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Green Spring Cleaning: Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Apr 18, 2017 12:14PM ● Published by Linda Ditch

Spring-cleaning season has arrived. Do you know what’s in your cleaning products? Most people don’t. There are a number of chemicals in conventional cleaners, and many are known to be toxic when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Since most products don’t list ingredients to protect trade secrets, your household cleaners may have only general warning labels to protect you from harm.

In addition, did you know that petroleum is often part of the cleaning-product ingredient mix? It’s used to produce surfactants, which allow oils and dirt to be suspended in water. The term comes from the phrase “surface active agents.” Surfactants are commonly found in surface cleaners and laundry and dish detergents.

In contrast, eco-friendly cleaners are made primarily with plant-based ingredients. For example, essential oils and herbs are used for a nice, clean scent, and instead of petroleum-based surfactants, green cleaners use coconut oil, soybean oil, or cornstarch. (The companies list what is inside their products either directly on the package or on their websites.)   

The benefits to buying eco-friendly cleaning products

  1. A better environment outside: When you use any cleaning product, it’s released into the environment either through fumes in the air or as a liquid down the drain. Natural cleaning products are biodegradable and break down in the environment. Also, many are sold in recyclable packaging made from recycled plastic.
  2. A better environment indoors: Have you ever felt the need to open a window or leave a room because of the fumes from a cleaner? Green cleaners have strict guidelines to protect against toxicity from fumes and from skin absorption. The aromas from green cleaning products come from natural essential oils. (Note: While green cleaners are non-toxic, some of the natural elements used in their formulation can be very strong and should not be ingested or come in contact with skin or eyes. It is important to read labels to avoid problems.)
  3. Better health: A 2010 study by the New York State Department of Health found that cleaning women who became pregnant had a higher risk of delivering a baby with birth defects. Moreover, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a number of studies suggest a link between standard cleaning supplies and asthma. Some products also contain ingredients such as 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde, which are thought to be human carcinogens. (Visit the EWG’s website for more details, www.ewg.org.)

Besides producing safer cleaning products, most green companies also support other Earth-friendly causes. They have energy-efficient factories and pledge not to test their products on animals, and most strive to obtain their ingredients from sustainable sources. In addition, they contribute to other environmental causes and are the driving force behind promoting eco-friendly policy changes in Washington, DC.

Most convention supermarkets such as Hannaford, Shaw’s, Price Chopper, and Walmart now offer green cleaning products. However, you may find a bigger selection at the Co-op Market or at Hanover's The Coop. And chances are the employees at the co-ops use green cleaning products and can point you in the right direction to find products that fit your specific needs. 

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