You have probably seen by now that more and more brands started developing new items that are labeled as “green” “eco-friendly” or “natural” cleaning products. Whether these are companies with decades on the market which are trying to become environmentally conscious, or new ones with a fresh, innovative starting point, you have many new and better choices.
Now, the question is: are they really interested and honest about their efforts? Or is this just greenwashing?
Let’s read how to choose wisely the truthful green products.
Greenwashing or Honest Green Cleaning Products?
“Greenwashing” is a term for companies that are trying to make their products look more sustainable than they are. Their focus is on the marketing of the product rather than improving the product itself.
Of course, this can lead you to buy a product because, visually, it pretends to be environmentally conscious.
You can see that with the color palette (green, mostly), or with stickers such as “natural” “green” or “ecofriendly”. These are too ambiguous and evasive: they’re not really saying how they are natural or green, or what pledges or certifications are they following with that product.
It’s common to find these in products or brands that already exist, and that already have earned popularity over the years. When they have to compete with new, fresh alternative brands, they “keep up” by greenwashing marketing techniques.
For you to know that a product or a brand is fully committed, make sure it has at least most of the following tips:
Short & Clear Ingredient List
A good rule of thumb for choosing a safer cleaning product is to check its ingredient list. Just like every other field (food, personal care, makeup & beauty), a short, simple ingredient list means that the company chose all the ingredients carefully. Everything there is strictly necessary for the product to work.
Even further: companies with strong ethics and honesty about their products will take the time to indicate the purpose of each ingredient and their source. Either on the label itself or on their website or social media where they have all the elements they need to be clear about the product.
But besides the length of the ingredient list, keep reading to find out what should and should not be on that list.
Green Cleaning Products are Free of Harmful Chemicals
Of course, the easiest solution would be to go with brands that have removed harmful chemicals from their ingredient list. But this is not as easy as it sounds.
First of all, synthetic chemicals tend to be more contaminating, yes, but they are also much more affordable to produce. Plants and minerals tend to be harder to produce or obtain.
Now, exactly what harmful chemicals should you avoid?
There is a long list of chemicals used in the cleaning industry, and they might be either harmful to the environment, or possibly harmful or toxic to the human body.
If you check our Spring Cleaning Guide, we recommended choosing soap that is free of phosphates, ammonia, and artificial colors.
Phosphates can cause mild irritation to the skin, but they are particularly harmful to the ocean. Excessive phosphates increase the growth of algae, which depletes the oxygen supply to the entire ecosystem.
Ammonia is commonly used in polishers and glass cleaners. However, it is highly toxic and irritating. Its fumes are dangerous for people with respiratory issues such as asthma and bronchitis.
Artificial colors are common in cleaning products for easier identification of their purpose, in case you lose their label or packaging (low-risk cleaners, glass cleaners, food, kitchen cleaners, etc.). As long as you keep the label and the items organized in your cleaning pantry.
Other chemicals such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate, (or SLS and SLES), are toxic to aquatic life. Palm oil is one of the ingredients for sulfates, which is well-known to damage the tropical rainforest ecosystems, according to research. You should stay away from parabens and phthalates as well.
Plant and Mineral Based Cleaning
Plants and minerals are obtained from natural, organic sources. They present several benefits when compared to synthesized compounds.
First, plants and minerals that are used in cleaning products tend to be much gentler and more harmless to contact, including skin and lungs (by breathing). This is particularly important if you have sensitive skin, allergies, or respiratory issues.
They also come with dozens of natural cleaning properties such as degreasing, sanitizing, and deodorizing.
Second, the production process is less harmful, especially for plants for obvious reasons. Technology allows users to take advantage of plants for different purposes: anything from food to even packaging of the cleaning product itself.
Third, they are less contaminating to the environment once you discard them, at least when compared to the chemicals above.
Many chemical compounds are plant-based or mineral-based.
Citric acid is one of the most popular, obtained from citrus fruits. It has degreasing and stain-removing properties, mostly. It works as a natural preservative as well.
Many plants and flowers such as lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree, are used as natural fragrances and disinfectants.
However, even plant-based components can be harmful to the environment. For example, sulfates come from either coconut or palm trees, and they are still toxic and damaging.
