It seems like an oxymoron, but did you know that cleaning products are some of the dirtiest for our environment? Certain cleaning agents are jam-packed with chemicals. They might be great for busting dirt, grime, and stains but that are not so great for the planet. When we pile on the chemical-laden cleaners, these compounds can run off into our waterways, affecting the natural ecosystem. Sometimes evaporate into the air in the form of carbon emissions. For all of these reasons and more, we’ll outline below, it’s time to make the switch to green cleaning products!
Why Switch to Green Cleaning Products?
Unfortunately, many of the common household cleaners we rely on every day. They actually contain harsh chemicals that aren’t the healthiest or most environmentally sound choices. Giving the cleaner cabinet a total overhaul can help ensure that you’re not unknowingly introducing your family to toxic chemicals that could put undue strain on the planet’s resources.
- They’re Best for the Environment—The primary reason why everyone should reconsider cleaning with harsh, chemical agents is because it’s bad for the Earth. Chemicals commonly found in cleaning supplies, including phosphorous, nitrogen, ammonia and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), wind up in our world’s natural waterways and air. In fact, 70 percent of American streams were found to contain ingredients from laundry detergent.
- They’re Safer for Your Family—The toxic cleaning chemicals that are harmful to the environment may also be harmful to you and your pets. Products that contain these chemicals have been known to cause respiratory issues, burns, skin irritation, allergies, poisoning and death. The National Poison Control Center reported that about 11 percent of all poison exposure calls in 2016 were due to the ingestion of cleaning substances. Some chemicals in certain cleaning supplies have also been linked to cancer and hormone disruption.
- You Might Get a Better Clean—As you’ll see below, there are many third-party organizations that approve green cleaning supplies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many of these programs test and approve products for a variety of environmental qualities as well as for performance. Therefore, if you buy products with certain green certifications, you might actually get a better clean while you’re at it. Think of the certification as an all-around thumbs up.
- They Consume Fewer Resources—Traditional cleaning supply manufacturers consume significantly more nonrenewable resources than companies that make the extra effort to “go green.” In fact, many green cleaning companies use biodegradable chemicals and packaging which can be broken down and safely reintroduced into the environment.
- They’re the Safe Bet for Businesses—If you run a business, you already know that you must comply with the Environmental Protection Agency in everything you do or risk being fined or worse. Switching to approved, green cleaning products eliminates your risk of noncompliance, helping to safeguard your business and reputation. Businesses should also use eco-friendly commercial cleaning products to reduce liability with regard to the health of occupants, patients or customers.
Glossary of Clean Cleaning Certifications and Terms
When shopping for eco-friendly cleaning products, you’ll notice that different products have different certifications. These are essentially seals of approval from third-party organizations, deeming certain products safer for you, your family and the environment based on a certain set of standards. Look for products with any one or more of these labels to ensure that you get the best possible clean without harsh ingredients. Here’s what some of the most common certifications mean.
- Green Seal—As the first non-profit environmental certification program in the U.S., Green Seal is one of the most reliable signifiers that a product meets rigorous environmental, health, sustainability and performance standards. Green Seal approves products in many categories in addition to household cleaners. Make sure to choose Green Seal cleaning products if your goal is to reduce your family’s carbon footprint!
- Safer Choice—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its own criteria for approving eco-friendly cleaning products. Safer Choice, previously known as Design for the Environment, products only use intentionally added ingredients that have been evaluated by the EPA. The agency also created the Toxic Substances Control Act to govern the use of chemicals in consumer products.
- ECOLOGO—Developed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the ECOLOGO product certification program indicates that a product has been rigorously tested to ensure that its ingredients reduce environmental impacts.
- Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) Seal of Approval—The Carpet and Rug Institute has a seal of approval program designed to help consumers find the right green vacuum cleaners and product-based cleaning systems, with standards governing both performance and eco-friendliness. The CRI also has a second certification program, called Green Label Plus, that certifies carpet based on emission levels.
- Non–Toxic—Non-toxic implies that there are no toxic substances in the product that could lead to immediate or long-term health issues. The important thing to note about non-toxic products is that there is no standard governing this designation, so it could be slapped on products that actually do include toxic ingredients. It’s best to look for products with seals of approval for the safest clean.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)—You’ll often see cleaning supplies that say they contain no or low VOCs. These compounds are organic chemicals that are likely to evaporate from the liquid and enter the surrounding air (a trait called volatility), so you’ll want to avoid them at all costs.
- Natural—In any product, natural implies that its ingredients are safe and naturally occurring. In practice, the word means very little, and it certainly doesn’t mean safe or good for the environment. Remember: All of the most dangerous volatile organic compounds are also natural and organic!
As long as you stick to products that have these seals, you can be sure you’re getting the best possible clean without introducing harmful chemicals into the environment. Reducing your family’s carbon footprint starts with lessening your emissions, and one of the simplest ways you can do that is by giving your cleaning products a green upgrade!