There is much concern over the state of our water and at times it can seem overwhelming.
This next section offers very helpful information to creating lasting change and leaving a much smaller environmental footprint.
If every household just made some small changes when it came to cleaning their homes, dishes and clothes, it would add up to an enormous change in our water quality.
Remember change is not hard when we work together as a community and your little bit does make a difference.
As a good first start, we would recommend that everyone should avoid using these products.
1. Antibacterial cleaners
These can contain Triclosan, a form of dioxin, linked with weakened immune systems, decreased fertility, hormone disruption and birth defects.
Alternative: Use regular soap, which kills 99.4 percent of germs. Antibacterial soap kills 99.6 percent, a very small difference.
2. Air fresheners
Air fresheners actually stop you from smelling by coating nasal passages with an oil film or by releasing nerve deadening agents. One main ingredient, formaldehyde, is a carcinogen, causing allergic reactions, dermatitis, headaches, mucous membrane irritations, joint and chest pain, depression, fatigue, dizziness and immune dysfunction. Another main component, phenol, causes skin eruptions, cold sweats, convulsions, circulatory collapse and in extreme cases, coma.
Alternative: Open the window or use an exhaust fan.
3. Dishwasher detergent
Dishwasher detergents are the number one cause of accidental child poisoning. They contain a dry form of highly concentrated chlorine that is poisonous and have been known to produce skin irritations or burns. They also can cause eye injuries and damage to other mucous membranes. Dishwasher detergent residue or build-up on dishes can transfer into your hot meal.
Alternatives: Buy phosphate and chlorine free detergent.
4. Oven cleaners
Oven cleaners contain sodium hydroxide (lye) so corrosive it can eat through the top layer of skin. They can be caustic for eyes and lungs. They can also contain benzene, toluene, xylene, methanol and ethylbenzene, which are all known carcinogens, damaging to the nervous system and unborn children. Residue can be released as toxic fumes into the air when the oven is heated.
Alternative: Make a scrub of baking soda, salt and water paste.
5. Carpet and upholstery shampoo
The main ingredient, perchlorethylene (used in dry cleaning), is a known carcinogen, damaging to the liver, kidney and the nervous system. Ammonium hydroxide, another ingredient, is corrosive, extremely irritable to eyes, skin and respiratory passages. Fumes are carcinogenic and known to cause dizziness, sleepiness, nausea, loss of appetite and disorientation.
Alternative: Use a mix of baking soda and water for cleaning. Salt will take out wine or fruit stains. Club soda will remove lighter stains. Baking soda and cornstarch will deodorize your caropets and upholstery.
6. Toilet, tub and tile bowl cleaners
Highly toxic bathroom cleaners are a source of many poisonings, particularly when they are used in small, often windowless spaces. Most contain hydrochloric acid which is corrosive to skin and eyes, and can damage kidneys and the liver. Or they can contain hypochlorite bleach which is corrosive to eyes, skin and respiratory tract, and is known to cause vomiting and pulmonary edema if inhaled. These cleaners also contain benzene, toluene, xylene, methanol and ethylbenzene, which are all known carcinogens that damage the nervous system and cause birth defects.
Alternative: Remove toilet bowl stains with pure vinegar. Dilute with water to remove soap scum. Washing soda or borax is also effective on tiles.
7. Drain cleaners – Drain cleaners typically contain lye (sodium hydroxide) or sulfuric acid. Either chemical is capable of causing an extremely serious chemical burn if splashed on the skin. They are toxic to drink. Splashing drain cleaner in the eyes may cause blindness.
Alternative: Use a baking soda followed with vinegar to flush out drains.
8. Laundry Detergent – Laundry detergents contain a variety of chemicals. Ingestion of cationic agents may cause nausea, vomiting, convulsion, and coma. Non-ionic detergents are irritants. Many people experience chemical sensitivity to dyes and perfumes present in some detergents.
Alternative: Add 1/3 cup washing soda and 1 ½ cups of pure soap as machine fills.
9. Mothballs – Mothballs are either p-dichlorobenzene or naphthalene. Both chemicals are toxic and known to cause dizziness, headaches, and irritation to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system. Prolonged exposure can lead to liver damage and cataract formation.
Alternative: Use cedar balls or blocks.
By shopping for green products, you will minimize your exposure and the environment to potentially harmful chemicals. Green products are defined as those that eliminate or minimize the following classes of harmful chemicals or meet defined regulations. They are designed to:
A. Minimize exposure to potentially harmful chemicals such as:
- Corrosive or strongly irritating substances.
- Substances classified as known or likely human carcinogens or reproductive toxicants by authorities such as the National Toxicology Program, the U.S. EPA, Canadian Protection Act
- Ozone-depleting compounds as listed in Clean Air Act regulations.
- Regulated hazardous materials (e.g. products classified as hazardous waste; products that trigger OSHA hazard communication requirements).
