When you or someone else cleans a space you live or work in, you want it cleaned in effectively and safely. To get the job done, you have to consider green versus conventional cleaners. Many individuals are going green and for good reason. The pros of green cleaning include a benefit to the environment and advantages for your health and the health of your staff and visitors. But how can you tell if a cleaner is actually green?
Because of the growing popularity of eco-friendly cleaning products versus regular cleaning products, your options may seem overwhelming. It gets even trickier when you need to know how to tell if your green cleaner is eco-friendly and how to tell if a cleaner is greenwashed. With a few tips and tricks, though, you’ll be getting the advantages of green cleaners in no time. Take a look at the tips below. You’ll discover how to know if your cleaners are actually green and the benefits of green cleaning on the environment and your health.
How to Know If Your Cleaners Are Green
When you think of eco-friendly cleaners versus traditional cleaners, you may imagine homemade concoctions that feature naturally-derived ingredients and no harmful chemicals. You could clean with products you have around your business or home for a green clean, such as:
- Baking soda
- Diluted white vinegar
- Washing soda
- Sodium percarbonate
- Mild dish soap
Sometimes, though, a single ingredient from your cabinet isn’t enough to get the job done. In those cases, you’ll want to handle dirty surfaces with cleaning products that have ingredients that work but are still green. But are green cleaning products really green, as in better for the environment? Or do they exaggerate their benefits to fly off the shelves?
It can be challenging to know how to choose green cleaners, but some resources and organizations are ready to help:
- The Environmental Working Group (EWG): The EWG is a nonprofit with a mission to encourage healthy lives. To do this, they research and test products and goods. Take a look at their cleaner guide to check if cleaning products you’ve seen are green. You can also learn more about their standards to choose the right cleaning supplies. You’ll find everything from products to use to ones to avoid.
- Other independent nonprofits: Independent organizations, such as Green Seal, set standards for products and services. Some also offer green cleaner certifications for products that meet those standards. Manufacturers will display these certifications on their products to let consumers know they meet certain green standards. Be sure to check a product’s label and the organization that provided the certification.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The EPA offers the Safer Choice label to products that contain less toxic ingredients than others on the market. They have different labels that designate whether a product is safe for home use, business use or is fragrance-free. Over 2,000 products meet the EPA’s Safer Choice standard.
While labels may give you an idea as to whether a cleaner is green, do your research before buying or using supplies that claim to be green. Check for facts by trusted researchers or companies other than the product manufacturer. If you only take the product’s word for its green status, you may fall victim to greenwashing.
Don’t Trust “Greenwashed” Products
You may wonder what makes a cleaning product green. It’s all about what’s in the product, and sometimes, what’s on the outside of a product can be misleading. A greenwashed product seems better for the environment but only as a way to draw in more consumers. In reality, the product is not green and may even have adverse effects on the environment and your health. Companies may make greenwashed products by greenwashing one or both of their:
- Packaging: As the name implies, greenwashed products may get a green makeover. Consumers associate the color green with items that are better for the environment. Product designers may take advantage of that. They may also include natural images or words to make consumers associate the product with flowing streams or lush forests. You’ll also see claims on the packaging about the product’s benefits to the environment. These could be either exaggerated, vague or unsubstantiated.
- Marketing: A product’s advertising or promotional materials may make claims of environmental benefits. Companies often cannot back up with details or facts. Don’t believe everything you see in ads, especially if a manufacturer doesn’t mention the organization that substantiated their claim. Again, watch out for natural imagery as that could be the advertiser’s way of greenwashing the truth about their product.
Greenwashed products may try to push the idea of “non-toxic” or “natural” ingredients, which are either false or unregulated terms, so watch out for those, as well. While knowing how to tell if a cleaner is greenwashed is essential, it’s also helpful to know when cleaning products are truly green. To tell if a cleaner is not greenwashed, look out for:
- Clear labels that explain claims in plain language
- An explanation of whether the product, the packaging or both are green
- No exaggerations of the benefits
- Substantiations of all their claims
Again, check if products you’re using are certified by independent companies, whether on the label or their sites. It also helps to educate yourself about certain “dirty” cleaning product ingredients that you should avoid.
Common Toxic Chemicals and Things to Avoid
When you compare certain green versus conventional cleaners, you may see that one of the biggest benefits of eco-friendly cleaning products is a lack of toxic chemicals. Remember, though, that some products may make false claims about non-toxic ingredients or their green status. According to the EWG, you should avoid cleaners that contain ingredients such as:
- Hydrochloric acid
- Phosphoric acid
- Sodium hydroxide
- Potassium hydroxide
- Quaternary ammonium compounds or quats
These ingredients may be harmful to your health, the environment or both. There are some restrictions on various ingredients. But other toxic chemicals may lurk in your household cleaners. Check labels or the EWG’s guide on cleaners to use or avoid.
