Every action we take falls into one of 2 categories: it either destroys or heals the earth. For the future of our planet we need to place every aspect of our lives under a microscope and each time ask: What is the end result of this choice of mine on the planet as a whole?
Does it benefit the protection of all species, including people, and all natural resources, or does it destroy our delicate web of life?
Most of us know that our cleaning agents regularly used around the house contain harmful and toxic chemicals. Some people still seem to assume that they are ‘necessary evils’ for keeping the home clean and germ-free. But these cleaning chemicals can harm the environment, particularly our rare water resources, seriously affect your family and staff’s health and damage the objects we clean?
I’ve read evidence of how cleaning products damage the health of those who perpetually clean for a living, such as cleaners and cleaning service employees. Fumes inhalation and the peeling of skin cells from their hands affect their health over time. It leads to asthma, hormonal disruptions, nerve and organ damage, allergies, immune system failure, infertility and cancer.
Scientists are concerned that long-term, low-level chemical exposure is just as dangerous as a short-term, high-dose exposure.
Skin cells are permeable or porous and allow chemicals to enter the cell through the cell wall. Once inside, the chemicals wreak havoc and cause a multitude of health problems, depending on the particular chemical and the cells’ unique genetic makeup.
Cool alternatives heal rather than destroy
When I switched to alternative cleaning products many years ago, only a few products were available. In fact many of us made our own concoctions with lemon juice, vinegar etc. as some folk still do today. But we knew it was only a matter of time before a wide range of pucker green cleaners would appear. Today our major retailers are making it easy to be green. There are so many good products available, we can hardly keep up! So in this story we’ll discuss a few.
‘Green chemicals’ refers to harmless cleaning products that are sourced from nature. These natural ingredients give you the cleaning power you need without the release of harmful chemicals into the environment. They safeguard your family, pets and even your plants’ health.
A natural cleaner is an emulsifier, which means it is capable of dispensing oil and other residues in water. Dirt and grease molecules are surrounded, encapsulated, and emulsified by the micelles found in green chemicals. This emulsification process renders grease, dirt, and other hydrocarbon residues easy to wash away and nearly unable to stick back to cleaned surfaces.
There are a few different natural cleaning systems available now, based on either biodegradable plant ingredients, biological cleaning actions, micro-organisms, or green chemicals.
Green cleaning products are plant-based and don’t contain synthetic and harmful chemicals. Their formulae are available from the industry’s top green suppliers, and are non-toxic and readily biodegradable. There are upholstery cleaners, carpet cleaners, graffiti removers, grill cleaners, drain cleaners, coil cleaners, and tile & grout cleaners. There is a green alternative for almost every type of cleaning that you need done.
One such range is the Woolworths ‘Earth Friendly’ range. These products are ideal for those looking for household cleaning and personal care products that are as kind to their families as they are to the environment. This range with more than 60 different environmentally friendly products forms part of Woolies’ Good business journey – Woolworths’ five year plan to help people and the planet.
Julian Novak, Head of Woolworths Foods, says ‘awareness of the possible hazards posed by many generally available household cleaning products has been growing, but until now, South African consumers looking for environmentally friendlier household cleaning and personal care products have had few options. Our goal in launching this new range is to make these products easily accessible and to offer products to meet virtually every household cleaning or personal care need.’
The products are made with naturally derived, plant-based, biodegradable ingredients which contain no petrochemicals, animal ingredients or artificial colours. The new products are as effective as they are gentle to the skin and the environment and carry the endorsement of Beauty Without Cruelty. Where possible, Woolworths has used recyclable bottles which themselves are made from at least 30% recycled materials.
In this range you can find antibacterial bathroom cleaners, toilet cleaners, window cleaners, kitchen surface cleaners, multi-purpose cleaners, carpet cleaner, oven cleaner, floor cleaner, dishwashing liquid, carpet freshener and furniture polish, as well as stain removers and cleaners for marble & granite and stainless steel. There are also a wide variety of handy cleaning wipes to help keep windows and kitchen and bathroom surfaces clean. They provide natural furniture wipes with cedar oil, lavender and sweet basil to help care for wood furniture.
For laundry, Woolworths offers a choice of two ultra-concentrated, pH neutral, 2-in-1 laundry detergents made with soy fabric conditioner, as well as a gentler chamomile and lavender-scented detergent for baby’s laundry. The laundry detergents are suitable for either top-loading or front-loading washing machines.
Biological cleaning products
Another plant-based cleaning range is the Pick ‘n Pay Green Household range. The Pick ‘n Pay Green Household range, which comprises of high-quality products manufactured according to the highest global environmental standards. It is also the first ever to be endorsed by government’s Indalo Yethu initiative, which aims to promote green and eco-friendly practices through its various economic and social development programmes.
In this range the cleaning activity essentially comes from its biological components. Soft chemical ingredients are included in the lowest required concentration to support and stimulate biological activity. At that concentration, the chemicals will hardly clean, and the job is left up to the biological components.
Biological ingredients are produced according to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). These ingredients don’t contain any animal derived material nor highly toxic or flammable ingredients or carcinogens. They contain no volatile organic compounds, sodium lauryl sulphate, ammonia or chlorine. The contents are non-toxic to humans, animals, plants, septic tanks and aquatic life, and once used will biodegrade within six days.