B. Have a Low VOC content.
C. Look for products that have “Ready biodegradability” ie. ensurance that a material degrades relatively quickly in an aquatic aerobic environment by standard methods and definitions. One example is of Readily Biodegradable is defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Not all product ingredients will be listed on your cleaning product labels, so it is difficult to know what your products may contain. If you would like a more thorough listing of the compounds in your products you can request a MSDS (Material Safety Datasheet) from the manufacturer, or go to the website www.whatsinproducts.com, which has compiled MSDS for numerous products. To use the website, type in your product name (eg. Cascade dishwasher soap), and a more complete list of components and their concentration will be listed.
To determine if the ingredients are safe at the concentration in the product, there are two websites that are recommended. The first is: www.toxnet.nlm.nih.gov . It is a storehouse of different research databases, which summarize the known research on 370,000 different chemicals. For instance, the toxicology database summarizes the studies on 4600 chemicals, the chronic long term animal carcogenic research on 6450 chemicals and carcinogen/mutagen tests on 8000 chemicals etc. Unfortunately you may need a toxicology degree to understand the details.
For an easier to use site, which offers a quick summary in layman terms, the following website is highly recommended: www.scorecard.com. To determine the safety of various chemicals, go to chemical profile (bottom left) of the website and type in chemical of concern. This site gives a quick easy to read summary.
Between 2007 and 2009, the in-store availability of so-called ‘green’ products has increased by 40% to 176%. With this increase in green marketing, there is massive consumer confusion on what products are green or safe, or which old products might just have been rebranded green without any or only minor changes.
Common labels that can be found in the marketplace include: 98 per cent Natural Ingredients, Non-Toxic, All natural, Biodegradable, Environmentally Friendly, Helps Save Wildlife, Agriculturally-based Product, Fights Global Warning, Pure and Natural, 100% ECO Friendly, Plant-based Cleaning Products. These labels sound appealing but are very vague and tell the consumer little about the product contents. They are a marketing message and can mislead the consumer from the real issues.
One website has led the investigation into whether products are ‘green’ or just marketed as ‘green’ is www.sinsofgreenwashing.org . They found that 98% of the 2500 products surveyed were committing “Greenwashing”. Greenwashing is defined as labeling or marketing that misleads by one or more of the sins listed below.
“Greenwashing” Seven Sins
1. The Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off
One environmental issue is emphasized at the expense of potentially more serious concerns. Paper is not necessarily environmentally-preferable just because it comes from a sustainably-harvested forest.
2. The Sin of No Proof
Environmental assertions are not backed up by evidence or third-party certification. One common example is facial tissue products that claim various percentages of post-consumer recycled content without providing any supporting details.
3. The Sin of Vagueness
Marketing claim lacks specifics as to be meaningless. ‘All-natural’ is an example of this Sin. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde are all naturally occurring, and poisonous. ‘All natural’ isn’t necessarily ‘green’.
4. The Sin of False Labels
False suggestion or certification-like image to mislead consumers into thinking that a product has been through a legitimate green certification process. One example of this Sin is a paper towel product whose packaging has a certification-like image that makes the bold claim that the product ‘fights global warming.’
5. The Sin of Irrelevance
An environmental issue unrelated to the product is emphasized. One example is the claim that a product is ‘CFC-free’, since CFCs are banned by law.
6. The Sin of Lesser of Two Evils
An environmental claim makes consumers feel ‘green’ about a product category that is itself lacking in environmental benefits. Organic cigarettes are an example of this Sin.
7. The Sin of Fibbing
Environmental claims are outright false. One common example is products falsely claiming to be Energy Star certified sustainability leaders deliver results.
There is help to identify green products through certified logos on cleaning products. Third party certification organizations review cleaning products ingredients and concentrations, and cleaning products that meet their review criteria, they will allow those cleaning products to carry their certification logo.
Look for the following certifications:
Official biodegradability designation, e.g., biodegradable test OECD 301 D or E
If you are interested in making your own cleaning products, there are lots of great ideas on the internet. Not only will you be ecofriendly to the environment but you can save money too. We have summarized some of the cleaning product information located on the internet for you.
DIY Cleaner Basic Ingredients
Almost all home cleaning products can be made from a few simple ingredients, which are used in different combinations depending on the cleaning job. Here is a list of the ingredients you will need to get started.
|Baking soda (NaHCO3)||Cleans, deodorizes, scours|
|Borax (Na2B4O7-10H2O)||Cleans, deodorizes, disinfects. Do not use around food and rinse surfaces well.|
|Castile soap or vegetable oil-based liquid soap||Cleans|
|Distilled White Vinegar||Cuts grease and soap scum, dissolves mineral deposits, inhibits mold, freshens; reportedly kills 99% bacteria, 82% mold, & 80% viruses|
|Essential oils||Freshen, disinfect. Research the safety before adding to your formulations eg. Tea Tree Oil is a neurotoxin.|
|Kosher salt||Scours, disinfects|
|Antibacterial, antiseptic, deodorizes|
|Hydrogen peroxide||Disinfects, cleans|
|Olive or vegetable oil||Polish, Shine|
|Washing Soda (Na2CO3)||Acts as a water softener and descaler|
Tub and Tile Cleaner:
In a jar or spray bottle, combine 1 2/3 cup baking soda with 1/2 cup vegetable oil-based liquid soap. Add 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Shake before using. Apply with a cloth or sponge and rinse well.
