Eco-friendly House Cleaning Tips

Looking for house cleaning tips?

One of the most important home cleaning tips you can pick up is really to clean your home in an environmentally friendly manner.

As you shall see in the next section on the reasons for choosing to use green household cleaners, the benefits are not only for yourself and your loved ones, the benefits are also for your beloved pets (if you have any), as well as the environment (which will in turn have a large impact on you and your loved ones).

Eco-friendly House Cleaning Tips 1:
Choose eco-friendly home cleaning products

The first house cleaning tips is to choose to use environmentally friendly house cleaning products.

In recent times, studies done on conventional house cleaning products reveal the presence of large quantities and varieties of chemical ingredients that are harmful not only to humans that come into contact with the chemicals, they are also harmful to animals and the environment.

For example, according to Dr Mercola (a medical doctor turned health activist), Phthalates disrupt the endocrine systems and have been found to damage sperms and cause reproductive defects in boys.

Volatile organic compounds (or VOCs), including 1,4-dichlorobenzene can cause asthma.

Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (or NPEs) can cause damages to the liver and kidneys, as well as reproductive defects. According to Los Angeles Times, in 2006, Wal-Mart announced that it would avoid stocking products that contain the NPEs. The use of these chemicals in cleaning products is also limited by regulations in Canada and the European Union.

Phosphates can cause algae proliferation in water bodies, and destroy marine ecology and cause water pollution through a process known as eutrophication. Since the 1970s, several states in U.S. have banned the use of phosphates in detergents.

In contrast, eco-friendly home cleaning products usually contain natural ingredients that break down rapidly after use or pose less harm to humans and the environment as compared to conventional cleaning products.

Some manufacturers of “green” cleaning products even take further steps in environmental conservation, such as by making use of recycled or recyclable materials in packaging or employing testing processes that does not involve the use of animals.

That explains the first and most important eco-friendly house cleaning tips – choosing to use green cleaning products.

Eco-friendly House Cleaning Tips 2:
Beware the household goods industry

Before you start purchasing your “green” household cleaning products, there’s something you must know as one of the eco-friendly house cleaning tips.

Keeping homes (or offices, or buildings, etc) clean has always been a big business. That is why when more and more people started turning to eco-friendly and natural cleaning products in recent years because of increased awareness of the potential health and environmental dangers of conventional cleaning agents, many of the players in the (conventional) cleaning products market like Clorox started to introduce earth friendly versions of cleaning products into the market, alongside with the conventional cleaning agents they already carry. These conventional companies, too, wanted a share of the pie.

Labels like “eco”, “environmentally friendly”, “biodegradable” and “natural”, etc started appearing on the containers of household cleaning products. And these products were well received by green consumers, many of whom wanted to keep their homes safe and/or do their part for the environment. In fact, according to SPINS, Inc (a market research and consulting firm for the for the natural products industry), as cited in the Los Angeles Times, the sale of natural cleaning products added up to $105 million between April 2007 to 2008. And according to, Clorox Green Works achieved its 40 million dollar market share one year from introducing its green cleaning products in early 2008.

However, possibly unknown to many green cleaning product consumers, the “green” cleaning products that they are purchasing off the shelf may not exactly be “green”, nor safe for their homes or the environment.

For example, studies by the Organic Consumers Association and David Steinman (environmental health consumer advocate) between 2007 and 2010 found 1,4-dioxane in many household cleaning products, including those of several leading “organic” and “natural” cleaning brands.

And what was most disturbing was that the presence of the chemical in the supposedly “green” products was not disclosed, i.e. it was not indicated in the ingredients list on the product labels.

Since the announcement of the study results, several responsible brands had followed up to clean up the 1,4-dioxane found in their “green” cleaning products.

However, there are some important lessons as eco-friendly house cleaning tips to learn from the incident:

  • Consumers need to be aware that the household goods industry is largely unregulated.

  • In other words, manufacturers of household goods like household cleaning products, both conventional and “green” ones, are not required by law to list down all their ingredients on their product labels.

  • Hence, the absence of a substance on the ingredient list hence does not mean that the substance is absent from the product.

