GO GREEN OR GO HOME
Imagine something that corrosive being ingested and the damage it would do to the inside of your body
When cleaning, it is important you realize the impact of each cleaning agent you use. Some cleaners contain harmful chemicals that should be kept out of reach of children and pets. Most labels contain a warning and urge users to contact poison control if ingested. Is it really worth it to use some of these products in your home if they will be in contact with children and pets?
The most common culprits of dangerous cleaning chemicals are heavy-duty cleaners like drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and oven cleaners. You know how amazing it is that a cleaner can remove even the thickest baked-on grease or those long-lasting stains in a toilet bowl. It is because the cleaning agent literally eats away at what causes the stain. However, these cleaners do not choose what to eat away and can cause severe skin irritation or even chemical burns. Imagine something that corrosive being ingested and the damage it would do to the inside of your body. It’s important to keep these agents locked in a cabinet where they will not be accidentally ingested or sprayed on bare skin.
Certain other cleaners like detergent and air fresheners contain fragrances and other additives that also cause skin irritation, but not to the extent of these corrosive materials. These products will list the agent as “fragrance,” instead of the actual chemical. If you or a loved one has sensitive skin, try to buy products without fragrances. This will save someone who suffers from rashes or skin reactions from miserable, itchy night due to reactions from detergents.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s important for your safety and the safety of others not to mix chemicals. Anything with chlorine bleach should be kept away from cleaners whose ingredients contain ammonia or lye. When combined, these agents produce a toxic chlorine gas that may be fatal when inhaled.
Now I’m going to get a bit technical, but for good reason. Certain cleaning agents contain a chemical called alkyl phenol ethoxylates. When kept for too long or kept in direct sunlight, this chemical breaks down into alkyl phenols. Why does this matter? Alkyl phenols can alter gene function and hinder the endocrine system. Young males will mature more slowly and young females will mature quicker. Either way, these components change the way a person’s body functions and cause lasting damage to the person affected. That is why it is important to check expiration dates on cleaning products and store them in a cool, dark place according to the information on the label. It is important to keep in mind that when cleaning, you are using chemicals and these chemicals can react and change according to use and environment.
Synthetic compounds are being washed back down the drain and back into water sources and affecting different ecosystems
So many of these dangers can be avoided by substituting these harmful cleaners with more natural components. Naturally acidic components like citrus have degreasing properties similar to many chemical agents. Vinegar is also a good natural replacement to kill bacteria and germs. Baking soda is also an awesome alternative, and one that can be found already in most kitchens. Check the active ingredients of each cleaner you use and look for natural alternative that achieves the same goal whether it has to fight stains, reduce grease, or kill harmful bacteria. A word of caution: these products may be more expensive than their less safe counterparts, but keep in mind that you’re paying for safety and peace of mind. Safety is always worth a few extra bucks.
On a more global scale, certain cleaners rank higher than others in terms of how they affect the environment. Synthetic compounds are being washed back down the drain and back into water sources and affecting different ecosystems. Water treatment plants can remove a number of harmful chemicals that are washed down the drain, but not all of them can be extracted. Certain active ingredients, such as phosphates, aren’t removed during the water treatment process and are reintroduced to the environment. These components affect organisms from algae to insects to fish and beyond. The phosphates specifically affect the algae growth, causing exponential growth in ecosystems where it would normally live in much smaller quantities. This changes the whole environment for other organisms, and this is just one example of how certain cleaning agents affect the environment and produce a butterfly effect on the rest of us.
Another factor that seems to be overlooked is the amount of waste created by cleaning. If you use paper towels to clean counters or dust the coffee table, all that paper product fills our landfills. Next time, use a microfiber cloth that can be washed and reused instead of paper products that will simply be discarded . Now think of all the plastic bottles that house your cleaning agents, or worse yet, the aerosol cans. Instead of tossing then in the garbage, rinse then thoroughly and recycle them. Another wasteful problem comes from the use and misuse of cleaning equipment. Many mops and mopping products and vacuum cleaners, for example, end up in landfills. To combat that, you can invest in a durable mop as well as a washable, reusable mop head. When getting rid of an old vacuum cleaner, consider donating it. Certain companies will even accept broken vacuum cleaners and can repair them before giving them to someone less fortunate. The less waste that is sent to landfills, the better, and even better still if these household items can be reused.
It’s important to keep your home free of germs and bacteria, but it’s also important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Certain cleaners can be harmful to those you love most and even more harmful for the world in which we live. Always check ingredients and follow directions on cleaning products, looking for greener alternatives where you can find them. Keep your home clean and our world cleaner. Happy cleaning!
— Sydnie Olliff