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Go green with eco-friendly cleaning products

The time for Spring cleaning is almost upon us.  But when it comes to cleaning products, do you really know whether those that you are using are safe?  Unless you have specifically sought to purchase non-toxic cleaning products, chances are what you are using to scrub surfaces, clothes and yourselves are not really particularly safe for you and your family, or good for the environment.


If you are older than 30 or so, you probably remember the national Mr. Yuk campaign  (“…things marked Yuk make you sick… sick sick sick” )  intended to educate children to stay away from poisonous products.  I definitely remember those green scowling Mr. Yuk  faces on stickers all over the products my mom used around our house when I was young.  Since then, products have proliferated for every household application and most haven’t gotten any safer for you, your children or your pets.


If you have been thinking about switching to more eco-friendly cleaning products, it’s not a bad idea before that big Spring cleaning to do an inventory of what you are currently using, including your bathroom and kitchen cleaners, detergents, soaps, bleaches, cleansers, scrubbing powders,  and dusting and furniture polishing products.  You may be surprised and troubled at what you discover. And there is a good chance you will want to replace many of the current items.


When you assemble your current cleaning products, you need to be able to look beyond the advertising lingo to understand what potentially toxic chemicals are in them. Product labels can be deceiving, as a number of terms, including “chlorine-free”, “all natural”, “chemical free”, and  “non-toxic”  are unregulated.   So, you have to dig deeper to look at the actual ingredients in a product.  Often it is not easy, because the Consumer Products Safety Commission doesn’t require manufacturers to reveal their ingredients, as they are considered “trade secrets” (Nice cover, huh?).


Warnings and cautionary statements such as “work in a well ventilated area” and “may cause irritation or burns”, or instructions to contact the poison control center if ingested are surefire indicators that a product isn’t really safe.  Also be alert for products containing chlorine (sometimes listed as sodium hypochlorite or hypochlorite), glycol ether, hydrochloric acid and phthalates.   These items are especially common chemicals found in cleaning products that irritate lungs, damage skin, eyes and membranes and even are suspected to interfere with normal reproductive development of children, in the case of phthalates.  But keep in mind that you may never know that these dangerous chemicals are actually in your products unless you choose brands that you know are environmentally friendly and people friendly.


As a side note, phosphates are something to also avoid in cleaning products. They are often found in detergents, and they are an environmental enemy because when they work their way into our waterways (which ultimately does happen) they fuel rampant growth of algae, which sucks the oxygen from the water and kills off aquatic life.


The most eco-friendly cleaning products are those where you recognize all of the ingredients on the label and know they are harmless. Thankfully, there are a number of companies as of late that are making products that are very effective,  as well as safe, to you and the environment.  These companies use ingredients like vinegar and citric acid as their effective cleaning agents, and essential oils rather than chemicals for fragrance.  Instead of products like Comet, which use chlorine, you can now find scouring powders with baking soda and sodium borate (a mineral salt) as their main ingredients.  These eco-friendly cleansers are very effective. Phosphate-free laundry detergent is now readily available too.


Many people are familiar with the Seventh Generation brand, available broadly from grocery and pharmacy stores near you as well as e-tailers on line.  Other firms now also make great products. One way to identify these products is by the Green Seal.  Products bearing the Green Seal have been evaluated by a third party to insure they are safe for people and the environment. Green Irene  offers a wide range of green cleaning products under the “Simple. Pure. Clean.” brand, made by Seaside Naturals.  You can even buy gallon-sized refills so you don’t have to dispose of the pump bottle.  It may take a little more effort to identify environmentally friendly cleaning products, but it’s ultimately well worth the effort.


If you do decide to swap out your old, toxic cleaning products for more green alternatives, please don’t dump them down the sink or into the toilet. They are considered hazardous materials and you should dispose of them as you would any other hazardous item. Most towns have drop sites for hazardous materials, often at the town landfill. Here in Fort Collins, you can take them to our Larimer County landfill and dispose of them safety, insuring that these items don’t make it back into the eco-system. Be careful when you transport them so that they don’t spill or mix with other items, as combining various chemicals, like chlorine and ammonia can be very dangerous.

  1. Kelly
    February 23, 2009 at 7:58 pm | #1

    To clean pet hair off furniture, clothes, and drapes I use a Fur-Zoff. It is made of recycled glass and lasts forever, which is much more eco-friendly than a lint roller. You can find them at http://www.furzoff.net.

    I hope this helps!

    • Dave Sanders
      February 23, 2009 at 8:16 pm | #2

      Thanks for a very useful green tip Kelly. We have a black & white border collie with very lint-roller resistant hair. We’ll be checking out Fur-Zoff for sure!

  2. Jerry
    March 16, 2009 at 7:40 pm | #3

    Thanks for making people aware how important to use natural cleaning products. For a month now, I have been making my own cleaning products.

    It will be very helpfull if you can list the most important natural cleaning ingredients, specially the ones for coloring and natural scent, and where they can be bought.

    Keep the good work, we all need to do our part to clean the environment.

  3. May 6, 2010 at 2:34 pm | #4

    I like the tips about “use in well ventilated area” etc… I was duped before as well thinking and actually advertising using green products when I thought they were, when a customer called me a couple weeks later on a hard water stain removal job off of some troublesome windows at her home, the stuff was supposed to be “green” and she told me that her herb garden died where the work was done. The label clearly stated it would not harm plants or animals etc…
    stupid of me not to use common sense- I had to wear gloves during application!
    I ended up having to pay 250 bucks to have her garden re-done.
    Its a shame these companies use deception like that.

  4. May 21, 2010 at 8:10 am | #5

    Hai all,

    Thank you for the information and tips you provided. Keep it up! I like to see more of your blog post about eco-friendly products.I have more information about Eco home assessments in my site,we offering expert, effective, practical and impartial solutions aimed at helping you reduce your carbon footprint and use less water and energy with free of cost.

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