The problems with air pollution in cities and industrialised areas are widely recognised and much is being done by countries to try and reduce this pollution. But what about inside our homes and work environments? Is our obsession with ‘clean’ actually harming us? In the last few years, a lot of research has been published with some shocking results.
Cleaning products (among other things such as wood burners and personal care and home fragrance products) bring toxic chemicals into our homes, which can quickly, as we more carefully insulate and seal ourselves inside, build up. Recent studies have shown that the air inside homes is 100 to 400 times more toxic than the air outside – It helps to identify what the problem is with some of the ingredients and start taking a second look at the ‘everyday’ products that we use.
“Using chemical cleaning products could harm female workers’ lungs as much as smoking a pack of cigarettes every day for 10 to 20 years, according to 2018 study by a team of European researchers”
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH THE PRODUCTS WE USE TO CLEAN?
LACK OF INFORMATION
We trust that the products available on our supermarket shelves are safe for us to use. Surely we would not be being sold products that are damaging? There is a huge lack of transparency about ingredients used in cleaning and home products, companies tend to use generic terms such as ‘fragrance’ instead of listing each compound used so it is difficult to know exactly what is in each thing we use.
A COCKTAIL OF CLEAN SMELLS
The smells that we have come to associate with ‘clean’ are made from chemical compounds that can be damaging. There is no naturally occurring scent of ‘Fresh Linen’ – it is a synthetically made up fragrance.
The Environmental Workers Group tested 21 commonly used cleaning products—like air fresheners and multipurpose cleaning sprays—and found that they emitted more than 450 chemicals into the air, including several compounds linked to asthma, developmental and reproductive harm, and cancer.
Most of the harmful ingredients are in these products in tiny tiny amounts which is why they can be manufactured and sold. The problem is that we are now exposed to these tiny microdoses in so many different areas from Air Fresheners and Cleaning sprays in the air to Fabric Softeners on our skin that they build up and it is harder for our bodies to expel them.
HUGE WASTE AND POLLUTION
With a constant marketing push for everywhere to be sparkling clean and a different product for every appliance, surface, area and object we have overcomplicated the simple act of cleaning. This leads to excess purchasing of unnecessary products which can be expensive, large amounts of plastic waste from bottles and lots of chemicals being flushed into the environment down drains and sinks.
WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
1. KEEP IT SIMPLE – PURCHASE AND USE ONLY WHAT YOU NEED
Start your spring clean with your cleaning products! Check the ingredients list for any really bad nasties. There are lots of online resources to check against a good easy to understand list can be found here https://www.avomeen.com/lifesciences-chemicals-avoid-cleaning-products/ . Not all ‘chemicals’ are bad and it is good to do some research into what ingredients are used for – you will quickly begin to recognize a few definite nasties you want to avoid. Make sure you have a simple stock of products that do what you need and cover multiple areas so you are not overstocked with unnecessary products. For example, a really good all-round multipurpose soap solution can be used EVERYWHERE not just for ‘the bathroom’ or ‘mopping floors’
2. AVOID SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCE WHEREVER POSSIBLE
This is a big one. Although the ‘scent’ of a freshly made bed laden with softener can seem inviting try and remember that the skin is your biggest organ and all the synthetic fragrance is being directly absorbed into your body. When cleaning inside your home try to use Fragrance-Free Cleaning Products where ever possible or ones that are scented using natural elements oils. A good rule of thumb is to choose fragrances that are real – so ‘Lemon and Aloe’ rather than ‘Summer Breeze’ – but always check the label. If you have nasty smells find the source rather than cover them up and you can neutralise odours from pets and in fridges with bicarb of Soda and essential oils.
3. MAKE YOUR OWN BASIC PRODUCTS
Save yourself a TON of money and make your own products where possible. This does not have to be complicated. Vinegar + Water is a brilliant spray to use everywhere around the house from surfaces, windows and mirrors. Vinegar has natural antibacterial properties a neutral scent, is cheap and often available in larger containers and lasts for ages.. Have a look online for inspiration and add orange peel to create your own cleaner.. Baking Soda or Bicarbonate of Soda is a great deodoriser and natural whitener. Get creative and you will be able to eliminate a LOT of unnecessary spending and waste from your cleaning regime without having to turn your kitchen into a scene from Breaking Bad.
4. LOOK FOR CONCENTRATED / DILUTABLE PRODUCTS
Where possible look for highly concentrated products that you can make into your own spray bottles. This not only makes products last for a long time but means you don’t throw away each individual bottle when you are finished with it. Although concentrated products can seem more expensive initially you make massive savings over time. 1 bottle of OnGuard Cleaner Concentrate is €23.10, but it can make 18 500ml spray bottles of cleaner which equates to €1.28 per spray bottle. A massive saving compared to what is in the supermarket. We hope to soon be stocking tabs that you can dilute in water which save on space and the transportation of heaving product as well.
5. FIND A GOOD PRODUCT SELECTION AND STICK TO IT
Once you have streamlined your products, started making your own Vinegar+Water and cleaning is a dream, don’t be swayed by marketing. It is so tempting to believe the adverts or pictures on the bottles of a sparkling oven in seconds. Pick up the can and have a quick read on the back and check out the symbols and then replace it. One good antibacterial product is enough for all the surfaces in your house to use when needed – the spray bottle really doesn’t know which room of the house it is in.