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How To Choose The Best Cleaning Products For Your Home & The Environment

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This issue of News For A Healthier You discusses "green" cleaning and how to choose household cleaners.
  1. Labels Can Be Misleading
  2. How To Understand Labels
  3. Ingredients To Minimize
  4. Now That You Know, What Do You Do?
  5. Environmentally Preferable Products You Can Get Right Here At National Allergy
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How To Choose The Best Cleaning Products
For Your Home & The Environment

Labels Can Be Misleading
We associate the term "green" with products that are safe for our families, our homes, and our planet. Probably everyone wants to be "green-er", but picking the right product can be easier said than done. The Federal Trade Commission has established guidelines that require the manufacturers of household cleaners to be able to back up environmental claims with proof. Although these are guidelines and not enforceable laws, there are enforceable laws about deceptive acts and practices.

But there are still plenty of deceptive labels out there, so we are our own best watchdogs. We need to be wary of vague or broad general claims such as "environmentally friendly", "eco safe", or "eco-friendly". When you see terms like this, it's a step in the right direction, but look at the label for more specific information.

How To Understand Labels
Learn To Use Labels As GuidesSome words on labels do not give the whole picture so you get the wrong idea about the safety of the product. Words on the label like danger and poison are not just on scary products. Some products that are EPA registerd may be required to have a danger-type label due to what the products does, not what is in it. If a natural product kills insects, it must be labeled dangerous even though it is not harmful to people or pets. Likewise, words that sound good (non-toxic, biodegradable, safe, or natural) may give you the wrong idea as well because the terms are not highly regulated. It's like when food says it has "natural ingredients". You have to do your own research to know what that means.

So now you need to dig a little deeper and look at the ingredients to see if the label is telling the truth. It is a good sign if the ingredients are listed right on the label. However, some companies guard formula secrets by saying "proprietary ingredients". This does not mean they are hiding anything bad, but if you have trouble determining the ingredients from the label, a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) can be of assistance. This will tell you all the ingredients deemed hazardous, if you need to wear protective clothing when using the product, what to do if it is swallowed, the pH level (environmentally, the closer to 7, the better rather than closer to 1 or 14), and the flammability (it should be none, not applicable, or greater than 200). If the MSDS is not readily available to you, you can Google "MSDS for (Product Name or Manufacturer Name)".

It is very difficult to eliminate chemicals when cleaning, but you can look for products that are environmentally preferable--the ones with the least harmful chemicals in the lowest concentration possible to get the job done. On the other hand, you can be watchful and try to minimize some of the worst offenders environmentally.

