In our quest to rid our homes of dirt, bacteria, mould and dust, we have developed more and more harsh chemicals and powerful cleaning products for our homes. However, it is now slowly being realised that these same products contain many chemicals which pose a threat to both our health and that of the environment. For example, many cleaning products contain volatile organic compound (VOC’s) which are toxic if ingested yet these are released into the air of our homes and then inhaled or absorbed through our skin. Similarly, they can have a drastic impact on our environment when they are leaked out through our drains into the watercourses – they contaminate the environment and threaten the animal and plant life around us.
Thankfully, there are now an increasing number of eco-friendly cleaning products which do not use hazardous chemicals to provide their cleaning ability. Instead, they use a combination of non-toxic, fully-biodegradable compounds and natural ingredients with traditionally acknowledged properties, such as herbs and plant extracts. Some British companies which produce environmentally-friendly cleaning products include Bio-D, Faith in Nature, Ecover and E-Cloth Cleaners.
Packaging is another aspect to consider and a way you can cut down on environmental impact. Opt for refills and large package sizes, as these tend to reduce the proportion of packaging and therefore are a more eco-friendly buying choice. Almost all aerosols of cleaning products are now free of ozone-damaging CFC’s and have swapped to more eco-friendly propellants instead but always check just to be sure. Also, remember that even with these measures, cans in general are harder to recycle and usually represent a higher proportion of packaging to product so if possible, try to avoid aerosols and opt for the liquid or powder form of the same product instead.
When choosing environmentally-friendly cleaning products, the key is to avoid anything which contains bleach. If this is not possible, then at least try to opt for a product which uses chlorine-free bleach. In addition, choose a fragrance-free product if possible – a lot of synthetic fragrances and artificial musks contain substances which can be irritants and can also build up inside our bodies to unhealthy levels.
There is actually no need to buy “anti-bacterial” products for the normal home setting – in fact, by excessively using chemicals to kill bacteria, we may be inadvertently creating more problems, either in the form of resistant bacteria or in decreased immunity in ourselves and our children.
There are now a range of companies in the UK selling eco-friendly cleaning products. One of the most popular brands, seen in most supermarkets, is Ecover; another popular brand is Bio-D. Many supermarkets are now also producing their own versions of eco-friendly cleaning products, such as “Tesco Naturals” – these will often be just as effective but cheaper!
Finally, don’t forget that many household items can make very good, natural, eco-friendly cleaning solutions. So if you have the time and inclination, you can try your hand at making your own environmentally-friendly cleaning products using ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda.