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“Green” Household Cleaning Products: Health or Hype?

Oct16

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Your intrepid advice columnist has up and had herself a baby (yep! Baby Ezra! born yesterday), and will be taking a couple weeks off from her bossing-around duties. In the meantime, she’s arranged a cavalcade of her favorite writers from around the Web to come and take a crack at some of your questions, share their personal style secrets and wisdom, and hopefully keep you entertained while Amy attempts to not fall down the stairs in a fit of sleep deprivation.
Today’s guest columnist is the fabulous Izzy Dean of IzzyMom and Green Mom Finds. She’s agreed to school us all on the hilarious topic of neurotoxins in our household cleansers. (Yeah, I really enjoyed pawning some of these questions off on OTHER PEOPLE, mwa ha ha.)

Hope this one is not too far off the Smackdown beat but I feel I can only turn to you for a level-headed answer. Recently I’ve been using “green” cleaning products in my house. (Well I’ve been forcing my cleaning lady to do so but that’s neither here nor there.) I’ve purchased mostly products from Method and the Clorox Green Works line as well as Windex because the guy on the commercials from the Johnson Family tells me it’s OK. I’ve chosen these products mainly because they are available where I shop and are affordable.
My question is: are these products really any better for my home, family and the environment than the “regular” stuff or are they just as toxic and unnatural? Am I just buying into the marketing? (Something I tend to do.) Should I be using natural products from some other line, Seventh Generation, Shaklee, etc.; or should I really only be cleaning with baking soda, lemon juice and white vinegar as I know some experts would recommend?
Please help oh wise label reader. Now I have to run after my toddler who has absconded with the last bottle of Tilex in the house.
Ever grateful,
It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green

method%20all%20surface.gifThe short answer to your question is yes, green cleaning products really are better for the environment and much safer for your home and family.
The longer explanation is that your typical household cleaning products are known to contain various combinations of over 500 known carcinogens and toxins. They can irritate your skin and produce fumes that irritate your eyes and respiratory system and those are just short-term effects.
Even when you’re not using those conventional products, they are slowly outgassing into the air in your home and contributing to indoor pollution. Constantly breathing in this pollution causes an accumulation of toxins in your body which, over time, leads to things such as cancer, lung and breathing problems and hormone disruption — you know, like reduced fertility in men, gynecomastia (aka man boobs), early female puberty and penile birth defects in baby boys. (for those of you who don’t have supportive husbands when it comes to going green, the aforementioned info might be the key!)
The safest cleaning products are still those you make yourself from vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, essential oils etc. but if you choose not to take that route, Seventh Generation, Shaklee, Method and Greenworks products (excluding the Greenworks bathroom cleaner) are regarded as environmentally safe, non-toxic choices — ingestion notwithstanding, of course.
As for glass cleaners, most conventional ones are made of ammonia, a strong irritant, and coal tar dyes and some also contain the neurotoxin butyl cellusolve. I’d file that one under the AVOID category, especially since Consumer Reports found plain water to be more effective than half the glass cleaners on the market anyway.
I know cancer and neurotoxins and low sperm counts aren’t the sexiest of topics but going green and thinking of your health? IS VERY VERY HOTT!
(Thanks for the straight-talk, Izzy. And for the record, YES, I [Amy] agree, and you’ll find lots of Method, Seventh Generation and other non-toxic cleaning products in our house. Along with a bottle of Windex, my secret shame, although I admit I use it mostly for stunning stray houseflies before whapping them with something from the cardboard-and-paper recycling pile. I am ESPECIALLY twitchy about anything that gets used around my kids, so their skin, laundry, play and eating surfaces get nothing but the gentlest, safest, most-additive-crap-free cleaning products I can find.)
(But oh, damn you Windex. I just can’t quit you.)

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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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6 Responses to ““Green” Household Cleaning Products: Health or Hype?”

  1. Courtney Oct 16 at 9:33 am Reply Reply

    What is bad about the Greenworks bathroom cleaner?Is the Greenworks toilet bowl cleaner OK? I use Seventh Generation for general bathroom cleaning, but Greenworks for the toilet – if it’s not safe, I’ll switch!

  2. ashley. Oct 16 at 12:36 pm Reply Reply

    YAY! I blog about environmental things from a 20 something perspective, so this is right up my alley.
    I use baking soda and vinegar for 90% of my cleaning. They work fantastically and you get to recreate volcanoes like you did in grade school! :)

  3. melissa Oct 16 at 8:53 pm Reply Reply

    Ah- I too try to get most of the cleaning done with baking soda, vinegar, essential oils, and castile soap. However I also have had a problem quitting the “regular” glass cleaner and dishwasher soap.
    For most cleaning though- a combo of the above is all you need.

  4. R. Oct 18 at 6:29 pm Reply Reply

    Is Castille soap ok for dishwashing, or would you need something stronger to do the job correctly? Thanks!

  5. epoh Oct 20 at 3:50 pm Reply Reply

    Simple Green for the win. They even have safety info on all their products right on their website. I have a huge jug of the concentrated stuff and I just dilute it into various spray bottles and such. I always feel better about a product that my kids can literally drink, without any worse side effect than a little diarrhea.

  6. Noel Jan 08 at 4:05 pm Reply Reply

    Windex is quite toxic. I’m especially dismayed that S.C. Johnson is on the bandwagon with claims their product is green. The community I live in (LEEDS compliant) has banned it.

    Whether breathed in, absorbed through the skin or ingested, Windex is a Neurotoxin. It is an eye and skin irritant, it damages your central nervous system, kidneys, and liver. It damages blood and your body’s ability to make blood. Children and pets are particularly vulnerable.

    Do your cleaners, yourself (making breast milk, I assume) and your family a favor and switch to Simple Green or Method. I’m very, very picky and both product lines are outstanding.

    http://www.preventcancer.com/consumers/household/indoor_air_poll.htm

    To your health!

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