With all of the concerns about toxic chemicals in conventional household cleaners and their long-term adverse effects on humans and the environment, many consumers are turning to green cleaning products. Manufacturers are responding, and more and more of these products are hitting the shelves.
So, while green cleaning products are safer for your family and the environment, they can be more expensive than conventional cleaners. Some of the marketing for these items can be misleading as well. Terminology like “eco-friendly”, “natural” and “biodegradable” may signify that it is a green product to consumers, but those words are meaningless. Some “natural” cleaning products may contain hidden and questionable chemicals. However, there are plenty of true green cleaners out there as well. Just look for those that are certified green with the Green Seal or EcoLogo mark on the label. This Green Buying Guide may help you decide which green cleaning products are right for you.
With the faux green products out there and the resulting confusion, many homeowners have turned to DIY household cleaners. Most DIY cleaners are made from natural ingredients and are less expensive than commercial cleaners so consumers don’t have to wonder about the ingredients. So, how do DIY products compare to green cleaning products?
My experience with DIY cleaning products is limited. Honestly, I am too lazy for the do it yourself part, so I pay the extra money and buy commercial brands that I know are environmentally and family friendly. If you are willing to spend a little extra time, though, you can make yourself some cleaners that work well and will save you money.
DIY cleaners usually include some basic household ingredients that you use in different combinations depending on the cleaning task at hand. The basic list out there includes the following: Baking Soda, White Vinegar, Hydrogen Peroxide, Borax, Essential oils (tea tree oil, lavender, eucalyptus or lemongrass oil), Castile Soap, Fresh herbs, citrus or citrus peels, olive or vegetable oil and, lastly, water.
DIY cleaners provide you with the comfort of cleaning without mysterious, hidden ingredients. You can also adjust your solutions as necessary to get the best results. This takes time, though, and the mixtures need to be concentrated to the correct strength to actually be effective. Too much or not enough of a certain ingredient, and your formula may not work. A period of trial and error may be required to find the formula that works best on each surface. You’ll also need to be careful. Just because it is a natural ingredient does not mean it is safe to use everywhere. For example, vinegar will clean the heck out of porcelain, but will destroy your marble countertops. Caution is also required when combining some ingredients. Combining bleach with any acid (vinegar, lemon juice) will cause toxic vapors that you should not breathe, so a little homework is necessary before making your own cleaners.
When cleaning with your DIY cleaning products, be prepared to use a little more elbow grease. Commercial cleaners contain surfactants, which make them more effective in removing dirt particles. Manufacturers have the capability to add these, but the average homeowner does not. So, while a DIY cleaner will do a good job, a little more scrubbing and scouring is required to get your surfaces as clean as a high quality, commercial green cleaner.
The bottom line is if you are someone who is looking for a fast and easy cleaning job, you have probably already decided to run over to Target and grab your favorite commercial green cleaning products. However, if you are willing to put in the time to mix the ingredients and can inform yourself so that it’s done safely, it may be worth the money you save.
Megan McDermott is an in house copywriter for Clean It Supply, an online cleaning supplies wholesaler that specializes in green cleaning products based just outside of Philadelphia, PA.