  • Another one of the eco house cleaning tips is watch out for marketing ploys. Just because a cleaning product is marketed as “eco-friendly” or “green” by its company does not necessarily make it “green”. Some “green” claims and eco labels really mean nothing. Even if only natural or plant-based ingredients are used, the label “natural” or ‘plant-based” does not guarantee safety for its users. For example, petroleum distillates (e.g. benzene, or 1,4 dioxane) are naturally occurring substances, but they have been found to be carcinogenic. “Natural” and “plant-based” ingredients (e.g. pine oil, limonene) can also cause skin irritation or trigger allergic reactions.

  • There might be some “green” claims on product labels that are actually about the packaging, not the product itself. So one of the green house cleaning tips is that you should read the fine prints on product labels carefully to detect the attempts to confuse you.

  • In fact, according to Matt Kohler, brand manager for Green Works, as cited in Los Angeles Times, "any fly-by-night company can take a drizzle of lemon oil, pour it over a vat of chemicals and call it a natural cleaner."

  • According to consumer advocate, Sloan Barnett (author of Green Goes with Everything), as cited in Westport News, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only requires cleaning product manufacturers to list ingredients which are “known” as active disinfectants or are potentially harmful. However, because the government does not test the safety of these ingredients, nor require manufacturers to test them, the list of “known” harmful ingredients is rather limited. Moreover, based on the 1976’s Toxic Substances Control Act, the EPA does not have the powers to require the manufacturers to prove the safety of their products unless EPA could provide evidence that the product poses a health or environmental risk. This is something the EPA would probably not have the resource to do, since the agency has to process about 2000 new applications yearly.

Eco-friendly House Cleaning Tips 3:
Read the product labels carefully

Even though the product labels on “green” house cleaning products might not be totally trustable, it is still important to look at the label carefully, especially the ingredient list. This is another one of the important eco house cleaning tips.

Despite limited knowledge on the ingredients in cleaning products that can be harmful, there are some chemicals that have already been “known” to be harmful. So when manufacturers list them in the ingredient lists, it would really be unwise to ignore them.

As a “green” house cleaning tips, the following are some “known” chemicals to avoid, in both your conventional or eco cleaning products:

  • 2-Butoxyethanol (according to Green Med Info, the chemical causes liver, kidney and lymphoid system damages from chronic exposure, as well as destroys red blood cells and cause reproductive defects.)
  • Ammonia (exposure to high concentrations of gaseous ammonia can cause lung damage and death)
  • Chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) (overexposure may cause dizziness, central nervous system depression and cardiac arrhythmia)
  • Chlorine (irritates the eyes, nose and throat)
  • Ethanolamines (irritates and sensitizes the skin, may cause occupational asthma)
  • Formaldehyde (CH2O) (highly corrosive, as little as 30 ml can kill death in humans, is a carinogen)
  • Glycol Ethers (may lead to low sperm count in men, chronic exposure could cause anemia and fatigue, while acute exposure severe liver and kidney damage)
  • Petroleum distillates, including benzene and 1,4 dioxane (mentioned above)
  • Phosphates (mentioned above)
  • Phthalates (mentioned above)

Besides taking a close look at the ingredient list, an eco house cleaning tips by the EPA is for consumers to check directly with manufacturers on their green claims.

Other than available information on the products, as a useful “green” house cleaning tips, consumers can also look at the strategic priorities and policy directions of the organizations producing the cleaning products in question. These priorities and policies (such as a focus on integrity or environmental protection, over profit-making) could give consumers a sense of the authenticity of the product labels and information provided by the organizations.

In addition, consumers could also check for product participation in accreditation and other product labeling programs like the Design for the Environment (DfE). A product carrying the DfE logo, for example, has been reviewed by the DfE scientific team for harmful ingredients and has been found to contain only ingredients that are least harmful in their class of chemicals.

If all the information on all the various types of “green” cleaning products are too much for you to digest, and you just want a simple recommendation to start with, then you might want to consider using Dr Bronner’s and Seventh Generation. My family has been using these brands for some time and we have found them relatively trustable. But before you take my word totally, the least you can and should do, for yourself and your family, would still be to find out a bit more about these brands.

