Blasting Through the Top Four Myths About Green Cleaning

October 2007

This consumer fact might ring a bell for you: A consistent finding in polls shows that people are very well intentioned towards their health and the environment but that they don't know how to implement solutions to address their concerns in their everyday lives. Many consumers don't understand that “green” living, in today's terms, is as much about health as it is about the environment. There are several people who refuse to use green cleaners because they don't smell strong enough to thoroughly clean a surface. You'd be amazed how often people make the judgment about “clean” related to the smell of commercial products.

The truth is most people need more education about the hidden dangers that expose us to health risks daily and simple ways to avoid these risks. If you, too would like to have a cleaner and greener life, but could use some help getting there, read on about some myths that may be blocking your way.

Myth #1: Nontoxic Cleaners Don't Work

Around Earth Day 1990, people by the thousands swore off cleaning with homemade folk formulas and green products. Here is why:

Every newspaper in the country (or so it seemed) offered formulas for nontoxic cleaning using the basics we all have in our kitchen cupboards, such as baking soda and vinegar. I am a huge fan of this approach. The problem was that the formula for windows that was given by editors was invariably just plain vinegar and water with the option of drying the windows with old newspapers. People by the thousands tried this, but the homemade formula left streaks on their windows – so consumers swore off cleaning with homemade formulas for good, thinking that this approach was ineffective. What the editors didn't know is that the commercial products their readers had used for so many years left a wax buildup, and vinegar alone wouldn't do the job of removing the residue. Unfortunately, if these consumers had known that simply adding a drop of dish soap to the vinegar and water once would have removed the buildup for good, they would have been pleased with the results of the homemade formula.

The homemade formulas are actually quite effective and I have used this approach successfully for years. Today many people are too busy to concoct this formula at home, which has fostered a competitive and growing market in green cleaning products. The science has gotten much more sophisticated in this arena and today these products are equally, if not more, effective as compared to their traditional counterparts.

Regarding buying green products, the hardest cleaning product to make green is an automatic dish detergent for those with hard water. Phosphates, common in mainstream dish detergents, clean dishes without leaving a white film residue, but they also cause serious algae bloom in the waste water stream. To this day, automatic dish detergents are the only green products on the market that don't offer both safety and effectiveness. All other green products out there are as good, if not better than their more toxic and synthetic counterparts. Much of this is because there is intense competition in the green product manufacturing arena and the products that survive do so because they work.

Maid Brigade is the only nationally franchised housecleaning service that has converted to a Green Cleaning system. The company developed the system in response to the growing evidence that traditional cleaning products and methods can be harmful to human and pet health. Maid Brigade tested every product they use in hundreds of homes before implementing their new system to be sure they are using the most effective products to do the job safely. In fact, this company has developed a comprehensive training and certification program to ensure that its franchisees are providing the safest and most effective cleaning available today. So for those people who simply haven't the time to clean, an alternative solution exists.

MYTH # 2: Nontoxic Cleaning Takes More Time

It doesn't take more time or elbow grease to accomplish most cleaning tasks with nontoxic choices. Grabbing a cleaning product with a Green Seal of approval doesn't take a second longer than grabbing one labeled “fatal if swallowed.” It is fascinating that employees of Maid Brigade report that Green Cleaning doesn't take any more time than the system they used previously. What is different is the way time is spent, their use of sophisticated and “smart” techniques such as using microfiber cloths, and that fewer products need to be used.

For those using Do-It-Yourself formulas, the time spent cleaning is not more, just different. For example, one nontoxic cleaning formula may require that you let dampened baking soda set overnight on the bottom of the oven. It won't take more time to scoop out the baking soda in the morning than to rinse out the toxic oven cleaner, and I've found that the toxic oven cleaner needs more elbow grease because baking soda does an excellent job.

MYTH #3: Nontoxic Cleaning Costs More

This isn't true! Yes, some products, such as a great green all-purpose detergent, may cost more than their synthetic counterparts. However you save money buying fewer products, and those that are more concentrated.

Maid Brigade commissioned a research study prior to going green, and learned that 77% of the 2000+ respondents indicated they would be willing to purchase green products over traditional products and 52% indicated they would pay extra. Even so, when I asked Maid Brigade whether their Green Cleaning cost more, VP of Operations Howard Purdy stated that the company's costs are comparable to traditional cleaning methods.

MYTH #4: The Government Protects Our Health by Thoroughly Testing Chemicals

I wish this were true, but sadly it isn't. There are thousands of chemicals on the market that have not been adequately tested. To prove this about any commercial product ingredient, look up the specific chemical's name and check their testing record by going to . (Scroll down on the left navigation bar to “Chemical Profiles” under the “Health Hazards” header.)

The product label can also help you. Signal words can be a great general gauge about a product. From least dangerous to most dangerous, these words are Caution, Warning and Danger. Avoid products with signal words such as “Harmful if swallowed.” I recommend buying nothing stronger than a “Caution.” Note that detergents have a “caution” on their label, and for good reason, since the largest number of childhood poisonings are from children drinking detergents.

Arm Yourself with the Facts

There are several more myths associated with Green Cleaning, but hopefully dispelling these four will help give you have a better understanding of “green.” By arming yourself with the facts about green and beginning to incorporate green cleaning into your home, you can enjoy not only a healthier home, but also a healthier life for you and your family!

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