Green Cleaning Products
Are all cleaning products created equal? There are green cleaning products, natural cleaning products and even organic cleaning products.
Are these all the same non-toxic cleaning products said three different ways?
In the past we would choose a cleaning product based solely on its effectiveness. In other words its ability to get the job done. Little concern was given to the harmful chemicals in cleaning products.
As the “green movement” gains momentum, the focus is shifting. No longer is the effectiveness of the cleaning solution the primary concern in choosing cleaning products. A larger slice of the evaluation pie is being given to both the impact on the user/building occupants’ health, and the impact the cleaner has on the environment.
This is not to say cleaning performance should be sacrificed at the expense of user safety or environmental friendliness. Rather, floor care products should effectively remove soil, be safe for the user, and be earth friendly.
Along with the increase in the demand for green cleaning products many cleaning product manufacturers are labeling everything green whether it’s truly green or not.
Much like the labeling found on food packaging indicating “natural” or “organic” ingredients. There may be just enough natural or organic ingredients to satisfy government guidelines but when fully analyzed, the product may not be truly as healthy as the packaging might suggest.
This is not to say any product labeled green is not green or any food product labeled natural or organic is not natural or organic. How can we know which green cleaning products are truly green and which are green in name only?
What criteria define green cleaning products?
In its truest sense, a cleaning product deemed “green” is derived from natural or bio-based elements. Bio-based means a product which is derived from a renewable source such as the extracts or oils from fruits, vegetables, plant matter, seeds, or nuts.
They are not derived from crude oil or petroleum distillates otherwise known as petrochemicals. These petrochemicals contain toxic chemicals which are hazardous to human health.
Green cleaning solutions are not just environmentally preferred but take into consideration the effect on human health and safety. Green cleaning products should be formulated with the emphasis on the user/building occupant’s health and safety first and environmental friendliness second.
If the priority when formulating a cleaning solution is user safety, the product would be ecofriendly as well. For instance, a green cleaning solution made from vinegar and baking soda won’t negatively affect the user’s health and safety or the environment.
The reverse scenario does not always hold true. A cleaner can be environmentally safe but compromise the user’s health and safety. For instance, a characteristic of a green cleaner is biodegradability. Many cleaners are biodegradable but are not safe for the user or it may negatively affect the indoor air quality.
Standards of green cleaning solutions which provide and promote the best health and well-being benefits to people include:
- Must be bio-based (no petrochemicals)
- No petro-dyes (no added colors – blue, red, yellow, etc. unless provided by natural means)
- No artificial petro-perfumes (no added fragrances – pine, spice, mint, etc. unless provided by natural means)
- Non toxic to human or aquatic life
- Not corrosive to skin or eyes
- Little or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)
- pH level between 2.5 and 12
- Does not contain Chlorine Bleach
- Does not contain ethylene, diamine, tetracetic acid (EDTA), or nitrolotriacetic acid (NTA)
- Does not contain phenolic compounds or glycol ether
- Is free of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel and selenium
Standards for certifying green carpet cleaning solutions by Green Seal (www.greenseal.org) are classified as “Institutional and Industrial Cleaners” in the GS-37 category.
This category includes green commercial cleaning products, green encapsulation carpet cleaning products, janitorial cleaning supplies green and other certified Green Seal cleaning products.
See specific standards as defined by Green Seal for green carpet cleaning solutions
Knowing that Green Seal or any other certifying agency has approved a particular green cleaning product can give us peace of mind, however, any cleaning product should be double checked to verify that cleaning product can be confidently used.
A good starting place to check the safety of named green cleaning products, is the Material Safety Data Sheet MSDS. The information contained in the MSDS is primarily for the occupational user, not the occasional user.