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Ingredients To Minimize
There are many lists of harmful chemicals, but once again, you need to use your common sense. Just about anything in excess can be harmful. Sometimes a substance that would be dangerous in large amounts is very helpful in small amounts. And sometimes you just need to pull out the big guns. The products on this list from The Sierra Club are harmful to people or the environment if used irresponsibly and should be avoided when possible especially in large quantities:
  • Air fresheners. Conventional air fresheners can contain hormone-disrupting phthalates, cancer-causing chemicals such as formaldehyde and benzene, and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as d-limonene that can irritate your eyes, skin, and respiratory system and cause headaches, nausea, and dizziness.
  • Alkyl phenol ethoxylates (APEs). These chemicals are found in laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners, and stain removers. They are surfactants, which form a bridge between chemicals that don't readily mix, allowing products to remove dirt from surfaces. But unfortunately APEs break down into hormone-disrupting chemicals. They are found in household dust, and some pass through our sewage treatment plants to wind up in our streams and rivers. APEs and their breakdown chemicals in streams and rivers harm wildlife. The European Union and Canada have banned some types of APEs from cleaning products.
  • Antibacterial products. Antibacterial products are not any more effective than plain soap and hot water, except in situations involving immune compromised individuals. And they have serious downsides. The commonly used Triclosan is causing deformities in tadpoles in U.S. lakes and streams and has recently been found in human breast milk. In addition, Triclosan may encourage the growth of "superbugs" by promoting the growth of bacteria that are resistant to it.
  • Chlorine Bleach. Sold by itself and as an ingredient in many household cleaners, chlorine bleach is irritating to the lungs and eyes and responsible for numerous poisoning incidents every year. Once in a wastewater treatment system, reacts with other chemicals, potentially forming even more-harmful substances.
  • Fragrances. Skip that "mountain fresh" scent created by synthetic fragrances. Many air fresheners contain hormone-disrupting phthalates.
  • Glycol ethers. Found in glass cleaners, floor cleaners, and oven cleaners, some glycol ethers are reproductive toxicants. One of the more common one is 2-butoxyethanol (aka butyl glycol or butyl cellosolve), which can damage the nervous system, kidneys, and liver and be absorbed by the skin from the air.
  • Monoethanolamine (MEA). A surfactant found in detergents, all-purpose cleaners, and floor cleaners, MEA may induce asthma attacks.
  • Petroleum distillates. Typically used as solvents, petroleum distillates are found in metal polishes and adhesive removers. They can cause temporary eye clouding, as well as long-term damage to the nervous system, kidneys, and eyes.
  • Phenol and cresol. Often found in disinfectants, phenol and cresol can cause diarrhea, fainting, dizziness, and kidney and liver damage.
  • Phosphates. Largely phased out of most laundry detergents, phosphates are still found in dishwashing detergents. The nutrients they add to our water systems can result in increased growth of algae and plants, as well as an increase in the bacteria that feed on the algae and plants when they die. These bacteria rob the water of its dissolved oxygen, killing fish and other aquatic organisms.
  • Spray cleaners. While convenient, spray cleaners are more closely linked to asthma and respiratory irritation than similar liquid cleaners. The fine sprays of droplets of cleaning products have been linked to increased risks of asthma, but using a similar cleaner in a non-spray form has not shown any increased risk. A simple switch can protect your respiratory health.
As you choose your cleaning products, you are not a horrible person if you decide one of the chemicals above is necessary for your situation. For example, chlorine is one of the worst offenders, but sometimes it is necessary to use it. Just try to use products without these chemicals when possible or use these chemicals sparingly. We certainly need to be mindful of what chemicals are doing to our families and our environment, but "going green" is a process that we can always improve.

Do You Have Old Household Cleaners Sitting On The Shelf That You Need To Safely Dispose Of?
Now That You Know, What Do You Do?
First, you may want to look at what is under your sink or on the shelf in your cleaning closet right now. Now that you know to examine the label and the ingredients, you can evaluate products to decide if you want to replace with them a "greener" cleaner when they run out. Some products may be so old that you might as well get rid of them. Sometimes it is more environmentally friendly to finish using a product than to dispose of it. If you decide you are not going to use the product, you should not pour it down the drain or put it in the garbage. Instead, call your local government to see if there is an acceptable method of disposal in your area - or if they will come up with one.


Environmentally Preferable Products You Can Get Right Here At National Allergy
These products are offered by National Allergy because they have low chemical content, the chemicals they contain are not harsh or toxic, and they get the job done. The products are divided into four main groups: National Allergy Brand Cleaners, EnviroRite Clearly Clean Products, Laundry Products, and Other Products.

National Allergy Brand Cleaners
All Purpose NAS-12
  • Non-Chlorine Mold & Mildew Remover
  • Use For All Household Dirt
All Purpose NAS-12 from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
No More Mildew
  • Non-Chlorine Protective Barrier
  • Prevents Mold Growth For Up To 2 Years
No More Mildew from National Allergy - Click to Learn More

No More Soap Scum
  • Non-Chlorine Soap Scum Remover
  • Designed For The Job
No More Soap Scum from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
No More Algae
  • Non-Chlorine Green Algae Remover
  • For All Outdoor Surfaces
No More Algae from National Allergy - Click to Learn More

RD-30
Roof & Deck Cleaner
  • Non-Chlorine Way To Make Roofs, Decks, Driveways & Patios Look Like New
RD-30 Roof & Deck Cleaner from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
Nu-Stat
Permanent Furnace Filter Cleaner
  • Non-Chlorine Way To Remove Tough Grime From Washable Furnace Filters
Nu-Stat Permanent Furnace Filter Cleaner from National Allergy - Click to Learn More


EnviroRite Clearly Clean Cleaning Products

Multi-Purpose Cleaner
  • Vegetable-Based Cleaner For All Household Jobs
  • No Chlorine, Petrochemicals, Or Perfumes
EnviroRite Clearly Clean Multi-Purpose Cleaner from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
Tub & Tile Cleaner
  • Vegetable-Based Dirt & Scum Remover
  • No Chlorine, Petrochemicals, Or Perfumes
EnviroRite Clearly Clean Tub & Tile Cleaner from National Allergy - Click to Learn More

