is to choose non-toxic products that voluntarily disclose all their ingredients. Also look out for a third party eco-certification labels like EcoLogo, Ecocert or Green Seal
Are there particular ingredients in these products that we should avoiding?
Yes. Too many to list here unfortunately, but here are a few:
- Anything that containing an artificial fragrance.
- Glycol ethers, including, 2-butoxyethanol also known as butyl cellosolve
- Monothanolamine (MEA)
- Alkylphenolethoxylates (APEs)
- Ammonium Quarternary Compounds
- Chlorine Bleach
Of these ingredients, which are the worst offenders in terms of risking our health and our family’s health?
Artificial fragrances are really bad news, especially in spray form. The fragrances themselves are made up of any number of toxic chemicals including benzene, toluene and xylenes. The substances that carries these fragrances, phthalates, are also toxic, and have been linked to health issues including organ damage; damage to sperm; reduced sperm count and asthma.
Glycol ethers which include 2-butoxyethanol are also of huge concern. The Environmental protection agency in the U.S stated that glycol ethers have been liked to fertility and reproduction issues; cancer; damage to red blood cells and damage to liver, kidney and lymphoid systems.
Formaldehyde is also something you really don’t want to expose yourself to. As well as nausea and headaches it has been linked to a number of cancers and has been shown to cause asthma.
To find links to some of the research on toxic cleaning ingredients, visit my article on the Victoria Mom website Does Clean Mean Healthy?
A lot of people might think that all natural cleaning products aren’t as effective. What would you say to that?
The question people have to ask themselves is why they clean? If the purpose of cleaning is to create a healthier and more pleasant environment in our homes and work spaces, then conventional toxic cleaners are not only less effective than natural cleaners in achieving this, but they actively create unhealthy environments
What would you recommend people use in their homes to provide effective but safe cleaning?
White Distilled Vinegar – kills bacteria and mold, cuts grease, deodorizes and removes stains.
Baking Soda – can be used as a natural abrasive, a deodorizer, and can neutralize bacteria.
Castile Soap – an all-natural soap made from olive oil, this soap lifts dirt without any hidden harmful ingredients.
Essential oils – Not only do essential oil leave a nice natural fragrance, but lots of essential oils contain antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic properties.
Urban Fusion cleaning products – Urban Fusion is a local Victoria company that produce amazingly effective natural cleaning products. They grow their own organic plants and herbs, and fuse them with equally natural ingredient to produce their cleaning range.
Microfiber cloths and mops – The increased surface area of the microfiber cloths and mops make them extra efficient at capturing bacteria, dust and dirt.
Steam cleaner – I use a steam cleaner for really tough jobs. The steam blasts through dirt and kills bacteria and germs. No cleaning product needed.
Green Wheel Cleaners are a residential and corporate cleaning company with all natural products, what inspired you to be all natural.
Until a few years ago, I always used conventional cleaners about the house. I just accepted the dizziness I felt when cleaning with these chemicals, as well as the irritation I felt in my eyes and nose. Then I tried natural alternatives and I found they were just as effective and left me with no adverse side effects. That was when I really started doing my research. After educating myself about the dangers of toxic cleaners, the decision to use all natural products was a very easy one. My health, my employees’ health and the health of my clients was my top priority.
Okay and quickfire..
- Best way to remove red wine from your carpet? Do not let the wine dry. Act immediately and dab the wine with an absorbent cloth. Put a small amount of carbonated water or just pain water on the stain and dap again. Repeat until no more wine is being removed. Then add more water and apply a baking soda/water paste. Leave to dry then vacuum off. If it is an older stain try soaking first in an equal part solution of lemon juice and water.
- Best way to clean windows? For interior windows I use Urban Fusion’s Glass Cleaner, but a vinegar solution and microfiber polishing cloths also works well. For dirtier exterior windows wash with warm water and a little Castile soap. To prevent soap scum forming, then spray with a vinegar solution and use a squeegee to wipe clean.
- Best way to clean your bath? I love using Urban Fusion’s Tub Scrub. It is a great natural abrasive and cuts grease well. It also rinses to a great shine. In terms of tools you can use, I really like the Likewise soft scrubber
- Best way to clean an oven? With microfiber cloths.
- Best all round cleaner to have in the home at all times? Urban Fusion’s All Purpose Cleaner. Oh and their Glass Cleaner.