Running an environmentally conscious home means considering every aspect of your lifestyle. From energy usage to food waste, there are myriad ways to cut your family's energy footprint and soften your impact on the environment, and today we're focusing on one often overlooked aspect of the home: your choice of cleaning products.
Most mainstream cleaning products are made without much regard for environmental safety. Bleaches, disinfectants and other potentially harmful products are among the most commonly used cleaning agents, but are these industrial chemicals really necessary in the home? And just how dangerous are they?
Sodium Hypochlorite, commonly known as household bleach, is a ubiquitous presence in British homes. A powerful bactericide and stain remover, nobody doubts the effectiveness of bleach, but what are the consequences of using it? You may be surprised to hear that, despite its strong odour and dramatic effect, bleach is not considered an environmental hazard. This is because bleach is extremely reactive with other materials, which means that instead of hanging around to cause damage, Sodium Hypochlorite quickly reacts with other natural chemicals, producing a variety of safe byproducts. Even water pollution is negligible, since bleach dilutes so easily, it's soon absorbed into the water, where it forms natural sodium and chloride compounds.
So are all household chemicals as safe as bleach? The short answer is 'no,' but the long answer is more complicated. There are thousands of different cleaning products in use around the world by billions of people. This results in millions of tons of chemical waste going directly from our houses into the natural world. While bleach is easily absorbed into the environment, many other chemicals – especially disinfectants – are less reactive and persist longer. A 2002 study of the presence of contaminants in river water, the U.S. Geological Survey found persistent disinfectant metabolites in 66% of the streams tested. If you're thinking of making a change, doing away with disinfectants is a great way to make a positive impact on the environment. Replace spray disinfectants with dilute tea tree oil, or simply use neat vodka to wipe down and sterilize surfaces. The vodka will evaporate, leaving no odours, and the alcohol content is high enough that you won't have to worry about germs.
Bleach may be surprisingly kind to the environment, but one of the biggest environmental impacts from cleaning products comes from a product we all know and love, and which we all think of as gentle and kind: washing up liquid. The suds from washing up liquid and other detergents are great for getting rid of grease and breaking down stains, but these qualities also mean that detergents take a long time to break down in the natural environment. The U.S. Geological Survey study found that 69% of American streams contained detergents, and, according a study by the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands, phosphate-containing detergents can create algae blooms in fresh water. While this may sound positive, the problem is that these algaes use up the oxygen that aquatic organisms need to survive, suffocating other plants, animals, fish and micro-organisms.
What's worse, dish-soap's ability to break down oily stains also means that when in the natural world, it also breaks down the oily coating which covers most species of fish, leaving them vulnerable to infection. The environmental effects of washing up liquid are among the most dramatic of any household cleaning product, so if you want to make a change and support the natural world, then why not explore alternatives?
If you want to get clean dishes without damaging the environment, there are a number of options. First, why not explore milder detergents like vegetable-based castile soap, usually used for washing the body? Castile soap dilutes far more easily than other detergents, and does not encourage the growth of algae. If you're feeling really green, then try the unorthodox-sounding combination of baking soda and vinegar. With no suds, this method means no risk to aquatic life, and many people report that the stain-fighting power of baking soda rivals that of conventional detergents.
So when it comes to household chemicals, things are not always what they seem. Powerful chemicals like bleach, which many of us assume to be disastrously harmful in the natural world, are in fact relatively safe, while gentle, often naturally-scented products like washing up liquid can have a dramatic, damaging effect. Try looking up the active ingredients of your favourite cleaning products, and discover for yourself exactly how your cleaning regime is affecting the world around you.
What do we have to offer? We have a full range of natural cleaning products, from natural anti mould products, through to normal house cleaning natural and eco friendly cleaning solutions - have a look here!