Local News

Do greener cleaners live up to Earth-friendly promise?

Posted February 9, 2009 7:29 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Many companies are selling household cleaners that claim to be more environmentally friendly than their predecessors. Do the “green” cleaners live up to their promises?

Ginger Pasley, an environmental scientist and instructor at Wake Tech Community College, says many "green" cleaners are, in fact, better for the environment.

She suggests that consumers read the labels and look for biodegradable ingredients.

"(This cleaner) contains no phosphates. That's a good thing,” Pasley said as she looked at one product. “Once this is released into the environment, it's going to last less than 30 days."

Green cleaners use plant-based ingredients. Cleaners that use ammonia, chlorine or phosphates are not as Earth-friendly.

Greener cleaners are more expensive. However, Pasley says families can save money by making their own products.

"Baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice – that's about all you need to clean your house," she said.

Vinegar is a de-greaser, baking soda is a mild abrasive and lemon juice is a natural disinfectant.

"It's a little bit more work for you, but a lot better for your health and for the environment,” Pasley said.

Kelly Reaves, who has children in her house and a baby on the way, said a healthy environment is very important to her.

“I know a lot of this stuff is new, so I haven't really gotten to try it. But, definitely, it's something we would think about,” she said. “You never really know what's in certain things."

Pasley shared some of the following Earth-friendly household cleaner recipes:

  • Mix three parts water, one part white vinegar and a few drops of concentrated castile (plant-based) soap to create your own biodegradable spray cleaner. A few drops of tea tree oil can be added as a natural disinfectant and to give it a fresh scent.
  • Vinegar cleans glass and leaves no streaks. Dilute or use at full strength. Add lemon rind to your spray bottle for a nice scent.
  • Use a lemon, cut in half, to disinfect your counter. Add salt on it to scrub away dirt/lime scale. Salt can be used as a mild abrasive and it won't scratch porcelain. Let the lemon juice dry, then wipe it off with a wet rag.
  • Cornstarch will remove grease from counter-tops. Sprinkle cornstarch on grease, let it soak in and then wipe it away with a damp cloth.
  • Borax can be used to clean stains from carpets. Make a paste by mixing Borax with water. Apply it to a dry stain and then vacuum it once the paste dries.
  • Baking soda or Borax can be added to laundry to boost the detergent's cleaning power.
  • Clean your drains by pouring equal parts of baking soda and vinegar (at least a half-cup each) down the drain. Let it set for a few minutes, then flush it down with a kettle of boiling water.