“Green” Household Cleaning Products: Health or Hype?
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.
It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green
The 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.)
Published October 16, 2008. Last updated May 6, 2016.