Clean and Green Healthy Homes, Healthy People
Introduction • A clean house is pleasant • Looks better • Smells better • BUT…appropriate cleaning supplies are important • Homemade cleaning products • Are nontoxic to you and earth • Less expensive
Something to think about “Chemicals have replaced bacteria and viruses as the main threat to health. The diseases we are beginning to see as the major causes of death in the latter part of (the 1900's) and into the 21st century are diseases of chemical origin.” Dr. Dick Irwin, Toxicologist, Texas A&M University
In this lesson, I can learn that home made cleaning products are safer for me, the earth and won’t cost me a bundle! Objectives • After this lesson you will • Understand the potential hazards of caustic cleaners • Understand the pros and cons of “green” cleaning products • Learn how to clean safer by creating homemade cleaners
Who needs this? • People who • Have chemical sensitivities • Friends and family • Have asthma and allergies • Raise children/pregnant • Want to live a healthier lifestyle • Care about the environment • Want to save money
What’s wrong with cleaning products? There are many cleaning products on the market. Are they all safe to use just because they’re on the shelf?
Many products are hazardous • Ingredients can be • Corrosive • Flammable • Toxic • This means it can impact our health and our environment
Did you know? • It takes 26 seconds for chemicals to show up in our organs • 17,000 petrochemicals available for home use (only 30% tested for human safety) • Of chemicals found in homes, 150 are linked to birth defects, allergies, cancer, psychological abnormalities • There are more than 75,000 licensed for commercial use • Very few of these chemicals were in our bodies or environment 75 years ago Sources: Environmental Health Association from Nova Scotia EPA Consumer Product Safety Commission
Risky to our health • Fumes contaminate our air • Irritating to eyes, lungs and skin • Many chemicals are: • Carcinogens • Hormone disruptors • Reproductive toxins • Regulation and legislation is a very slow process Sometimes it feels as if we need a face mask when we clean!
Pollutes our environment • Soil • Septic systems • Ground water • Surface water • Fish and other animals Hazardous products pollute our earth in more ways than one and CAN get into our drinking water
Read labels: • Caution: Hazardous chemicals are present. Moderate hazard. Reduce your use. • Warning: Hazardous chemicals are present. Moderate hazard, stronger than “caution”. Drastically reduce use. • Poison: product is highly toxic. Do not use. • Danger: Ingredients present are corrosive, flammable or highly toxic. Do not use.
So why do we use them? • Knowledge • Time • Can clean up pretty fast • Strong formulations • Convenience • Ready made and available • Belief • I just don’t believe it will be clean You don’t have to spend a lot of effort and money on cleaning products.
Thought for the day • The “secret formulas” in chemical cleaners are just the ingredients in old folk recipes, except artificial. • How is acid in a lemon different than artificial acid (except it doesn’t have the health hazards)
“Green”products Are “green” products worth it? PROS CONS • Safer for humans and environment • Less irritating • Biodegradable • Reduced use of energy/resources • Some are expensive • No standard definition • Not guaranteed to be safe…but they are safer than conventional products • Not required by law to list all ingredients • Beware: Greenwashing
Beware of “greenwashing” • Product labels with words like: • Biodegradable, green, eco-friendly, botanical • Hazardous ingredients can still be in the product • Be careful of: • Vague labels • Lies • “Natural” doesn’t mean nontoxic • Lesser of two evils • Irrelevant
What can a consumer do? • Read labels • The easiest way to know whether a product is “green” is to look for a third party seal
What does this label mean? • The EPA evaluated the products for human and environmental impact • It DOES NOT mean the ingredients are safe • But they are less harmful than conventional products in its class • But there are no standards • Other labels to look for: Ecologo , Greenseal, CFPA • Standardized, and 3-rd party The DftE label You may see this on “green” products CM
What does this label mean? • The products have been reviewed by the Sierra Club • Environmentally MORE preferable than conventional products • Have conflict of interest: receive financial support from a popular name brand
Lies • May need some research • Some companies lie about the “greenness” of their products • What is the reputation of the company?
Vague claims • Fact: Products do not need to have ingredients listed. • The more information disclosed on the product, the better. • Sometimes, there is not enough space. Look for company’s contact information, websites, phone numbers where you can contact manufacturer for more information. • If it’s not there, be suspicious.
Buzzwords can be vague biodegradable • Don’t get swayed by “Buzzwords” • There should be explanations • Example: Arsenic and lead are “all natural” but are very toxic substances All natural 100% vegan Eco-safe
Are claims relevant? • No CFC’s is a popular claim. • It stands for Chluorofluorocarbons. CFCs deplete the ozone and are highly toxic to the environment. • CFC’s have been banned for a long time. Finding this on a label is irrelevant.
