Green Cleaning

It’s time to get your home spring-ready. More than likely you have been buying the same cleaning products for years. However, it’s a good idea to consider switching to cleaning products tagged green or good for the environment. They aren’t just at specialty stores anymore; they’re popping up every day at grocery stores and supercenters. With more options comes confusion and uncertainty.

To cut through it all, we talked to Matt Pliszka, a scientist with Simply Safe Products. His company’s mission is to bring green cleaning to the mass market at an affordable price.

What should you look for in a green cleaning product?

First, look at your mainstream traditional brands. If the label says “warning, corrosive, danger,” that should be a big tip-off. If it burns the skin, then chances are it’s not good for you or the environment. Things to look for on the label are “non-hazardous,” “mild or nonirritant,” and “neutral pH.”

What does neutral pH mean?

A pH in the 7 range, that’s the pH of water. Alkalinity can cause skin irritation and other issues. Generally, if there is no mention of pH, then the product is either an acid or alkaline.

If it has a neutral pH, how does it clean?

Neutral pH cleaners use detergents and get underneath the soil to loosen it from below. Then wiping takes soil away. The detergents release the soils from the surface.Chemical cleaning agents attack the soil and surface, which can be very aggressive. Chemical cleaning also doesn’tjust stop at soil, which is why the surface you’re cleaning can become marred or ruined.

I have noticed a lot of cleaners use citrus or say they are all-natural. Are these green?

There’s an assumption that if it’s all-natural, it’s safe and environmentally friendly. Not necessarily true. Many orange cleaners use d-limonene from orange peels. It is a great cleaning agent for grease, but it’s flammable and an air pollutant. If you see a cleaning agent that says all-natural, be suspicious; there’s a lot of chemical processing involved in converting fruits into cleaning agents. Likewise for nontoxic because household cleaners are never meant to be consumed.

Which cleaning products are the biggest offenders?

Drain cleaners are the most hazardous. There really is no other option, so buyjust enough for one use. Of the most commonly used products, dishwasher detergents, tub-and-tile cleaners, and toilet bowl cleaners are the worst. Look for dishwasher detergents that contain no phosphates. Waste-treatment plants cannot remove phosphates, so they end up in natural water areas. •