The following groups are microbiologically controlled: yeast and moulds, Salmonella sp., Coliform bacteria, Escherichia coli, Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus sp. and Pseudomonas sp. A maximum of five different strains per formulation of the best suited bacteria are included to avoid intra-strain competition.
These safer cleaners also help the environment by using a highly concentrated formula to reduce packaging waste. They offer a range of post-consumer refuge bags, which are made from discarded plastics. Also, the cleaning and degreasing formulations don’t require hot water to reach maximum performance.
Micro-organisms to eat dirt
Nature uses micro-organisms to self-cleanse. Recent developments in cleaning technology have resulted in micro-organisms made possible for us to use in day-to-day cleaning.
Probac combines non-harmful natural elements with beneficial bacteria that biodegrade dirt in the process of cleaning. It consists of selected groups of safe living bacteria that have been cultured to biodegrade specific organic waste in various cleaning and waste treatment applications.
The system continues to biodegrade harmful waste and bacteria after the cleaning water has re-entered the ecosystem through the drain. It is very effective and highly concentrated. A bottle of Probac can be diluted to make 20 litres, which will last much longer than your average cleaning product.
Another useful product, called Nu Kleen, is marketed by Innu-Science, a company that has been around for 20 years. They also use micro-organisms which break down a remarkable 90% within two weeks. Their products contain Canadian forest probiotics as the food source for bacteria, which help break down organic matter. They literally ‘eat’ the dirt away.
Bacteria have the capabilities of consuming different types of waste and can actually produce enzymes. When waste is consumed by bacteria, waste safe by-products, carbon dioxide and water, are produced. Bacteria will produce enzymes in the case of complex waste, which will enable them to consume it easily. Bacteria also consume phosphate, ammonia and nitrates, which improves the quality of water.
Nu Kleen products have no fumes and don’t harm the skin because of their relatively neutral pH. They are harmless to humans and animals, in case some is spilled. Nu Kleen has an appealing all-purpose cleaner, which saves one from needing so many different products; perfect for a minimalist greenie. It is also a concentrate, which means less packaging. I found this product at Builder’s Warehouse.
Effective microbes in a magic ball
The Biowashball is a magical item for doing your laundry. It doesn’t require any washing powder. It is a non-toxic plastic sphere which you place between your laundry when loading your machine. It contains natural ceramics that attract dirt, working as an alternative for washing powder. This product pays for itself within months and is well worth the R380 odd you need to spend upfront. How much do you spend on washing powder per month?
People find it unbelievable that you can clean your laundry without the white powder we’ve grown accustomed to. How is it possible? The ceramics inside the ball are inoculated with Effective Micro-organisms (EM’s). These organisms naturally promote the decomposing of organic material. They gobble the dirt in your clothes, leaving the water from your washing machine outlet-pipe good for your soil! It helps the soil to re-energize itself and cleans our groundwater system.
The ceramics have the ability to break the water surface tension the same way normal detergents do. This allows the water, which is the natural cleaning agent, to penetrate easily in between the fibres of laundry and be effective without the use of soap.
The ceramics emit negative ions into the water that attach to the positive dirt particles. They get washed out during the washing process. After washing with the ball your clothes are very clean, with their colours intact. It protects clothes, ensuring they last longer.
The absence of chemical residues means that the Biowashball is hypo-allergenic, therefore registered as a medical product in Switzerland. It is safe to use in any washing machine for three years on the basis of one 4kg laundry load per day. It means each ball can be used effectively for roughly 1000 washing loads. The ball is refreshed by placing it in the sun once a month.
I was chuffed to find a cool green range at our local Spar, called ‘Our Earth.’ These products are distributed by Lyme and contain a variety of natural oils. This range is based on a branch of chemical science that allow them to create particles known as Colloidal Micelles which are used to make safe, environmentally friendly, powerful and affordable cleaners.
Conventional household cleaning products contain highly carcinogenic chemicals and produce toxic fumes that damage the brain and other organs. Most regular cleaning products contain surfactants such as Dioxane and Ethylene Oxide, which are known carcinogens which can cause cancer and birth defects. Our Earth is free from Dioxine and Ethylene Oxide.
The Micelles possess both hydrophilic heads and hydrophobic tails, which clean by breaking down all hydrocarbons they come into contact with and holding them in suspension to prevent re-soiling.
Our Earth’s Colloidal Micelle based cleaning products are safe to use without any protective clothing. Your hands will in fact become softer after a few weeks of using Our Earth products. Our Earth products will bio-degrade 84.6% in 28 days, and have obtained the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) highest ranking of ‘Readily Biodegradable.’
Are you still unsure? Why bother?
Green products are better for the Environment
They don’t contain nor release harmful substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOC) into the air. They are made of natural substances and don’t pollute water sources like rivers, streams and lakes like synthetic cleaners do.
When synthetic cleaners enter air and water, they enter natural food chains and cause adverse effects on the eco system. We can no longer afford to destroy our delicate systems, vulnerable species and rare water resources. Green chemicals are readily biodegrade, ensuring the environment is left unharmed, if not benefited.
They are better for your health
Synthetic cleaners are harmful to your health. They contain chemicals that are irritants which cause the user’s skin harm or give off unhealthy fumes. Green chemicals aren’t harsh on the skin. They have fewer chances of causing allergic reactions in the user.
Other green cleaners I have used with good results are:
They are beneficial to the environment, cost effective and work just as well, if not better, than traditional cleaning methods. Now it’s super easy to do the right thing.
By Elma Pollard