The lesser of two evils • Overlook specific claims and look at the big picture. • Example: Are you purchasing organic tobacco? Great…except smoking isn’t good for you regardless of whether it’s organic or not. • Another example: Chlorinated products with “natural essential oils”
Hidden tradeoffs • When a company does one thing “green” but leaves a larger environmental impact in other ways (i.e., in its production of the product, non biodegradable container, etc)
“Natural” doesn’t mean nontoxic (and vice versa) • D-limonene • Natural ingredient found in orange peels • Powerful solvent • Can cause severe reactions in some people • Arsenic • Natural • Powerful toxin and endocrine disruptor • Breathing in can cause nausea, vomiting, GI distress, decreased blood cell productions, blood vessel damage, etc. • Commonly found in pressure treated wood
The good news • You can make your own cleaning supplies! Effective (but you need a bit more elbow grease) Inexpensive Easy to make (but you need to plan a bit) Homemade products need a bit more elbow grease but they are effective, easy to make and easier on the wallet.
Know the types of cleaners • Alkalies • Acids • Detergents • Abrasives • Sanitizers • Spirit solvents Refer to Clean and Green Handout
Bases (alkalies)Good for removing fatty and oily stains; dirt Basic Household Examples Basic cleaners • Baking soda* • Borax* • Washing soda* • Ammonia • Bleach • Oven cleaner • All purpose cleaner • Laundry detergent *green cleaners
AcidsBreaks down things like rust and mineral deposits; eat away clothes, leather and some metals Acidic household examples Acidic cleaners • Cola • Vinegar • Lemon juice • Hard water/mineral deposit removers • Toilet bowl cleaners • Tub and tile cleaners • Mold solutions
14 Lye 13 The chemistry of cleaning Bleach 12 Ammonia, washing soda 11 • pH= the measure of how basic or acidic something is • pH ranges from 0 to 14 and each unit is 10 fold greater than the next 10 handsoap 9 Sea water 8 More alkaline/basic pH More acid Blood Water Milk 7 6 Club soda Tea Coffee 5 Beer Vinegar Orange/apple juice 4 3 Vinegar, Cola Lemon juice 2 1 Battery acid 0
Detergents • Loosen dirt • “heavy duty” means it has a “builder” added to it (a phosophate that will remove oils) • Alternative: • Borax and washing soda • Castille soap: a vegetable based soap • Add soap to very dirty jobs
Abrasives • Wear off dirt by rubbing • Examples • Pumice • Steel wool • Plastic or Nylon mesh • Sandpaper • Silica • Found in scouring pads and powders. • The courser and larger particles, the harsher the abrasive • Oftentimes labeled as “Cleanser” • Regular use scratches surfaces and stains them deeper • Damaging Mild abrasive: salt!
Bleaches • Chlorine is the most common bleach used in household cleaning products (highly toxic) • Used to whiten and disinfect • Alternative for whitening: • Citrus • Hydrogen peroxide • Borax /washing soda
Sanitizers/disinfectants • Chemicals that reduce the number of bacteria • Oftentimes found in bathroom products and dishwashing products • Help keep areas sanitary • Keep areas smelling good • Alternatives: • Citrus • Hydrogen peroxide • Vinegar* • Essential oils: tea tree, lavendar, pine *Studies show vinegar is an excellent microbe reducer, similar to bleach but without the toxic effects. Vinegar smell disappears.
Air fresheners • Helps the air smell good • Conventional: plug-ins and sprays • Alternative: • Open window • Essential oils • Citrus • Simmering spices on stove • Baking cookies • Baking soda • Zeolites
Basics of homemade cleaning products What you need to know before you get started
Cleaning product toolkit • Spray bottles • Brush, microfiber cloth • Baking soda • Borax or washing soda • Vinegar • Vegetable oil • Salt • Soap • Hydrogen peroxide • Lemon juice, essential oils Photo from livelighter.org
Rule of thumb • Use mild cleaners first • Use harsher concoction after mild cleanser won’t do the job • Always wash with warm to hot water.
Generalities • Baking soda: • Deodorizes, neutralizes acids, removes pesticides from produce, alternative shampoo, scours, softens water • Washing soda/borax: • Like baking soda, but much stronger (be careful of inhaling) • Castille soap: • Add soap to stronger cleaner to lift off dirt better.
Generalities (stronger) • Vinegar: • Deodorizes, removes mineral deposits, cuts grease, removes mildew; powerful bacteria reducer • Tea tree oil (lavendar, pine) • Natural sanitizer/disinfectant • Lemon juice • Gets rid of bacteria (strong acid), deodorizer
Laundry • Soap nuts • 3-4 shells for average laundry • 5-8 for larger loads • Enzymes (for septic tanks) Soap nuts