Thursday, November 15, 2007

Scrub-A-Dub-Dub – Responsible Cleaning

Bathrooms are full of germs! That’s why they are an important space to keep clean. Unfortunately many of the cleaning products we use contain toxic chemicals which have unknown health consequences and pollute the environment when they are manufactured and disposed of.

So what can you do to protect your health and the environment? Choose trusted, non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning products like Method, Seventh Generation, Planet. I’ve used all of these products and have been satisfied with their cleaning ability. You can buy them from many locations including Whole Foods and Target. Their cost is usually slightly more expensive than regular (and toxic) cleaning products.

A note about what it means to be biodegradable. When disposed of a biodegradable product will break down safely and relatively quickly into simple substances like carbon dioxide, basic minerals and water. These natural materials then integrate back into the environment.

If you’re considering any other type of cleaning product, check that the product has been certified by Green Seal or Scientific Certification Systems (SCS). This will ensure that the product you are choosing has been scientifically analyzed and identified as environmentally responsible. If you know of any other well respected green certification companies add a comment.

If you’d rather not spend the additional money on these cleaning products, why not make your own? Check out EarthEasy’s great list of homemade cleaning recipes that (generally) use safe, natural ingredients.

Here are some bathroom related cleaning recipes directly from their website:

All-Purpose Cleaner: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda (or 2 teaspoons borax) into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc.

Air Freshener: Set out a dish of baking soda or vinegar with lemon juice to absorb odors. Having plants in the bathroom can also help reduce odors.

Bathroom Mold: Mold in bathroom tile grout is a common problem and can be a health concern. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower.

Drain Cleaner: Pour about 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, then 1/2 cup vinegar. The resulting chemical reaction can break fatty acids down into soap and glycerine, allowing the clog to wash down the drain. After 15 minutes, pour in boiling water to clear residue. Caution: only use this method with metal plumbing. Plastic pipes can melt if excess boiling water is used. Also, do not use this method after trying a commercial drain opener--the vinegar can react with the drain opener to create dangerous fumes.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Mix 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 cup vinegar, pour into basin and let it set for a few minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse. A mixture of borax (2 parts) and lemon juice (one part) will also work.

Tub and Tile Cleaner: For simple cleaning, rub in baking soda with a damp sponge and rinse with fresh water. For tougher jobs, wipe surfaces with vinegar first and follow with baking soda as a scouring powder. (Vinegar can break down tile grout, so use sparingly.)


djosephs said...

I completely agree with regards to being more environmentally conscious about cleaning products. But when you are specifically talking about cleaning bathrooms, as you stated they are full of germs. It is important to not forget to still use a disinfectant. Given that as of today Green Seal and various other green certification don't have a category for disinfectants, make sure your products kill these germs. I would consider a Hydrogen Peroxide based cleaner which is very environmental as it will break down into water and oxygen and at specific dilutions they can be used as a disinfectant.

Daniel Josephs
Spruce Industries

Maggie Melin said...

Hi Daniel,

Good point! Killing germs in the bathroom is important so finding biodegradable cleaners that contain hydrogen peroxide (or vinegar) is a great suggestion.

Here is Seventh Generation's response to the question of whether their cleaning products disinfect:

In order to make a claim of disinfecting or sanitizing properties, a surface cleaning product must be registered with the EPA. This process is very costly and time consuming, requiring extensive studies of germ killing ability and safety issues. We have not yet chosen to register any of our cleaners.

Hydrogen peroxide works extremely well for cleaning and sanitizing. Vinegar is also a natural disinfectant. Spraying them on a surface has been shown to kill germs.

Seventh Generation kitchen, bathroom, carpet, and shower cleaners contain hydrogen peroxide, as does our chlorine free bleach. Our products clean effectively and do not harm the environment.