Easy ways to go green with house cleaning
“Going green” has become a popular activity for millions of environmentally-friendly people. It can mean a variety of things, from recycling, to conserving energy to driving fuel-efficient cars – even cleaning up around the house.
Chemical-free housekeeping has become a popular alternative to using cleaning products found under the sink of most of our houses and in shopping carts every week.
Consumer demand for greener cleaning has encouraged traditional cleaning companies to incorporate some eco-friendly methods into their business, said Christina Garten, owner of Indianapolis-based Christina’s Complete Clean. Some cleaning companies have gone totally green.
Fred Gray, with Indianapolis-based Green Homes, LLC, said many everyday cleaning products contain volatile organic compounds, also known as VOCs, which are harmful gasses that are emitted into the surrounding air from the cleaning solution. Those vapors can be harmful to your health, Gray said, because they lower indoor air quality.
“They’re not good for your immune system and can decrease your overall life expectancy,” Gray said. “A lot of these can even affect your breathing. I compare it to processed food. Stuff gets put in people’s food and they don’t even know what it is. People don’t know what’s in their cleaners, either.”
Aside from stopping chemicals from being emitted into the airways, traditional cleaners that are flushed down toilets and sinks can be damaging to waterways. Ingredients containing phosphorus or nitrogen can contribute to nutrient-loading in water bodies, which can lead to adverse effects on water quality, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Gray said using fruit- or vegetable-based cleaners is a good idea; many come in name brands and are available at several stores. Lemon juice, for example, can be a good way to clean glass and mirrors, while mixing lemon juice and olive oil can make furniture polish. For cleaning metal surfaces, a paste of salt, vinegar and flour works well, while vinegar and water can clean bare floors. A vinegar and baking soda mixture is a great cleaner for pipes and drains, and can even unclog them.
Garten said she typically uses vinegar and water to clean in a green manner.
“People have been cleaning ever since there was dirt,” she said. “What did they use before there were chemicals? Vinegar always seems to work well when I’m cleaning.”
Another green method, Gray said, is cutting down on using paper towels while cleaning and instead use old T-shirts or rags that can be washed with the laundry.
As far as prices, Garten said eco-friendly cleaning products available in stores can cost a little more than mainstream products.
Garten said there are a few occasions where using a chemical solution is best, such as using bleach to remove hard water stains in the bathtub. Vinegar can work, she said, but it will take much longer.
When you’re looking for an eco-friendly cleaning company, make sure to do your research. Ask what products the company uses and what they are made of. If you can’t pronounce the word, they’re probably not a green product.
“We like to meet with our customers and see if they have any allergens or cleaning preferences,” Garten said. “I can tell if they’re going to be super sensitive (toward which products are used), or if they just want their house cleaned.”
Editor's note: This article was originally published in June 2013.