Eco-friendly House Cleaning Tips 4:
Make your own cleaning products

The greatest control that you have over the type of ingredients that goes into your house cleaning products is really, to make your own cleaning products.

So under this fourth house cleaning tips, we will be sharing on how you can use commonly found substances in your house or the stores to clean your house, in a safe and effective way.

One of the most useful eco house cleaning tips you can learn about is the amazing cleaning properties of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate). It is often used for cooking, cleaning of teeth (neutralizes acid in the mouth, prevents infections and serves as a mechanical cleaner) and as a mechanical exfoliant of dead cells on the skin. In addition, baking soda can be used to scrub your bath and kitchen surfaces. When used together with vinegar, it can unclog drains, and remove foul smell from dry carpets (just sprinkle, wait, then vacuum). Baking soda in warm water can also be used to clean silver (when the silver is in contact with a piece of aluminum foil), and even soften fabric in your laundry. And these are but just some uses of baking soda.

The cleaning property of vinegar (mainly acetic acid or ethanoic acid) is another one of the useful eco house cleaning tips you should know. Because of its acidic and mild anti-bacteria properties, vinegar can be used for many cleaning purposes. White vinegar is used to dissolve away mineral deposits on surfaces, such as floors, windows, bath and kitchen surfaces. A micro fibre cloth dapped with malt vinegar can be used to clear away grease or handprints from window panes and mirrors. Vinegar can also be used as a weedkiller. Note however that concentrated vinegar can be corrosive –after all, vinegar is an acid. So be careful when handling vinegar of high concentrations (ie. 10% and above).

The lemon is also another useful thing to have around the house. To share an eco house cleaning tips, I have successfully used lemons to clean new pots and pans as well as remove the stubborn white stains on my toilet floors. Give it a try yourself and see the results.

If you are looking for green and safe house cleaning tips to wash your laundry, try the soup nuts. These nuts are actually dry fruits of the soapberry tree. Since they are merely fruits (don’t try to eat them though), you can trust that they are renewable and biodegradable. In fact, they have been used for washing for thousands of years by the Chinese and Ayurvedics. I too have been using these soap nuts for my laundry, and they are just as effective as the conventional laundry products. Just be sure to keep the nuts firmly secured in a cloth bag as it gets spun around in the washing machine.

Another eco house cleaning tips is that essential oils like lavender and tea tree oil have anti-bacterial qualities. So they can be used to replace conventional air freshener, at the same time assist to detoxify the air in your home – safely.

But that is not all. Nature has equipped us with many natural and non harmful tools to clean ourselves and homes effectively. Click here for more house cleaning tips in making your own household cleaners.

Eco-friendly House Cleaning Tips 5:
Keeping your cleaning tools clean

The washing sponge and kitchen rag are two of the most used tools in the kitchen, and they are also two of the most germs-filled tools you can in the kitchen.

According to University of Florida News in 2007 , a team of engineering scientists found that putting your (wet) kitchen sponge or rag into the microwave for 2 minutes at full power mode could kill about 99% of the living pathogens (e.g. bacteria, virus, parasites, etc) on that sponge or rag.

So if you have a microwave, don’t use it to cook your food (as it is harmful to health). Instead, a useful eco house cleaning tips would be to use your microwave to sterilize your kitchen sponge or rag.

Note that the sponge or rag must be completely WET for it to work (i.e. kill the pathogens). In this way, you can also avoid the dangers of your sponge or rag catching fire within the microwave. The sponge should also not have any metallic content. Be careful when removing the sterilized sponge or cloth from the microwave as they might be hot after the sterilization process.

Eco-friendly House Cleaning Tips 6:
Learn more from others

Do you know that there are organizations like the Women’s Voices for the Earth (a nonprofit group based in Missoula, Montana) that take a special interest in spreading the word on the dangers of conventional as well as non trustworthy “green” cleaning brands? To educate women on making their own natural and safe household cleaners, the group actually holds “green cleaning parties” for women across the country. Sign up for one and learn from others who have learnt themselves. Then move on to teach others.

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