Posted by: UrbanGreenGirl | August 19, 2008

How to start your green life

The very first thing you can do to make a noticeable impact on the environment is to “green” your home.  Let’s start by examining the products you use to clean your house. Are you aware of how much you are contributing to water pollution, air pollution and waste by buying all these grocery store chemical cleaners, not to mention the toxic effect they have on your body? Let’s face it, if you went camping, you wouldn’t dump a bottle of Windex into the lake nor wash your clothes in it with Tide so why do we feel less guilty when we do it at home?  Yes, our wasted water goes though treatment but it still ends up in our waterways and all that chemical laden gunk that’s extracted from it doesn’t just disappear.

The toxic fumes from these cleaners go into our air, irritate our eyes and respiratory systems (asthma, allergies). I know many people who can’t even wash their house without going through a box a kleenex because their nose drips the entire time.  And let’s open that can of worms when it comes to the serious carcinogenic ingredients like coal-tar, Quarternium 15 (which releases formaldehyde), synthetic dyes and perfumes that are left behind our or dishes, skin, floors, walls and windows when cleaning.

What really bugs me are all these manufacturers who keep coming out with new and improved products (what because they didn’t work before?) which are mostly petroleum based (more reasons to be in Iraq), contain toxic ingredients that are non-renewable, non-biodegradable and seriously harmful to our bodies plus they contribute to more waste through packaging.  How these ingredients pass Health Canada and the FDA are beyond me even when they have proof that they are carcinogenic.  If they are passed it’s usually because they do short-term tests.  I mean a big manufacturer doesn’t have 15 years to spend testing a new “grease fighting” ingredient when they want to sell it now, so the effects of them on our bodies in the long term are unknown and synergistic tests (how it reacts with other products or ingredients) aren’t even mandatory. So how are we supposed to know the “real” effect of when it will be in people’s homes?

Seriously, if these products are toxic for the environment and potentially dangerous for our bodies, then this begs the question, why are we using them when there are natural alternatives that in my opinion are far more effective?  And for all the pet lovers out there, don’t for one moment think that cosmetics are the only things tested on animals, cleaning products go through just as many tests as cosmetics.  No company is more plagued with animal testing scandals than Procter and Gamble, who for example, tested the toxicity levels of their Tide-tablets by force feeding them to beagles.

So, I don’t know about you but when I hear that ingredients like Quarternium 15 which release formaldehyde in my dish soap may be carcinogenic, I don’t need to read 300 articles stating it may or may not be dangerous.  I think I have enough common sense to realise that I am just cleaning tomato sauce off my sauce pan…I can do without the dead body preservative when washing my dishes and use a vegetable-based, grapefruit smelling one instead, thank you very much.

So what’s the solution? Simple!  First of all, get rid of the notion that you need such a wide range of cleaning products. Most were created through marketing initiatives to increase sales by slightly altering the products and adding a different scent.  Second, you can use green brands that are vegetable based, non-toxic, biodegradable, cruelty-free and usually made with recyclable packaging. So what about the effectiveness you ask? Very good! 

citrasolvI use Citra-solv as an all purpose spray made from orange oils so its breaks through grease, dried up tomato sauce and leaves a pleasant smelling scent. Best of all it’s concentrated – 1 bottle can be diluted to make 10 spray bottles, so you reduce packaging and save money.

For dishes I use Nature-Clean brand products but there are tons of other green brands available on the market. This brand for example has a complete line of cleaning products that can be found in the natural sections of major grocery stores, health food stores or online.

Third, you can make your own cleaning products with ingredients you probably already have in your home like vinegar (perfect for hardwood floors and washing windows), baking soda, (abrasive for stains, declogs sinks), lemon juice (degreaser), hydrogen peroxide (natural disinfectant or bleaching agent) and borax (anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and bleaching agent).

I admit, I haven’t yet made the leap to making my own cleaning products but I can’t wait to try them out. In one of my next posts I will do a complete article on making your own cleaners, their effectiveness and how easy it is to find the products.  None the less, I enjoy shopping for natural cleaners and love trying new brands and you will too. There’s nothing not to like!

A recent 5-year EPA study found the concentration of 20 toxic compounds to be as much as 200 times higher inside homes than outdoors.
Green Seal’s Choose Green Report, March 1998


  1. Great post! I like how pointed out that you wouldn’t dump this crap out while camping, why dump it in your sink/tub/washer?!? I love CitraSolv…it smells divine and it makes so many bottles of spray! Oh and it works well too like you said! 😉 Seventh Generation is also good for dish washing.

    Watch out for Borax though, at least one company tests on animals: 20-Mule Team. They are owned by Dial/Henkel and they test their final products on animals. I thought that you and others may like to know, considering many people don’t think of cleaning products being tested on animals (and most companies do unfortunately). There is absolutely no need for animal testing, considering all ingredients can be tested alternatively or they already have enough information. I swear they just like to perpetuate the evils of animal testing for the hell of it! *sigh*

    Oh, lavender makes a lovely addition to a self-made cleaners. I have info about it here:

  2. Hey thanks for the tip vegan verve. I don’t even know where to find borax but will definitely not buy the above mentionned brand.

  3. Borax can be found in some grocery store and drugstores. With the laundry detergent. I will definitely not buy that brand though!

    My dog drinks in the toilet, licks the floor, the bathtub, anything! I do not want her to ingest all kind of chemical, that’s why I started using only non-toxic products. I make an all-purpose spray cleaner with about 3 cups of water, 1/4 cup vinegar, and a drop of dish washing soap (I use Method or Bio-Vert). Baking soda and vinegar are probably my best cleaning products. It’s great for clogged drains, and cleaning the stove.

    I clean the toilet with vinegar, but it doesn’t stay clean very long, maybe I will start adding a bit of baking soda to the mix, just to see if it makes a difference. My biggest problem is cleaning the oven. I also use baking soda and vinegar, I leave it overnight when it’s really dirty, and then scrub, but it’s a lot of hard work. Probably the best thing to do would be to buy a self-cleaning oven next time!

    What do you use for laundry detergent? I used to do mine with castille soap and borax, but it’s time consuming! I’m using La Parisienne for now, they claim it’s Phosphate-free and biodegradable, but I still don’t feel very comfortable using it. There is a lot of perfume it!

    Hydrogen peroxide is awesome for removing blood stains. It’s also great for dogs that have been sprayed by a skunk! You mix it with baking soda and a bit of dish washing soap.

    Great post!

  4. […] Watching this video is STEP #1 in starting your green life. […]

  5. […] mainstream household cleaning products due to their chemical ingredients that often go untested. In how to start your green life I explain some of the dangers and […]

  6. […] using mainstream household cleansers due to their chemical ingredients that often go untested. In how to start your green life I explain some of the dangers and […]

  7. […] using mainstream household cleansers due to their chemical ingredients that often go untested. In how to start your green life I explain some of the dangers and […]

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