Green cleaning solutions



Is it all marketing or are we REALLY buying products that are environmentally-friendly

Home is where the heart is, but not if home is making you sick. That’s right — headaches, dizziness, constant sneezing and eye-watering can come from the smells and toxins inside your home. Maybe it’s the glass cleaner, bleach or laundry detergent, whichever one seems to make you or a member of your household sick, it’s time to think about a greener cleaning solution. Why?

“It’s easy to be vulnerable to advertising when buying products,” says Manna Jo Greene, environmental director of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. “Products are on the shelves, but we need to check the warning labels because cleaning products have a varying degree of toxicity which we are spreading around our homes polluting our indoor air quality.”

And household cleaning agents may contain toxic chemicals. When used on a weekly or daily basis, they can be harmful whether they are inhaled touched, ingested, and absorbed, worn on clothing or wiped on counters.

Ann LaGoy owned a residential and commercial cleaning service. “I was poisoned by chloramine gas,” says LaGoy, who sold her Home Assistance Cleaning Service to focus on manufacturing and selling her own handmade cleaning product Sound Earth.

Chloramine gas is a combination of ammonia and bleach. With a few whiffs, one could experience teary eyes, runny nose, sore throat, coughing and chest congestion. Some ammonia-containing products include floor, glass, and jewelry cleaners.

Ironically, when we finish our cleaning chores, the dirty chemical water we created is poured down a sink or flushed away into our rivers and streams, contaminating the outdoor environment. According to Allison Chatrchyan of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Dutchess County Environment Program, certain ingredients in cleaning products can be toxic to aquatic species in waters who are the recipients of inadequately treated waste.

Cleaning products with phosphorus or nitrogen contribute to excessive nutrients in water system, lead to poor water quality. And volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in cleaning products can affect indoor air quality and contribute to smog formation in outdoor air.  

How to go green?
First, make a conscious effect to buy chemical-free, environmentally safe cleaning solutions. Seven Generations, Earth Friendly, and Bio-Kleen are brands that Donna Kraus, the manager of household and beauty products department at Nature’s Pantry in Fishkill recommends. “Although there are several chemical-free products on the shelves these brands are biodegradable, free from toxic ingredients, and have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved logo,” says Kraus.

Save money. Make effective, nontoxic cleaning products. “My favorite ingredients are vinegar and baking soda,” says La Goy. “They can be used throughout the house, to clean almost anything, and are inexpensive, as well as easy to use. If you want smell, add essential oils like tea tree oil or lavender.”

Angela Batchelor is a freelance writer and an adjunct instructor at Dutchess Community College.