Be aware that product manufacturers aren’t required to disclose every ingredient. Because of that, there may be ingredients lurking in your cleaners that you don’t know about. Be aware of scented products that could contain phthalates and synthetic musks. You’ll often find these in undisclosed fragrances. You may have to be a bit more diligent about researching supplies that claim to be green. They could be hiding toxic ingredients that are bad for your health or the environment.
How Are Green Products Better for Your Health?
Want to know one of the most vital reasons why you should use green cleaning products? As long as you choose trusted products, you may notice the benefits of green cleaners for your health.
Certified green products likely won’t contain the toxic ingredients we listed above, which have negative impacts on your wellbeing. In general, those and other ingredients can worsen asthma or cause the onset of it. They may even contain carcinogens. Luckily, the EWG and other organizations advise against products that contain these ingredients while supporting healthier, green cleaners.
To make certain that your cleaning products are safer for your health, ensure they do not contain:
- Ammonia or bleach: Using cleaning products that are free of ammonia or bleach reduces the risk of combining the two dangerous chemicals. When combined, the two create chloramine gas, which may burn or irritate your respiratory system or even cause organ damage. You or the person cleaning your space should always check labels carefully and work in a well-ventilated area or avoid ammonia or bleach cleaners altogether.
- Hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide or ethanolamines: These ingredients are known by the EWG to cause skin burns, lung irritation and even blindness. You may find these in cleaning products such as toilet or oven cleaners or strong degreasers.
- Phthalates and synthetic musks: Found in certain scented products or air fresheners, these ingredients can trigger allergies or irritate the nose, throat and eyes. Remember that cleaning product labels may simply list “fragrance” without specific ingredients, so try to use unscented products or ones that list their fragrance ingredients.
- Quaternary ammonium compounds: According to the EWG, quats can cause birth defects and reduced fertility in animals. But that doesn’t mean the ingredient is safe for humans. For us, quats can cause asthma. Manufacturers often use these compounds in disinfectant products, such as wipes or sprays.
- Triclosan: This antimicrobial has been linked to allergen sensitivity as well as the disruption of thyroid function. Triclosan can even appear in other consumer products like makeup or toothpaste, though the FDA banned its inclusion in antibacterial soaps in 2016.
So are green cleaning products better for your health? When you choose trusted and certified products, they should be. If you work smarter with your cleaning products, you may also be more likely to see the advantages of green cleaners. Start out cleaning with mild, green products, as the EWG recommends. From there, if you have stubborn stains or need a deeper clean, you can choose something a bit stronger. Again, always check the label and ingredients and be sure to work in well-ventilated areas.
How Are Green Products Better for the Environment?
Green cleaning supplies are better for your health, but are green cleaning products better for the environment? The importance of green cleaning products, as the name implies, also extends to the environment as long as you choose trusted supplies.
When you or someone else cleans a room, those products enter into the environment. Whether there are fumes in the air or you rinse the product down the drain or dump it outside, it can enter the environment through:
- Waterways: If a chemical like triclosan leaches into waterways, it can cause harm to fish, frogs and other creatures in those habitats. Once in the water, it can spread to other areas, where it may break down into carcinogens like dioxins and chloroform. Cleaning ingredients that contain phosphorus or nitrogen can cause nutrient-loading, which impacts water quality. While sewage and other water treatment help eliminate the dangerous components of cleaning supplies from waterways, improper waste management or using cleaners outside still creates a risk.
- The air: Volatile organic compounds or VOCs can impact indoor and outdoor air quality. The EPA says the concentration of these compounds can be up to 10 times higher inside than outside, but they still have an impact in either area. Indoor VOCs have a negative impact on our health, while outdoor VOCs contribute to smog formation and air pollution.
So why use green cleaning products? Certified supplies can have little to no impact on the environment like their toxic, conventional counterparts. To get the benefits of green cleaners on the environment, research your supplies and choose trusted products. Those green cleaning supplies can help the environment in various ways, including:
- Being biodegradable
- Using less packaging
- Using recyclable packaging
- Including less toxic ingredients
- Including less volatile ingredients
- Manufacturing in ways that are better for the environment
If you currently have conventional cleaners, dispose of them in a safe way to reduce their environmental impact. Look out for collections run by organizations or the local government where you live. These collections accept many toxic household cleaners and dispose of them in a safer way than if you tossed them out with your regular garbage.
Get Commercial Cleaning With Shine Facility Services
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We also have 15 years of expertise in training and supervising our hard-working crews. We will clean your building with the utmost professional care, impressing you, your staff and other visitors.
Interested in going green? At Shine, we use the best green cleaning supplies. We also train our skilled staff according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Call us at (800) 698-3662 or contact us for a custom quote today to experience our dedication and green cleaning services.