We spend a lot of time cleaning and disinfecting our homes. When looking for cleaners, we choose products we think are effective at removing dirt, stains and bacteria. But very often, the products we use daily on the surfaces of our homes contain harsh and toxic chemicals including acids, alcohol, fragrances and dyes. Most of us pacify ourselves about our usage of these products thinking we only use a tiny volume, we keep these products away from children and pets and take care to use them with care.
However, what we forget is that while they may get rid of stains and germs, the cleaners in our homes repeatedly expose us to chemicals. And, if you use a variety of cleaners for different purposes, the greater is your exposure to multiple chemicals. Because manufacturers are legally protected from disclosing their product ingredients, customers never have complete information about what their cleaners contain. With every new cleaner, you bring in – whether it’s an oven spray or a fabric softener – a whole lot of unknown chemicals enter your home.
Chemicals in most Cleaners May have Adverse Health Effects
Substances found in these products commonly include corrosives, phthalates, hydrocarbons, synthetic fragrances, optical brighteners and dyes. In recent years, several studies have shown that continuous exposure to certain household chemicals through air, water or food could have adverse health effects of the skin and the respiratory tract. The health risks go up significantly among those engaged in regular or professional cleaning as the chemicals accumulate in our bodies, stored in our brain, soft tissues and bones.
Today, as awareness of the risks of exposure to household chemicals increases, the market is responding with cleaners that claim to be natural, chemical-free, safe and eco-friendly. But what do these cleaners contain and how do they stack up against their conventional counterparts?
It is important to know that in the absence of regulation or a sound definition around the use of terms like’natural’ and ‘herbal’ in household cleaning products, the terms are often used loosely without brands being required to provide a complete ingredients list or environmental effectiveness data and reports of toxicity tests. The onus of obtaining a green seal or eco-certification is voluntary and lies with the brand.
That said, it is close to impossible to find a cleaner that is chemical-free. Even vinegar and baking soda, common kitchen ingredients that double as safe cleaning agents, are chemicals.
So how do you pick a cleaning product that’s both safe and effective?
Look for products that clean, not just deodorise
Cleaning and deodorising are not the same thing. Many of the toilet cleaners we use today only mask foul odours using synthetic fragrances without addressing the root of the problem. Find a cleaner that breaks down the root cause of the foul odour. The Better Home toilet cleaner, for instance, contains eco- friendly surfactants that penetrate the pores of the surface and destroy organic matter, thus eliminating the source of dirt and odour. The floor cleaner cleans by loosening the dust and grime making it easy to wipe off giving a deep- cleaning effect every time.
Does your product clean or disinfect?
Commonly used phenol-based floor cleaners work more as germicides than cleaners. This means it kills germs and bacteria – both good nad bad. What an average home needs is a cleaner that removes germs rather than destroying them. This is because our immune systems become stronger with routine exposure to microorganisms in our environment. Yes, a little dirt is a good thing. By using strong disinfectants daily and completely removing organisms from our homes, we run the risk of stunting our immune systems and reducing their ability to respond to allergies and respiratory illnesses in time.
Don’t fall for foam
We are so accustomed to seeing clouds of froth and bubbles in ads for cleaning products that we’ve come to equate a product’s effectiveness with how much foam it produces. While foam gives us the feeling that our cleaners are working, the amount of foam a product produces actually has nothing to do with its cleaning power. The more foam there is, the harder it is to rinse what you’re cleaning, and the more water it takes to wash off all the foam. Moreover, harsh chemicals such as phosphates are needed to produce that lather, all of which end up draining into our water bodies and polluting them.
A good cleaner is also good for the environment
The harsh chemicals in most household cleaners pollute water by supporting the growth of algae that deprives marine animals and plants of oxygen through the process of eutrophication. They also emit dangerous compounds that can pollute indoor air. An eco-friendly cleaner, on the other hand, is one that is non-toxic i.e. it does not pollute waterways or destroy marine ecosystems.
The Better Home laundry liquid contains ingredients that are naturally biodegradable and can be easily removed by wastewater treatment plants before flowing into water bodies. The wastewater from The Better Home floor cleaner is safe enough to be reused for gardening.
Keep bleach at bay
Not only is bleach toxic and corrosive by itself, but it also reacts with kitchen fumes and other cleaners, including vinegar, to produce noxious gases that pollute the air in our homes. Look for cleaners that are free of bleach and corrosive substances.
The bottom line is that the lack of regulation around natural, non-toxic cleaners combined with the lack of information about product ingredients, makes it important for consumers to be vigilant when buying household cleaners. Read label ingredients, claims and fine print carefully. Avoid using multiple cleaning products, thus cutting down the number of chemicals your body is exposed to. Use each cleaner carefully and only for its intended purpose without combining it with other products.