Combine 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup borax, and 1 cup kosher salt in a jar. Sprinkle on area to be cleaned, wipe with a sponge, and rinse.
Toilet Bowl Cleaner:
Mix 1/4 cup borax or baking soda & 1 cup vinegar in the toilet. Let it sit for 15 min. (or longer), scrub, and flush.
Combine 1/4 cup vinegar and 4 cups warm water in a spray bottle. Use to clean glass or mirrors with a dry cloth
Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into drain followed by 1 cup vinegar. Let it sit and fizz for 15 minutes, then rinse with hot or boiling water. May need to repeat or leave baking soda and vinegar in overnight.
In a bucket, mix 1/2 cup borax with 2 gallons hot water. Apply with a mop or sponge.
Or use 1/2 cup vinegar in 2 gallons warm water.
Soap Scum Remover:
Sprinkle on baking soda, scrub with a cloth or sponge, and rinse. Vinegar or kosher salt also work.
Calcium or Lime Remover:
For calcium or lime deposits on a chrome faucet, soak a towel in vinegar and wrap it around the faucet. Let it sit for a couple of hours or overnight. Or use 1/3 cup baking soda plus 1 cup white vinegar, stand back for the foaming, let stand 1 hr.
Mold or Mildew Remover:
Mix 1/2 cup borax and 1/2 cup vinegar to make a paste. Scrub with a brush or sponge and rinse with water. For tough mold, let it sit for an hour before rinsing with water.
Clean counters by sprinkling with baking soda, then scrubbing with a damp cloth or sponge. If you have stains, knead the baking soda and water into a paste and let set for a while before you remove. This method also works great for stainless steel sinks, cutting boards, containers, refrigerators, oven tops and more.
For a tougher abrasive, sprinkle kosher salt & scrub with a wet cloth or sponge.
Windows and Mirrors:
Mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with a gallon of water, and dispense into a used spray bottle. Squirt on & scrub with a cloth. If you’re out of vinegar or don’t like its smell, you can substitute undiluted lemon juice or club soda.
Put 1/4 cup white vinegar and 30 ounces of warm water in a recycled spray bottle, and spray on a cotton rag or towel until lightly damp. Then mop your floors, scrubbing away any grime.
Better yet put 1 tsp. Vinegar with 2 cups water in steamer and steam clean floors.
Coat the inside of your dirty appliance with a paste made from water and baking soda. Let stand overnight. Then, don gloves and scour off that grime. Make spotless with a moist cloth.
Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into drain, followed by 2 cups of boiling water. If not solved, chase the baking soda with a 1/2 cup of vinegar and cover tightly, allowing the vigorous fizzing of the chemical reaction to break up the gunk. Then flush that with one gallon of boiling water.
Each batch yields 32-64 loads based on how many Tbsp used per load.
1 bar (or 4.5 ounces) of shaved bar soap: Ivory, ZOTE, Fels-Naptha
1 cup of Borax
1 cup of Washing Soda
Thoroughly stir together for 5 minutes. Use 1-2 Tbsp per load
Front Loader “High Efficiency” Detergent:
1/4 bar of shaved bar soap
2 Tablespoons Borax powder
1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
Yield: (2) 1.17 gallon bottles of laundry detergent (75 loads each)
Directions: Cut Fels Naptha bar into fourths (store extra three for future). Grate the Fels Naptha and put the shredded soap in one cup of water in a sauce pan, melt over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Cook until the soap has dissolved. Pour 10 cups of water into a large container or bucket and add the cooked soap mixture, Borax and washing soda. Stir, and add 10 more cups of water, then stir again. Cover the mixture and let set overnight. The soap mixture will gel. Stir it up and transfer into two containers. Dilute the gel mixture 1:1 with water ie. fill the container half full with soap and then finish filling with water. Use 1/4 cup per load.
Fabric Softener: There are two different options or recipes that you can try.
- 1. Vinegar ¼ cup. It is antimicrobial, softens, removes soap residue and reduces static during drying.
- 2. Add 6 cups of vinegar to 1 cup of baking soda, mix, and then use 1/2 to 1 cup during the rinse cycle. The foaming reaction will produce sodium acetate which is an excellent buffer.
If you decide to purge your household of cleaners or chemicals before you have used them completely, it is important to dispose of them in a safe manner. Do not put them down the drain but take your local disposal service centre.
For your local site and how to dispose products:
1. Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted. Anne C. Steinemann et al, University of Washington, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Environmental Impact Assessment Review Volume 31, Issue 3, April 2011, Pages 328–333
9. C. Kielburger, M. Kielburger, Living me to we, The Guide for Socially Conscious Canadians ISBN 978-0-9784375-6-5
11. Film: Chemercial