Glass Cleaner
  • Vegetable-Based Glass & Plexi Cleaner
  • No Chlorine, Petrochemicals, Or Perfumes
EnviroRite Clearly Clean Glass Cleaner from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
Hard Floor Cleaner
  • Vegetable-Based
  • Cleans Tile, Vinyl, Sealed Wood
  • No Chlorine, Petrochemicals, Or Perfumes
EnviroRite Clearly Clean Hard Floor Cleaner from National Allergy - Click to Learn More

Auto Dishwasher Powder
  • Vegetable-Based
  • Cleans Dishes With No Chlorine, Petrochemicals, Or Perfumes
EnviroRite Clearly Clean Auto Dishwasher Powder from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
Hand Dishwashing Liquid
  • Vegetable-Based
  • Easy-On-Hands
  • No Chlorine, Petrochemicals, Or Perfumes
EnviroRite Clearly Clean Hand Dishwashing Liquid from National Allergy - Click to Learn More


Laundry Products

Clearly Clean
Laundry Detergent
  • Vegetable-Based, Fresh & Clean
  • No Phosphates, Chlorine, Petrochemicals, Or Perfumes
EnviroRite Clearly Clean Laundry Detergent from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
Anti-Allergen Solution
Liquid Detergent
  • No Perfumes, Dyes, Enzymes, & Phosphates
  • Leaves Laundry Free Of Allergens & Dirt
Anti-Allergen Solution Laundry Detergent from National Allergy - Click to Learn More

Allersearch Allergen Wash Detergent
  • Cleans & Removes Allergens
  • Free Of Perfumes, Dyes & Other Irritating Additives
Allersearch Allergen Wash Detergent from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
De-Mite
Laundry Additive
  • Use With Any Detergent To Remove Dust Mite Allergen
  • Works In Any Temperature
De-Mite Laundry Additive from National Allergy - Click to Learn More

Clearly Clean
Laundry Pre-Treat
  • Dissolves Stains Like Grease, Food, & Pet Stains
  • No Chlorine, Petrochemicals, Or Perfumes
EnviroRite Clearly Clean Laundry Pre-Treat from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
Clearly Clean
Powdered Power
  • Non-Chlorine
  • Whitens & Deodorizes Laundry & More
  • No Perfumes Or Petrochemicals
EnviroRite Clearly Clean Powdered Power from National Allergy - Click to Learn More



Other Cleaning Products

Vital-Oxide
  • Non-Chlorine Mold Cleaner
  • Broad Spectrum Disinfectant
  • Kills H1N1, E-Coli & More
Vital Oxide Broad Spectrum Disinfectant & Mold Eliminator from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
Bissell Steam Mop
  • Clean With NO Chemicals
  • Fill With Water & Dislodge Dirt With The Power Of Steam
Bissell Steam Mop from National Allergy - Click to Learn More

Dust Grabbers
  • Electrostatic Cloths
  • Wash Over & Over
  • Use Dry - No Polish
Dust Grabber Electrostatic Cloths from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
Microfiber Cloths
  • Use Wet, Dry, Or With Polish
  • Lint Free
  • Machine Wash & Dry
MicroFiber Cleaning Cloths from National Allergy - Click to Learn More

Eat My Dust
Furniture Polish
  • Odorless
  • No Oily Residue
  • Non-Aerosol Spray
Eat My Dust Furniture Polish from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
Action Fiber Dust Mop
  • Wet & Dry Heads
  • 19" Cleaning Path
  • Handle Expands To 44"
Action Fiber Dust Mop from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
Microfiber Blinds Duster
  • Ergonomic Easy-On-Wrist Handle
  • Dust Blinds Quickly & Efficiently
MicroFiber Mini Blinds Duster from National Allergy - Click to Learn More
Microfiber High Duster

  • Bends To Easily Dust Ceiling Fans, Tall Furniture, Etc.
  • Extends To 80"
MicroFiber High Duster from National Allergy - Click to Learn More




Margie Bullock, Newsletter Editor
Closing Thoughts
Life is all about compromise and finding the right balance. That is true about cleaning products, too. You have to balance the chemical content and the effectiveness of the product according to what is acceptable to you. Remember that "green cleaning" is not a specific point that you reach. Whenever you consider the environment when you choose cleaning products, you are green cleaning.


 
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