With a viral pandemic upending all of our lives, cleaning has never been a more urgent task. In addition to the obvious aesthetic benefits of cleaning, the removal of dust, allergens and most importantly perhaps—infectious agents—is crucial to maintaining a healthful indoor environment.
As the CDC points out, routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (for example: tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, faucets, sinks) with household cleaners is not just good practice—it’s borderline essential for containment.
Just to be clear, cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs but can reduce their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
While for high-touch surfaces, it’s prudent to use a stronger disinfectant, for other areas of the home, green cleaning products still make good sense.
What is green cleaning?
Green cleaning refers to cleaning solutions and methods, such as strategies that reduce waste, that keep us and our environment healthy.
Conventional cleaners typically contain harsh chemicals can damage people’s skin, cause allergic reactions and compromise indoor air quality, triggering asthma. Ingredients in conventional cleaners also end up going down the drain, impacting waterways, and disrupting aquatic eco-systems and wildlife in general.
Get your green on
As most of us are spending a lot more times in our homes, there’s no better time than to spring clean. there’s something inherently soothing about cleaning. Wiping down surfaces, sweeping, the simple acts of tidying, are all movement and actions that can soothe our hyped-up nervous systems. when much is beyond our control, cleaning is often one of the few things we can do.
It’s hard to know what active chemicals traditional cleaning products contain, as manufacturers tend to hide the ingredients from you.
As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) says, “Many cleaning products on the market are packaged in a virtual black box,” meaning the ingredient list can be hard to locate, if it’s even on the product at all.
Here’s what to look for in a green cleaning product:
- Use of renewable resources, such as biobased solvents from citrus, seed, vegetable, and pine oils.
- Lower amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOC) that can affect indoor and outdoor air quality.
- Citric acid, peroxide, and lactic acid, all of which are mild but effective sanitizers.
- Efficient packaging (e.g., light weight, reduced volume concentrated formulas).
- Recyclable packaging and recycled-content packaging.
- Refillable bottles.
- Pump sprays rather than aerosols.
- Ready biodegradability, a definition meant to ensure that a material degrades relatively quickly in an aquatic environment.
To tell if a product is green, there are different labeling programs that classify cleaning products. Here are some labels and brands associated with green cleaning products:
- Green Seal, an independent nonprofit, uses a rigorous set of criteria and science-based testing before giving its stamp of approval. It examines health and environmental considerations, as well as performance and quality.
- Underwriters Laboratories (UL) created the UL label to indicate that a product’s entire lifecycle—from harvesting of the raw materials to disposing of the byproducts—creates minimal impact on the environment. The certification includes institutional and household cleaners, laundry detergents, hand soaps, paper products and plastic trash can liners.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice label means that every ingredient in the product has been through an EPA review to determine it is the safest in its class. More than 2,700 products such as household cleaners, hand soap, floor care products and laundry detergents hold this certification.
- If label hunting proves elusive, you can also choose brands that have long been established in the green cleaning space such as Method, Seventh Generation, Simple Green, Simple Truth, Mrs. Meyer's, Ecover, Biokleen and Better Life.