This means that, even if these products are plant-based, you should do some research first. Learn about the effects of each ingredient on the human body and the environment.
Surfactants such as Lauryl Glucoside, Decyl Glucoside, and Coco glucoside are plant-based cleansing agents. They are less harmful to the environment than sulfates.
Many oils are plant-based and can be used instead of palm oil. The most popular ones are coconut, sunflower, jojoba, and olive.
Carbon neutral is a term that is now used often. It doesn’t necessarily mean that this product doesn’t emit carbon, but that it absorbs enough carbon to balance the emission out. The easiest and most common way to reduce carbon emissions is to plant more trees.
This means that the company has put time and resources to compensate for its carbon emission. Another option is that the ingredients and materials come from trees, such as plants and flowers as the ingredients, or cleaning tools with bamboo handles or cardboard packaging.
Vegan & Cruelty-Free Should Be Part of Green Cleaning Products
The environment includes animals, of course. We have two main “labels” that are directly related to the respect for animals in cleaning products: “vegan” & “cruelty-free”.
A vegan product doesn’t have any component that is related to animals, either directly or indirectly. Believe it or not, many cleaning products actually have animal-based ingredients, such as tallow, animal glycerol, steric acid (animal fats) or oleyl alcohols (fish oil).
First, this might be an issue for you if you are ethically against using animals for human consumption or benefit, in this case, as a cleaning product. Second, you might have allergic reactions to certain animals or by-products.
On a similar note, you have cruelty-free products. For human safety, companies test products first on animals, to see how they would react to contact on skin, eyes, breathing, and so on.
Cruelty-free products are free of animal testing. Instead, they use different methods such as cell culture (where scientists cultivate animal or plant cells in an artificial environment), human tissue, and even human volunteers.
Green cleaning companies will often include vegan and cruelty-free products as part of the respect for the environment.
Eco-Conscious or Green Packaging
The product itself is not the only important component. Packaging also plays an important role in green cleaning products. As you know, the oceans are filled with one-time plastics. This includes packaging from cleaning products, such as soap dispensers and spray bottles.
What can you do in this case?
You have the classic alternatives to plastic: cardboard, paper, glass, and recycled materials.
Then, you have items that are plastic but are reusable, or more durable. If you buy the refill products in bulk (such as gallon presentation), they come in a hard, reusable plastic container that you can easily clean and refill.
You even have options now where the packaging is a slim, biodegradable film that dissolves itself after you use it, or no packaging at all, such as laundry tabs.
Are Green Cleaning Products Pricier?
Because they have to spend much more on resources that are less harmful to the environment, their production costs increase. However, sometimes they might use alternative benefits.
For example, they are concentrated, usually. This means that you can dilute your cleaning product in water. Sometimes, a concentrated product can be cheaper in the long run. This is because you (normally) use commercial products straight from the bottle in order for them to work properly.
Besides, they usually offer a container to apply the product (mostly a dispenser or spray bottle) and then cheaper refills for you to use once you run out of it.
Last but not least, many of them come with individual packaging (biodegradable) for each use, for example, washing pods. This is helpful because it helps you use exactly the amount you need and not go overboard.
Green cleaning products can be hard to find when they are just the product of greenwashing marketing campaigns.
Fortunately, now the internet allows you to do your research and find out exactly what’s behind each cleaning product. Brands that have nothing to hide will do exactly that: they will show everything that’s on their ingredient list, where it came from, and why it is on that list.
Make sure you avoid chemicals that are harmful to the environment or the human body. Phosphates, Phthalates, and Ammonia are the most common ones. Besides, palm oil by-products and Sulphates are harmful to the environment.
Instead, look for plant-based and mineral-based ingredients which are safe for the environment and harmless to your body.
Packaging is also important. Brands with strong ethics use eco-conscious packaging as well. You can find anything such as cardboard, paper, bamboo, glass, and reusable and/or recycled plastic.
Last but not least, ethics also include taking care of animals. Vegan and cruelty-free products do not harm animals and look for only plant-based or mineral-based ingredients.
Fortunately, if you want Dallas Maids to take care of your home, you can let us know if you want us to use your preferred cleaning products.