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How to Get Started Using Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

We all have to clean our homes and laundry, which results in more than £1 billion being spent on household cleaning products in the UK each year.  However, many of these products contain chemicals that can harm your health and the environment. 

If you have ever found yourself rushing out of the bathroom coughing and gasping for air while using cleaning products then you know what I am talking about.  Afterwards, the chances are you are also left with sore eyes or a skin irritation, or even both!

Now imagine how those poor fish feel when they have no place to escape the chemicals.  Yes, chlorine stinks for them too, but it does more than that.  Many cleaning products such as detergents, glass and oven cleaners, contain bioactive molecules that are detrimental to the environment but essential for the product to be effective.   

This is how it happens- Household waste water from sinks, toilets, washing machines and baths drains into sewers. This waste water then flows to treatment works, and afterwards to rivers, lakes and seas.  Most chemicals get removed during treatment, but some inevitably end up in rivers and the sea where they can harm wildlife.

Next time you see a new cleaning product advertised on TV that sounds too good to be true, it probably is!  Think twice, not only will it be full of molecules that have a negative effect on ecosystems, but also it’s more than likely been tested on animals during development.

The good news is that powerful, efficient, non-toxic cleaning is not a myth.  There are companies out there who, as well as having a Fixed Cut Off Date Animal Testing Policy, have developed natural, biodegradable household products that are safe for you, your family and have minimal environmental impact on our planet.   (Our favourites are Bio-D and Earth Friendly products).

I have to admit, I was a little bit sceptical.  The consistency and smell were quite a bit different to my usual products, but I was pleasantly surprised when I didn’t feel like coughing my lungs out after cleaning the shower cubicle.   It does work, it’s efficient and I hope you are just as happy with the results as I am.

Here are few tips on how to get started:

Step 1

 Look for the danger, poison or toxic warning label.  That should be the fist sign that the product might not be as good for the environment as it would be for your shiny surface.

Step 2

Look at the ingredients. Yes, some of them are just a list of unpronounceable names.  It’s really important to read the label and follow the proper storage and disposal advice, and never pour them down the drain unnecessarily. 

In the table below you will find a list of some of the ingredients you should definitely avoid.

INGREDIENT                                                        

HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT ISSUES

Petroleum derived surfactants and waxes

 

Suspected human carcinogen (may cause cancer) contaminate blood; can damage immune, cardiovascular, reproductive, and respiratory systems

Phosphates                         

Used as water softeners and to improve cleaning, they can stimulate excessive growth of algae in the receiving waters. These algae often grow in such great numbers that the water becomes starved of oxygen, killing fish and plant life. This condition is known as eutrophication. 

E.D.T.A  (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid)

This is sometimes used as a substitute for, but also in addition to, phosphates. It is a sequestering agent that attracts heavy metals such as lead and mercury, both of which have known carcinogenic properties. These heavy metals can eventually find their way back into water supplies and are extremely difficult to remove completely.

Enzymes

Enzymes are present in all living organisms. They can and do cause severe skin irritations and asthma attacks. In the manufacturing process, enzymes can be genetically engineered and have been known to cause pulmonary haemorrhaging.

Optical Brighteners

Used in Laundry products to give an illusion of ‘whiteness’, they attach themselves to fabric to reflect ‘White Light’. Clothes only appear cleaner. Optical Brighteners are extremely difficult to biodegrade and can cause severe skin irritation. They can also cause mutations to microorganisms in receiving waters.

Chlorine Bleaches

These are contained in conventional Toilet Cleaners, Sanitizers, Nappy Powders, Washing Powders and Dishwasher Detergents. During the breakdown of these types of bleach carcinogenic, toxic substances are formed, which are akin to the banned pesticide D.D.T.

Petroleum solvents, petroleum detergents

Suspected human carcinogen, contaminate blood; can damage immune, cardiovascular, reproductive, and respiratory systems.  Can endanger plant and animal life.

1,4-dioxane                         

 

Carcinogen; may cause cancer and suppress the immune system

Formaldehyde A common preservative that can irritate skin, eye, nose mouth, throat and lung; can lead to skin allergies, asthma attacks, and pulmonary edema (fluid retention in the lungs)

Ammonia                                                  

Lung, skin and eye irritant; can cause bronchitis, pneumonia, chemical burns, cataracts, corneal damage, skin cancer

Chlorine Bleach                

Deadly; corrosive; lung, skin and eye irritant

Sodium hypochlorate           

Deadly; corrosive; lung, skin and eye irritant

Phenol

 

Highly toxic; severely irritates and burns skin, eye, nose, mouth, throat, and lungs; internal consumption can lead to circulatory collapse, convulsions, cold sweats, coma, and death

Artificial fragrances      

 

Skin irritant; headaches, sneezing, and watery eyes; induce or worsen respiratory problems

Hydrochloric acid            

 

Dissolves and destroys tender tissues; eye, nose, and throat irritant

Phosphoric acid                               

Eye, skin, and respiratory irritant; air and water pollutant

Synthetic oils                                             

 Eye irritant; asthma

Petroleum distillates

                                         

Suspected human carcinogen responsible for atmospheric emissions that contribute to global warming; can damage immune, cardiovascular, reproductive, and respiratory systems

Phthalates          

Hormone disrupters

Sulphuric acid                    

Corrosive; can cause burns, eye damage and blindness

Step 3

Why not make your own? 
For many home-cleaning chores, you can make your own cleaning products using basic cupboard ingredients.  Our recent blog post is just an example of how to get started.  Don’t be put off by thinking it’s too time consuming.  It’s really easy, inexpensive and guilt free.

Go on, give it a try!  I guarantee that you will never feel the need to go bacj using toxic products to clean your house.  Your wellbeing and the environment will benefit from your decision. 

Let’s stand united - together we can lead the way to a safer environment.  

P.S Examples of environmentally safe companies:

The Bio-D Company – order helpline – 0191 418 8209.  Products are available in over 600 stores across the UK and Eire, online and via mail order.  If you spend more than £40 in one transaction, your products will be delivered free of charge to any UK address.
Earth Friendly Products - Products are distributed in the UK by Green Brands  and available in stores throughout the UK, online and via mail order. Order helpline – 01892 616871 Greenbrands offers free UK deliver on orders over £50.  Earth Friendly also make a range of pet products.