By Eva Grimmer, Sustainability Office
Cleaning supplies. They’re supposed to rid our homes of dirt and grime, but in return they can leave behind something far worse: toxic chemicals that are harmful to your health and the environment. Isn’t it ironic? Cleaning supplies are supposed to make your home a safer and cleaner place to live.
According to a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, of all the products tested, 53 percent of common household products contained lung-harming ingredients. Additionally, they reported that only seven percent of those cleaning products adequately disclose their contents to users.
Not only can the cleaning supplies that you may have in your home be harmful to you and any furry friends, but they can also be damaging to the environment. It’s damaging because once you’ve cleaned your house, and the chemicals are washed down the drain. One significant environmental concern is that disinfectants carried downstream through the sewage system end up in rivers and other bodies of water. In a 2002 geological survey of water systems across the United States, 66% of streams contained harmful disinfectants. These chemicals negatively impact the local flora and fauna. Other cleaning supplies may contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which, when evaporated, enter the atmosphere and contribute to poor air quality.
The good news is there are alternatives for the nasty, harmful products currently available. In fact, most ‘green alternatives’ can be made from common household products for a fraction of the cost! Check out these simple recipes for an easy and safer alternative!
Mix equal parts vinegar and water and mop floors until clean. Rinse with pure water to remove. If the smell of vinegar is overpowering (we thought it was), you can add essential oils to cut the smell.
Mix one part water with nine parts water. Add some lemon juice or essential oils (we used lavender) to cut down the smell of vinegar. We happened to have an empty spray bottle from an old cleaning product lying around so we washed it out and mixed everything up inside!
Pour one cup of vinegar into the bowl and let sit. Sprinkle baking soda and scrub with brush. Flush.
Sprinkle with baking soda and let sit for about 10 minutes. Spray with vinegar to create a paste and then scrub with a brush.
Most of these concoctions are a combination of vinegar, water, and baking soda. That’s because they are naturally good at cutting grease and killing bacteria. Salt and lemon juice also make a great natural antibacterial.
There are many non-toxic cleaning supplies already on the market; even the University of Utah is getting on board with green cleaning! According to Stephanie Dolmat-Connell from Facilities Management, “Approximately one quarter of cleaning products used by Facilities Management meets STARS sustainability criteria (GreenSeal or EcoLogo certified). Facilities Management Custodial continually tests new green products to determine if we can incorporate more green products into our cleaning wherever the product is found to be an effective solution.” This is a great move towards more sustainable campus.
Feel free to mix up your own supplies or check out some sustainably certified products to use around the house. Either way, you can have peace of mind that your home is a safer, cleaner place.
Eva Grimmer is a senior at the University of Utah studying Environmental and Sustainability Studies and Anthropology. She is passionate about education through communication and issues linked to sustainability.