Keeping a clean home also means keeping a toxin-free home. One key way to do this is by using non-toxic household cleaners that don’t emit Volatile Organic Compounds, have a neutral pH, don’t contain solvents, and are biodegradable. That doesn’t mean that you can’t wash with anything but vinegar and water, but you do need to watch out for ingredients that have poisonous fumes and leave harmful residues. Here are a few cleaner characteristics to look for:
Avoid Volatile Organic Compounds – Certain liquids and solids are known to produce fumes which are characterized as Volatile Organic Compounds. In an enclosed environment such as your home, these fumes build up to a surprising level. The EPA notes concentration of many VOCs indoors can be as much as ten times higher than outside. This is primarily due to a lack of ventilation, allowing the fumes to linger far longer than your nose will be able to detect. It can be alarming to learn than items such as dry cleaned clothing, air fresheners, cleaning supplies, paint and paint removers and plywood can all contribute to these levels.
Oftentimes after cleaning, you may notice you have a headache or your eyes are irritated. These symptoms and other side-effects of Volatile Organic Compounds, such as dizziness, asthma attacks, and flu-like symptoms. These short-term and the longer term effect, such as cancer, are linked to VOCs. While this is not healthy for any individual, there are certain groups who seem to be more affected. These would include babies and children, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women, and those individuals without fully functioning immune systems. As the fumes linger in the home for hours after use, it is important to eliminate as much VOC causing products as possible.
One of the most frequent exposures to VOCs in the home comes from cleaning products. From the everyday cleaners for the kitchen countertops, to the grill degreaser and window cleaner, to what you use to mop your floors, clean your carpets and scrub your tubs – they all give off noxious VOC fumes that are breathed in high concentration when being used, but also for hours afterwards and even as they off-gas sitting in the cabinet.
Neutral pH – PH determines the reaction of a cleaning product with your skin, the surface being cleaned and the environment when it is washed into the water system. A compound with a pH value under 7.0 is acidic, more than 7.0 is alkali and a pH value of 7.0 is neutral, neither acidic nor alkaline. Liquids that are either too acidic, such as battery acid, or alkaline like bleach, are very corrosive. A neutral pH is non-reactive to the surface that it touches.
Burns to your skin from caustic products are no joke. Nor is damage to a sensitive surface, such as certain tiles and marble. Using a neutral pH product is the way to ensure that neither of these happens to you.
No Solvents – If you knew something was toxic and carcinogenic to the environment and the people who used them, you probably would avoid use. Common household products often contain solvents such as Ethylene Glycol Ethers (EGEs), alcohols, esthers, and Propylene Glycol Ethers (PGEs). You won’t be surprised to learn these are corrosive chemical ingredients.
Biodegradable – Rinsing, flushing, and washing only remove the chemical cleaners from your surfaces, not from the impact to the environment. Retaining their harsh, damaging nature instead of dispelling the toxicity by changing into non-damaging co-factors, common household cleaners are not environmentally friendly. There is also a level of greater dissipation in some biodegradable products, with some producing the desired result faster than others.
Few decisions are as easy as the one involved in changing from harsh chemical cleaners to green multipurpose cleaner. This one step removes toxic fumes and residue from your home surfaces and the very air you breathe. Replacing your existing cleaners with natural home cleaning products protects your home and your loved ones, as well as making a positive environmental impact. A terrific decision all around!